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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The White House in Crisis, Seriously. If only politics were this funny in real life. After a year that has seen our reviled government impale itself on a double-edged sword of perverted obsession and embarrassingly poor judgment, a year during which the blight of self-interest has tainted players of all political persuasions to an unprecedented degree, America is begging for a little comic relief. And that is why Al Franken wants to be your President. With Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Franken became a sort of liberal P. J. O'Rourke, ecstatically skewering Limbaugh and many other prominent conservatives to the tune of millions of copies sold. The longtime "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer (remember Stuart Smalley?) had always been a sharp social commentator, but he proved himself an extremely savvy political satirist as well. That first book became a classic and a massive bestseller; his new one, Why Not Me? The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency, is destined for similar success.Why Not Me? is written as the "authorized Presidential autobiography," and like any presidential autobiography worth its salt, it delves into the author's past before jumping headlong into the business of politics. Franken's descriptions of his childhood, delivered with the deadpan seriousness and self-importance of a real politician, are rife with the sort of cleverly foolish humor he practices. "I was born in a non-descript ranch house, the son of the son of immigrants, and the son of a daughter of a son and daughter of immigrants. We lived in a littletowncalled Christ Haven, MN; we were the only Jews for miles." Franken goes on to discuss his years at Harvard as an anti-Vietnam activist and entrepreneur in the late '60s and early '70s, and then the early, drug-soaked days of Saturday Night Live, where, by "Week Three, cocaine had spread like wildfire through the offices on the seventeenth floor.... For my part, I stayed on the sidelines, snorting only the occasional line, so that I could stay awake to make sure the others wouldn't do too much cocaine." These brief digressions serve merely as an appetizer and lead quickly to descriptions of life on the campaign trail. These come mostly in the form of Franken's personal campaign diaries, which are all details of debauchery and manic-depressive rants about the general stupidity of the American voter, and eventually prove his undoing when they are released to the public by the Joint Congressional Committee on the President's Mood Swings. Franken's brain trust includes brother Otto, a recovering sex addict and alcoholic who is dispatched to hound Al Gore's campaign; Norm Ornstein, the campaign manager who masterminds Franken's single-issue platform (ATM fees); media consultant Dick Morris; and former "Grizzly Adams" star Dan Haggerty. After shocking the country by defeating Gore for the Democratic nomination, Franken sweeps into office in a landslide victory over Newt Gingrich. But the Franken White House is gripped by crisis from day one, and after exhibiting alarmingly unbalanced behavior (including the "slugging Nelson Mandela" incident and an attempt to clone himself), Franken is forced to cooperate with the aforementioned Joint Congressional Committee on the President's Mood Swings. Why Not Me? is ingenious in that as silly as it gets (and it does get ludicrously silly), it's not much more preposterous than the surrealism of current American politics. Our disgust with government is at an all-time high — witness Jesse "the Governor" Ventura. Why not Al Franken for president, indeed? At least he has a sense of humor.
— Olli Chanoff