Al Franken was accompanied by two staffers and Melvin Carter, the magnetic 29 year old, first-term city council member who represents the first ward. Having Carter on board benefited Franken's crowd-working much; the candidate walked up and down a number of rows saying hello to the seniors with Carter helping melt ice. I spoke with a dozen or so people at the dinner, trying to gauge the political situation generally and how Franken was doing. Almost everyone was enthusiastically backing Obama; I got a variety of responses when asking people about Franken. Some said they would keep an open mind about him as they looked into his positions. A few said they'd be unlikely to vote for Franken, though all but one of my interviewees stated categorically that they would not vote for Norm Coleman. No one uttered Barkley though several mentioned Ventura--aware that he was out of the picture.
If a person enters the voting booth pumped about casting their presidential and congressional votes, it seems likely to me they're also going to vote for someone for US Senate. Most said they didn't care about party--they vote based on their assessment of the individual.
If most African American Minnesotans don't admire Norm Coleman, I think the Six Week Senator presents an even less sympathetic face--merely my mind-reading, granted. So winning over African American voters shouldn't prove beyond Al Franken's abilities. Franken's staffer downplayed all discussion of polling--like any good campaign worker--but were Obama to appear with Franken perhaps it might help.
Christopher Truscott has again mentioned Porn-o-Rama--calling Betty McCollum courageous for attacking Franken for the article. When Truscott periodically announces how deeply offended he is by Porn-o-Rama, he never states his position in the form of an argument. He simply wants you to know that all upright people agree with him--that the article is highly offensive. Implicitly, Truscott wants to communicate that if you're not offended by the article, you've got a screw loose.
Truscott is conflating two assertions which don't mix well:
1) The article harms Franken's chances politically.
2) The article is offensive.
Everyone agrees on point #1, so we should be able to agree that when someone says 'The article harms Franken's chances, politically' this type of statement is neither insightful nor courageous. It is undisputed.
When a person prefaces any opinion with 'As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official,' it deserves mentioning that this blathering political boilerplate can be removed from the sentence without in any way altering the merit of whatever comes next.
Furthermore, it ought not be deemed courageous to simply announce that something by which many people aren't offended is offensive. Dogmatism in political argumentation is a sign not of courage but of its opposite. An announcement that you are offended by something can only be considered courageous if you put forward thoughtful reasons backing up your disapprobation.
So please re-read the Betty McCollum statements for which CD4's* representative has been awarded the Truscott Profile in Courage, and tell me if you can find a courageous word therein:
On Thursday, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called the sexually explicit article offensive and potentially damaging to Franken and other Democratic candidates in Minnesota.
"As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official, I find this material completely unacceptable," McCollum said of Franken's piece, published in 2000 under the headline "Porn-O-Rama!"
"I can tell you it's not playing comfortably in St. Paul, and I can't imagine this politically radioactive material is doing very well in suburban and rural districts," McCollum said.
After reading the original article, I wasn't offended. So I asked two people who I respect for their opinions, after reading the article. First, I asked Esme Murphy--who graciously responded to me on June 3, 2008:
Yes I have read it.
This article was satire. Playboy has a history of providing a literary forum for interviews and well known writers. I have no objections to anyone writing in Playboy. I have no objection to anyone writing an article like that.
So, let's make sure we're keeping score: I read it, and I wasn't offended. Esme Murphy read it, and she wasn't offended. So then (on June 3, 2008) I put the question to a third individual--my good friend Christopher Truscott--who replied,
It was offensive generally. I personally don't care, but recognize it as offensive.
If you're jumping up and down telling the world you're offended by something--albeit without articulating a single rational reason for being offended--and you freely admit that the entire matter is so unimportant to you that you 'personally don't care' about it, that qualifies as grandstanding, not 'being offended'--and certainly not courage.
Let the record note: I also attempted to get Michael Brodkorb to articulate a rational argument on behalf of feeling offended by Porn-0-rama--and received no response.
*When originally published, McCollum's district was misidentified above as CD5. Thanks to Munchkinmom for bringing the error to my attention.