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The world according to Al Franken

By KATHLEEN MCLEOD   |   March 4, 2002 at 5:44 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- What does the war on terrorism, predatory lending, economic justice, Enron and the 700 Club's Pat Robertson all have in common?

Mr. Al Franken.

Comedian and political satirist Al Franken addressed these, among other issues, in true Franken style at the National Press Club, last Thursday.

As a former Saturday Night Live Emmy-winning writer, producer and actor, an author of two books, including his latest work titled, "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" and his previous work titled "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me, Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley," Franken had a few things to say about the "Franken Millennium," as he jokingly called it.

First off, Franken made it clear that he is against predatory lending, which he described as an "unsuitable loan designed to exploit vulnerable and unsophisticated borrowers." He further explained how "they (the lenders) may charge more in interest fees than is required to cover the added risk of lending to borrowers with credit imperfections, or contain abusive terms that trap the borrower."

A predatory loan is "exploitive and targeted at certain communities ... poor, minorities, and women -- and also the elderly," Franken said.

"It has increased tremendously over the last several years." Unscrupulous lenders will target a neighborhood, find uneducated, unsophisticated people and mislead them, says Franken. He called this "theft."

In Franken fashion, one thought led to the next and somewhere along the way he left predatory lending to share himself. And Franken certainly shared quite a bit of himself and kept the laughter rolling.

Franken spoke about the war and the country's "patriotic fervor," which he "thinks everybody supports," but he also shared one particular opinion about President George W. Bush's use of language.

"The president I think has done a very good job on the war," Franken said. "Language is still not his strong point. 'Evildoers.' That's an awkward word ... What I thought was funny is that after he started calling them (the terrorists) evildoers, the rest of the administration you could see decided that they would start using 'evildoers' too, to make it sound like it's a word. Ari Fleischer (Bush's spokesman) uses 'evildoers' often. He's shameless. But watch when Vice President (Dick) Cheney drops it in. It will be something like, 'This war is not about fighting Islam. It's about eradicating the evildoers.'"

Franken shared other opinions ranging from Enron to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who he said blamed certain Americans for the Sept.11 terrorist attack.

In reference to Enron, Franken believes that "sleazy businessmen," as he calls them, need to be sent to "real prison" -- not "fake prison" such as Allenwood. He is serious about this and wants there to be an incentive for white-collared workers not to repeat Enron. He believes that by sending them to "real prison," an incentive will be created for these workers not to act in such a way again.

As far as Falwell and Robertson are concerned, he thinks they are simply "nuts."

Franken refers to them in light of a 700 Club broadcast the two did shortly after Sept.11.

During this broadcast, they discussed who was to blame for Sept. 11 and as Franken pointed out, they blamed "basically gays and liberals and such."

Franken quoted both Falwell and Robertson directly from the 700 Club broadcast: Said Falwell: "I really believe that the pagans, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who are trying to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say 'You helped this happen.'" And Pat Robertson said, "I totally concur," which Robertson said was quoted out of context.

In Franken's opinion, the only way Robertson could have been quoted out of context is if he had prefaced his remark with "I would have to be friggin' nuts to say."

Moving on, Franken also notes the main difference between the Taliban and the U.S. military as being the role of women. "Neither we nor the Taliban allow women in combat. The Taliban take it a step further. They don't allow women to go outside, or to look up, or to hum."

However, Franken does note how impressed he is with the U.S. military effort in the war, especially "considering that during the 2000 campaign Bush was telling us that our military was at its lowest state of readiness since Pearl Harbor." And he said during the debates Cheney called the military "hollowed out."

"Rumsfeld must be a genius," Franken said, "because he did this really with just -- I don't know what -- some baling wire and some string or something, I mean. And so I think it speaks very well of the president and the vice president and Rumsfeld that they don't bring this up, that they don't remind people of the sad state of our military when they inherited it from Clinton. So that's -- I just had to get that in there, because I think it speaks so well of them."

When asked how he feels about airline security, Franken relayed a rather controversial opinion as his answer: "I'm happy to be delayed ... I like all the security that you can get, and I get to the airport way ahead of time. I don't understand the reluctance to profile young Arab men. I know this might be controversial ... and I have been traveling a lot, and I do meet young Arab men who say, 'Yeah, you know, sure -- I feel better.' So I don't understand why a 30-year-old mother with two kids in a stroller are put through the kind of delays, and people who sort of fit -- I hate to say it -- the profile of a hijacker aren't necessarily randomly pulled over. And that may be controversial, but I think it's kind of common sense."

For once Franken's audience was not belly laughing, instead taking in Franken's latest comments while waiting for the next round of jokes to begin. There was one lone applauder in the back of the room, but neither approval nor dissent from the rest of the audience about Franken's view on airline security prevailed.

And one more thing -- Franken does do a limited amount of impressions, but Bush is not one he can do. "Evildoers" is about as good as it gets.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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