There’s Nothing to Do Here, Just Whine and Complain

Commenter Louise sends Eric Wemple’s attempt to shame Al Franken for mainly talking to hometown media. Here’s the roots of Franken’s strategy:

American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman J. Ornstein helped Franken strategize his splashdown in Washington. As Caesar would say, that strategy was divisa in partes tres: “Become a genuine workhorse, avoid the spotlight, get your colleagues saying both publicly and privately that you are a smart and serious person.”

Does that mean stiffing national media? “Probably by extension, that means avoiding a lot of national media — Al doesn’t need to get name recognition or attention.”

Here’s Wemple’s conclusion:

The Franken media policy tags the population of Minnesota as provincial, Internetless no-minds. Just corn dogs and community papers here, Mr. Senator!

Yes, there’s nothing more provincial than Franken’s effort to be a hard working Senator representing his local constituency. What a crock of shit.

There are a few things going on here. First, DC media is powered by the slavering need of the likes of Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Generalissimo John McCain to get in front of a TV camera or otherwise mouth off to the national press. It’s a symbiotic relationship, because those media queens give good quote and there’s nothing easier than running a transcription service for prima donnas. Second, there’s nothing DC hates more than a self-disciplined Democrat executing a smart plan. Democrats are supposed to be political fuckups, and the press corpse gets pissed when they play against type. Finally, Franken, B-lister though he may be, is by DC standards a big celebrity in a place they call Hollywood for Ugly People, and not getting an interview with him hurts a lot more than being snubbed by someone whose last job was being commissioner for the county that leads the world in the production of frozen concentrated orange juice.

Update: The piece is over a year old, and I didn’t catch it. Sorry about that.

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51 replies
  1. 1
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Never thought of D.C. as the Hollywood for Ugly People. That kind of hurts.

    Good on Franken for doing his job instead of yucking it up for the media.

  2. 2
    Aimai says:

    I’m reminded of the outrage expressed at Jon Stewart when he went on crossfire and wanted to be serious. As I recall he ended up saying, bluntly, ” I won’t be your butt monkey.” nicely conflating the concepts of entertainer and butt of humor.

    If Franken gave interviews early on he would neve have been permitted to be serious–they would have first demanded he be funny and then turned on him and attacked him for playing or not playing the fool.

  3. 3
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    divisa in partes tres

    WTF is wrong with “divided in three parts”? Is this his schtick? I can understand when people throw out a common French or Latin phrase, like je ne sais quoi, but who talks like that?

    Also, fuck the village media.

  4. 4
    Schlemizel says:

    Al’s numbers are very good here out on the frozen tundra. While I was hoping for more of a firebrand like Paul Wellstone I remember that Paul hit DC with a huge splash that did not go over well, he pulled back & followed the same path that Franken is following until he had established himself.

    He is a better Dem than our Sr. Senator and doing just fine so far. That the DC gasbags are unhappy that they can’t have another dancing monkey does not bother me one bit.

  5. 5
    debit says:

    I don’t know how the local media treats him (probably like crap, since it’s the Strib and they love them some Crazy Eyes Michele).

    I’ve shared the story before: when the ever repugnant Norm Coleman was my senator, a call to his office generated a a form letter that had nothing to do with my call. When I called Franken’s office on behalf of a client, I had a return phone call in less than three hours, a follow up email the next day, and a solution to the issue in a matter of a couple of weeks. The man has some amazing staffers and my vote for as long as he cares to run.

  6. 6
    prufrock says:

    not getting an interview with him hurts a lot more than being snubbed by someone whose last job was being commissioner for the county that leads the world in the production of frozen concentrated orange juice.

    Was that a subtle reference to Trading Places?

  7. 7

    Eh, this is more Beltway press whining that someone doesn’t think they’re kewl enough.

  8. 8
    Schlemizel says:

    My favorite comment from the thread:

    Perhaps you don’t mean to, but this tantrum makes you seem like the arrogant, over-privileged and infantile jerk that most people associate with the drama queens of the national political press. Maybe that’s what it takes to make it to the Washington Post, I don’t know. And you probably don’t give a rap what your readers think of you.

    But I fail to see why a Senator who chooses to favor his hometown press over people like you would provoke such a big, public snit. Most of your colleagues choose to react this way over cocktails among friends and colleagues, and keep up the pretense of professionalism. I suppose we should thank you for pulling back the curtain for a moment.

  9. 9
    evodevo says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Wemple’s jes’ tryin’ ta show off his eddification creedentials! (Catholic grammar school? or what?) It’s not like the hoi polloi is gonna be areedin’ his work ….

  10. 10
    Wag says:

    Old news. The date on the article is July 5, 2011.

  11. 11
    Suffern ACE says:

    And on the 9th day, God created the Swells, because he figured the devil would eventually create them anyway. But to spare the farmers their company, he sent them to DC to find jobs complaining about every little thing.

