Readers respond to Al Gore's speech on the GOP's anti-filibuster campaign, and size up Al Franken's political prospects for a Senate run in Minnesota.

Published April 29, 2005 7:40PM (EDT)

[Read "Senator Franken?" by David Paul Kuhn.]

Al Franken has one thing going for him in his potential matchup with Norm Coleman: He's still a Minnesotan, and Norm Coleman will never be one, no matter how long he lives there. Though he's 20 years older than I am, Al Franken and I absorbed the same pride in public life, opportunity and fairness that characterized the Minnesota of Elmer Anderson, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, and he exudes that identity. He's one of us, and whenever he opens his mouth generations of Minnesotans know it. If Republicans choose to attack Al Franken as an outsider, a member of the liberal elite, they'll be doing him a favor, since they'll be inviting comparisons to their own candidate, a New Yorker and an obvious opportunist who will never shake the impression that he came to the Midwest with the intention of fooling the rubes.

-- Richard Lindstrom

Dear Al,

You've done a masterful job of putting caring (and funny) liberals back into public circulation, and I applaud your efforts -- but I have a question for you.

If you run for Minnesota senator, who's going to do your job?

Many people have the talent to be a senator from a formerly liberal state, and can do a creditable job of resurrecting the liberal banner. But how many people can oppose Rush Limbaugh and put caring liberals back into the public eye? I can't think of one.

You've just started doing something that is really valuable for us and the country at large, and something that clearly suits you.

So, when you hear that siren voice of political ambition calling in your head, don't fall for it. We don't need a "new" senator anywhere as much as we need a provocative public voice that can rally and entertain the troops.

If I were a Republican, I'd love for you to step down from a position where you could do the radCons endless harm to join a minority in the U.S. Senate where you became just another clever loser.

-- Eric Blackstead

Al Franken is the natural successor to Paul Wellstone. Over the years, Wellstone adopted the mores of the Senate (he even befriended Jesse Helms, whose hand he refused to shake when he first came to Washington) but never compromised on his principles. Franken, an antiwar guy who has risked his life to entertain troops in Iraq, will start off ahead of the early Wellstone. He's an actor. He will know how to play the game without abrasiveness because, like other actors in politics, he just naturally understands the value of charm in selling ideas. There are tens of thousands of folks, like myself, around the country (and many more in Minnesota, I suspect) who still have not gotten over the loss of Paul Wellstone. We'll open our checkbooks not only because we want another Democrat in the Senate but also to achieve closure regarding Wellstone. With Al Franken in his old seat, we can feel that Paul's loss was not entirely in vain. He has to run.

-- Michael Jay Rosenberg

I am a 40-year-old woman who has been half in love with Al Franken for 30 years, since I watched the first "Saturday Night Live" when I was 10. His current radio show is the same brilliant mix of sharply observant humor cleverly concealed by layers of silliness -- the Oy!Oy!Oy! Show springs to mind. In addition, Al brings quick wit and a passion for earnest debate to his interviews with a wide range of guests, and he never backs away from a valid argument.

What has made Al Franken's career longer-lived than most of the "SNL"-era comedians is the fact that Al is a genuine soul with a good heart. His humor, much like Johnny Carson's was, is very Midwestern: wry, observant and occasionally sarcastic and incredulous but never mean-spirited or self-aggrandizing.

His passion for grass-roots politics also stems from the Heartland, and is rooted in a genuine desire to provide fairness and equality for all. His pride and delight in his marriage and family, and his close relationships with his childhood friends also shows him to be a decent man. Minnesota could do worse!

-- Teresa Dippery

Al, don't run!

Your voice can be a lot more effective when it informs and entertains, when you speak to people around the country through your show and your books.

The best argument why you shouldn't run is your own book, "Why Not Me?" Campaigns are brutal things, and you'll be savaged, with the entire machine being brought to bear against you. You'll want to respond to every attack -- and in doing so, you'll lose.

You're too smart, and too funny, to put yourself through that. If you really want to spend $20 million and be tortured by Republicans for nine months, better you give the money to humanitarian relief in Iraq and just pay a hooker to whip you and call you a dirty lefty three times a week. Better all around.

I love you and love what you've done. Don't throw it away!

-- David Ezer

It is interesting that David Paul Kuhn made so much of Al Franken as a comedian, and how this may not play well in politics. As anyone who has listened to his show can attest, Franken is extremely well prepared and has a very good command of the issues. This contrasts sharply with so many on the right, both talk-show hosts and politicians, who play fast and loose with the facts and are not even funny to compensate for it.

-- Ramsn Creager

[Read "'An American Heresy,'" by Al Gore.]

I hope Gore plans to continue traveling the country and giving that speech to as many audiences as possible. People who don't understand the Senate process that is being threatened will realize what a dangerous time this is for America. I am one of those former Republicans who has become an independent due to the transformation of that party into the party of the Almighty and the Almighty Dollar. I hope other moderate Republicans and independents will be honest with themselves and admit that this cynical power grab is dangerous, corrupt and completely at odds with what the founding fathers would have wanted for this country. I haven't always been a huge fan of Al Gore's, but I have to admit that this speech is right on target.

-- Judy O'Loughlin

I want to thank the former vice president and the man the people voted for in 2000, Al Gore, for his recent inspired speech. It is with a heavy heart that I see the Republicans force an unwanted agenda down the throats of average Americans every day. They are playing a shell game with our priorities -- making things that are not that important seem important so that we do not see what the real agenda is. Well, I can see it and my wife sees it and it sickens both of us. I used to have a great deal of respect for the Republican Party, being a former member, but I cannot and will not sit idly by while they attempt to dominate the landscape with what they call moral issues.

-- Mike Diesel Cuccherini

By Salon Staff

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