Politics & Policy

The Battle of The Books: Lowry Vs. Franken

 

Anecdotes and cartoons. Anecdotes and cartoons. Don’t

use those words with Al Franken to characterize his

new book. It’s like waving a no-bid Halliburton contract

in front of Dennis Kucinich. Or shouting “Fox

News” in a crowded room of CNN executives. Franken’s

eyes bulge, his veins pop, his panties twist, and

he calls you a prick.

Actually, let me be strictly accurate. I don’t know

what happens to Franken’s eyes, his veins, or his

panties. But I have been on and off the phone with

him for the last week, and I do know that he calls

you a prick.

Why so many conversations with someone most conservatives

would welcome talking to as much as an insistent left-wing

telemarketer (“No, no, no, really–Bush didn’t

lie about WMD in Iraq and I don’t want the new plan

from MCI”)? Well, Franken challenged me to a

fist-fight.

I can hear the sighs rattling through cyberspace:

“Again?” Yes, again. What can I say? Franken

has a devotion to his old material. If Rodney Dangerfield

never tires of saying “I get no respect,”

why should Franken stop challenging me to fights?

The last time he issued such a challenge he had heard

me decrying the Oprah-fication of American politics

and culture in a talk broadcast on C-SPAN. I

declined then. Franken wrote about it in a chapter

in Lies

and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. I

wrote about this chapter in a column, in which

I called his book a “collection of anecdotes

and cartoons.” Franken objected to my column,

and particularly to that description of his book.

Long story, short: He challenged me to another fight.

I declined again. As I tried to explain Franken,

as an editor of a serious political magazine, I have

a limited capacity to engage in childish stunts. To

preempt similar offers, let me say for the record:

No Al, I can’t mud-wrestle you. No, I can’t participate

in a lemon-meringue pie-eating contest. No, I can’t

face off in a monster-truck pull. No, I can’t duel

at 15 paces. No, I can’t race you down Broadway wearing

big floppy red clown shoes.

I can, however, write. So, my counter-challenge to

Franken was to have a battle of books. We would each

write a piece about each other’s tome. (Have I mentioned

anecdotes and cartoons lately?) Franken agreed. So

on the neutral site, spinsanity.com,

Franken will take on Legacy

and I will take on Lying Liars.

This will require reading Franken’s book, which I

haven’t done. Instead, I relied for my column on that

time-tested journalistic shortcut: reading closely

only the part about me. Franken assures me that my

view of his book was unduly colored by the fact that

the bits I read and skimmed were anecdotes and cartoons.

The rest apparently could have been written by Nathan

Glazer. Well, I’ll soon find out.

In his dark moments of introspection, Franken fears

that by accepting this challenge he has stumbled into

a clever ploy to promote Legacy–that,

in short, he may be the new Kathryn Lopez (see here

and here).

Sheepishly, I can only admit that he is right. With

this high-stakes, high-intensity, high-profile exchange,

I desperately hope to get the attention of Republican

National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. Ed, please,

if you’re out there–do for me what Terry McAuliffe

has done for Al Franken. Get in the bulk book-buying

game. See Terry and raise him. Don’t let the DNC out-buy

you now–not with a presidential election and my Amazon

rating hanging in the balance.

I hope my sure-to-be devastating takedown of Lying

Liars will kill off the book’s runaway sales.

But Franken hasn’t nearly exhausted his audience.

After the mass-buy from the Democratic National Committee,

there is still the Democratic Senatorial Committee,

the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the

Democratic Governors’ Association, the Committee for

the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice,

John Huang, the National Federation of Democrats Who

Like Lame John Ashcroft Jokes, and the Young Democratic

Club of the Upper West Side’s P.S. 123.

In any case, stay tuned for more details about Lowry

vs. Franken. There probably won’t be bloodshed, but

you never know. Anecdotes and cartoons. Anecdotes

and cartoons . . .

To show that I am a bigger man than Rich I accepted

his challenge even though he continues to be a pantywaist.

I still contend that you can’t call Democrats “sissified”

and then refuse to fight.

I knew that Rich would try to milk this to get publicity

for his sorry Regnery book that has fallen off the

bestseller list despite the customary bulk buys by

Richard Mellon Scaife. Right now there are tens of

thousands of copies of Legacy being

fed through a wood chipper on the Scaife estate to

provide mulch for its prize-winning rose gardens.

Fortunately, since Rich is so desperate to use my

mega-book to help his faltering sales, I am in position

to call the shots. Hence, my contribution here.

First, a

link to my chapter in Lies

which tells the real story of my original challenge

to Rich.

Now a link to Rich’s shamelessly dishonest

column about my book, entitled, at least in the

New York Post, “Al Franken’s

Lying Lies.”

You’ll notice that in his column, Rich accuses me

of a grand total of two lies. First, that I described

him as “terrified” during our initial phone

call. Believe me, he was. Rich says that’s impossible

because we were being “jocular.” Thing is,

it’s actually possible to joke while you’re terrified.

In fact, that was the entire basis for centuries of

Jewish humor.

The second lie is that I claimed that Rich had stopped

talking about Democrats feminizing politics after

our encounter on the phone. But, in fact, I wrote

that I just thought he had, and

even held out the possibility that Rich had indeed

continued that nonsense. Still I could have assigned

one of my research assistants to Nexis all of Rich’s

articles, and for that I apologize. We were busy trying

to confirm that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium

from Niger.

(Note: If Rich does find any factual errors in my

book, they are the fault of British Intelligence.

For example, on page 253 of Lies

I claim that Sean Hannity lived up Newt Gingrich’s

ass from 1994 to 1998. I got that from British Intelligence.

It turns out that Sean didn’t take residence up Newt’s

ass until early ‘95.)

Nevertheless Rich accuses me of lying in the above

case because I “preferred to rely on incomplete

information in order to create an untrue impression.

This is a deception, a kind of a lie.”

Yet when Rich calls my book “a loosely knit

collection of anecdotes padded out with cartoons,”

one would assume he had read the entire book that

he had actually held in his hands. Only now he admits

he did not. Instead, he only read the chapter on himself.

Talk about relying “on incomplete information

to create an untrue impression.”

Of the forty-three chapters, two contain illustrations.

One, “The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus,”

is a parody of a Christian tract illustrated, with

my words, by renowned comic-book artist Don Simpson.

It has been reprinted on BeliefNet.com,

the largest website on religious and spiritual issues

in this country, and has sparked debate in newspapers

like the Chicago Tribune on the

proper role of religion in creating tax policy.

The only other chapter containing illustrations is

“Operation Chickenhawk” about “masculine”

Republican Chickenhawks such as George W. Bush, Dick

Cheney, John Ashcroft, Clarence Thomas, and Bill O’Reilly

serving on John Kerry’s swift boat on the Mekong.

They go up river to extract a renegade squad that

won’t fight: guys named Gingrich, Limbaugh, George

“Stone” Will, Pat Buchanan, and Phil Gramm.

This chapter, more than any other, shows the fallacy

of the masculine Republican versus the feminized Democrat.

Then Rich criticizes John Kerry, a guy one hundred

times the man of either of us, for “his recent

resort to easy tears.”

There are anecdotes. But often

they are a way of talking about real policy questions:

crime, national defense, corruption, the insanity

of O’Reilly and Coulter and Hannity.

Most of the chapters, however, are anecdote-free.

So, who’s the lying liar, my friends? We’ll find

out soon. Rich hopes before Christmas, so he can be

sucked into my tailwind and ride the holiday buying

spree. Me, I’ll see when I finish Legacy.

I’ve started and it’s a little slow-going. Maybe January

3 or 4.

 
 

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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