  12. 12
    Donut says:

    This topic has come up before, so I will just repeat what I’ve said already – Franken will get re-elected in large part because when issues blow up, he shows up on the 5 o’clock and 10 o’clock news (it’s on an hour earlier here in the Midwest, for you East and West-Coasters) rather than on the 5:30 news and the pages of Politico, or on Meet-the-fucking-Press. His constituents need to know that he gives a shit about their issues, not whether or not he can impress George Will – or Paul Krugman, for that matter.

  13. 13

    So, the Tennessee state House member who is sponsoring a “guns-in-parking-lots” bill yesterday bragged that he’s been violating state law and carrying a gun with him everywhere without a permit for years; today he says he “misspoke.”

    Heh. Of course he did.

  14. 14
    John Dillinger says:

    What am I missing. This Wemple piece is over 18 months old.

  15. 15
    Earl says:

    As one of the local constituents, all I can say is GOOD JOB, AL!

    Also, to hell with the villagers…

  16. 16
    Mark S. says:

    @Wag:

    It’s still a big fucking deal!

  17. 17
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Wag: Good catch. How did this show up today, MM?

  18. 18
    Donut says:

    Also, too: because he takes his shit seriously, Al Franken will be a ranking member of the committees he serves on before too long, and driving policy and having an actual impact on people’s lives for the foreseeable future. He’s in for the long haul and after reelection will likely be able to pick his retirement date rather than have it forced on him.

    He reminds me a lot of Paul Simon, my Southern Illinois homie, who won a lot of votes from pure Red counties because he paid attention, and explained his votes. Even when the Bubbas disagreed with him, they still respected him and often voted for him.

  19. 19
    mistermix says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Someone sent it to me and I didn’t check the date. Shame on me.

  20. 20
    Wag says:

    @Mark S.:

    I’m sure the Villagers still have their fee fees hurt because Sen Frankin talks to his constituents more that to the national media. I’m a big fan of Al’s and wish him a long and distinguished career taking care of my inlaw’s interests. I’m glad to hear about his quick communication with the folks back home. Washington would be a fantastic place if the entire Senate took their charge from the senior Senator from Minnesota.

    Now putting that aside, this is old news.

  21. 21
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @mistermix: I do that a lot more than I’d care to. Doesn’t make Wemple any less of an ass. Maybe he’s changed his tune, but I doubt it.

    Also, the divisa in partes tres shit is timelessly stupid and overwrought wankery.

  22. 22
    Ash Can says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: That grated on me too. Wemple shows his ass in this article in more ways than one.

  23. 23
    Suffern ACE says:

    The fact that he goes out of his way to talk with you just shows how much contempt he has for you. Wake up, sheeple of Minnesota!

  24. 24
    gbear says:

    This Minnesotan says that Eric Wemple (and doesn’t that name sound like it should have been used for one of the nerd characters from WCRP In Cincinatti?) should go eat a bag of batter-dipped deep-fried dicks.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Southern Beale:
    By any chance, does anyone know if the local constabulary had a quiet word in Mr. Faison’s shell-like?

  27. 27
    kd bart says:

    One must always bound down before and obey The Narrative.

  28. 28
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    a transcription service for prima donnas.

    Perfect. Consider it stolen.

  29. 29
    Sly says:

    Lawrence O’Donnell did a related segment after election day, basically telling Senators-Elect (with Warren in particular) to avoid national media entirely and follow the example of Al Franken.

  30. 30
    Punchy says:

    The piece is over a year old, and I didn’t catch it. Sorry about that.

    Yup.

  31. 31
    Schlemizel says:

    @mistermix:

    Meh, it is still relevant if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder of how shallow, vapid, self-centered and useless the DC media is

  32. 32
    Citizen_X says:

    @Sly: Well, see? That makes it news!

    Still trying to get the logic here. Franken talks only to home media, so he…thinks his constituents are rubes? Sure, Wemple.

  33. 33
    Louise says:

    Oops — sorry about the mold on this. I followed a link and didn’t check. My fault!

  34. 34
    handsmile says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Just so, and thanks for sparing me the need to finish up what I was typing to make that very same point.

    I would only add that it demonstrates (once again) that for the Village media there is no reason too trivial to go after any Democrat. And Wemple isn’t even among the most odious employees of Kaplan Test Prep Daily.

  35. 35
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    what’s an Erik Wemple?

  36. 36
    Steve M. says:

    On the one hand, I’m for Democratic legislators doing their jobs well.

    On the other hand, Republicans seem to produce Sunday gasbags in bulk, while Democrats have Schumer and not too many others — and that’s a huge reason that Republican ideas dominate the mainstream political discourse. Why would it be so wrong for Franken to try to become a Gasbag For Good — maybe even without telling jokes?

  37. 37
    askew says:

    He’s following the Hillary Clinton Senate model. Do nothing, say nothing and keep your head down. As a Minnesotan, I am pretty irritated with his small ball politics. I preferred Obama’s Senate model. He leveraged his celebrity to get major bills passed and was very productive.

  38. 38
    Seth Owen says:

    It’s worth noting that despite the fact that Barney Frank certainly was no stranger to the national press or DC pundits, he was also very, very accessible to local Massachusetts media.

    Part of the reason why he was able win election after election, despite blatant efforts to gerrymander him out of office by moving his district lines is that he had earned a reputation as a very hard-working and effective congressman.

    It was never bad news to learn that Barney was going to be your man in Congress. Sounds like Sen. Franken is likewise just tending to his garden to me.

  39. 39
    askew says:

    @Sly:

    Lawrence O’Donnell did a related segment after election day, basically telling Senators-Elect (with Warren in particular) to avoid national media entirely and follow the example of Al Franken.

    Horrible advice from O’Donnell. Last thing the Democrats need is for our latest Senators to follow in Franken’s Do Nothing, Say Nothing model, which is actually Hillary’s model. I’d prefer the new Senators to actually get some bills passed and be productive, not just be seat fillers.

  40. 40
    Gus says:

    Wemple is a huge tool who obviously knows dick about Minnesota and Minnesotans. We don’t like our politicians to get too big for their britches. I don’t want a grandstanding asshole like McCain representing me. I want a hard working senator who is representing my interests.

  41. 41
    gwangung says:

    @askew: Really? Constitutent service is small ball?

    Are you sure you know how things work and what your fellow voters really want out of an elected official?

  42. 42
    handsmile says:

    @Steve M.:

    To be sure, Team D should always seek to develop a deeper and more effective corps of media spokespersons, both among elected officials and affiliated pundits/surrogates. But even if such “Gasbags for Good” (nice!) were ready, willing and able to appear and do battle, do you believe that more invitations would be forthcoming?

    The dominance of conservative voices/perspectives in the “mainstream political discourse” and its overrepresentation on broadcast and cable television Monday through Sunday is better explained, in my view, by the corporate media’s ideological preference/affinity for Republicans, rather than merely a paucity of Democrats able to articulate a forceful, accessible argument. Sherrod Brown, Keith Ellison, Jennifer Granholm, and Bernie Sanders, for example, can all do this job very well. They just don’t get the opportunity to do so very often. There must be some reason why Carly Fiorina rather than say Granholm appears regularly among the bobbleheads.

  43. 43
    askew says:

    @gwangung:

    Not doing anything but constituent service is small ball. It’s the bare minimum a Senator should do. But, that’s all he’s doing. He could be going out and help setting the Democratic narrative in the media. He could have used his star power to push for some legislation. But, apparently, that would damage his long-term career goals or something. I guess I should be happy he hasn’t found it too taxing to do constituent service. Oh, that’s right. That is mostly done by staffers not the Senators themselves.

  44. 44
    askew says:

    @Gus:

    Wemple is a huge tool who obviously knows dick about Minnesota and Minnesotans. We don’t like our politicians to get too big for their britches. I don’t want a grandstanding asshole like McCain representing me. I want a hard working senator who is representing my interests.

    As a Minnesotan, I agree with the too big for britches part. But, can your really say Franken is working hard? He sure doesn’t have a lot to show for it, if he is.

  45. 45
    TG Chicago says:

    “Franken thinks Minnesotans want him to focus on his work rather than scheduling media appearances. How stupid does he think they are????”

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Also, the divisa in partes tres shit is timelessly stupid and overwrought wankery

    Seems to be what this shitstain Wemple does. Wank. A lot.

  47. 47
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @askew: what major bills did Obama get passed as a Senator? His Senate career was pretty undistinguished as far as I can tell (he basically started running for President in 06, less than two years into his term). And I say this as someone who was an early supporter of O over Clinton, and voted and canvassed for him twice.

  48. 48
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @askew: what major bills did Obama get passed as a Senator? His Senate career was pretty undistinguished as far as I can tell (he basically started running for President in 06, less than two years into his term). And I say this as someone who was an early supporter of O over Clinton, and voted and canvassed for him twice.

  49. 49
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @askew: ah so keeping a low profile and getting things done are mutually exclusive? Interesting. Tell me more about your false dichotomies and askew view of the world.

  50. 50
    maus says:

    Good for him, the national media doesn’t understand or care about local issues.

  51. 51
    Fred says:

    Lawrence O’Donell made the point that, in the senate being a media darling (particularly as a new-be) is poison to getting anything done because it pisses off the other senators and they won’t give you squat. L.O. thus proclaimed Franken is doing spledidly by keeping his trap mostly shut and sticking to bizness.
    I have no idea if this is correct but it sounds about right to me. I think Franken joining the senate was a great loss to the librul cause even though he is a fine senator.
    Al coulda got a gig on MSNBC and it woulda been great. But NOOOO! He hadda go and get serious and throw it all away.

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