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Al Franken takes over the U.S. Senate floor to explain a newspaper cartoon to the waiting nation

All we can say is thank goodness Minnesota's newest Democratic U.S. senator, Al Franken, was on duty Thursday.

We were poring through one of America's most glorious man-caused treasures -- the 31 years of C-SPAN video archives, which The Ticket detailed with effusive praise here earlier this year.

And we realized suddenly that somehow we had inexplicably missed the comedian's detailed explanation of a newspaper editorial cartoon enlarged so that he could identify the symbols and characters in it so the elderly senators could see it. The current White House's pedantry is apparently infectious.

Additionally, Franken takes many moments to explain the drawing and its symbols as documentation for his argument for more government regulation of yet another part of the financial industry.

No, this is not a "Saturday Night Live" skit. This is the real thing from the Senate floor where the 100 members are paid $174,000 -- each -- for this work. The folks back home must be very proud of the honorable gentleman.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Video courtesy of C-SPAN

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It is very important that the Senators understand the undercurrents of American thought. They have been missing it for some time. Historically if it shows up over and over again in political cartoons it is an idea whose time has come or it is an criticism that is well deserved. Whoever wrote the criticism of Al Franken's presentation should have discussed the financial matter at hand, don't you think?

The issuer must not be allowed to pay for the rating that they are given by the rating agency.

Ah yes. White House pedantry. Oh for the good ole days of "We goan smoke 'em out."

Really? That's your take on this video? You've got nothing to say about the point of his argument, nothing to say about the conflict of interest in credit rating. Your whole beef in this article is the cartoon, and you're calling HIM pedantic???

He's drunk! He is obviously slurring.

He sounds like he's drunk.

He looks Drunk

Perhaps Senator Frankin can take time from his official duties to introduce you to the wonders of a well applied teaching aid. He should probably start off with something along the lines of a large graph demonstrating elections have consequences. One of these consequences being that Republican mossbacks in the senate can finally be exposed to the real world in a format even they can understand. And take Jonah Goldberg with you.

Have we now been reduced to a failed comedian's explanation via a cartoon to explain the complexities of our financial system. Didn't I see this on SNL a few years ago. Well done Al Franken.

And how much are you paid for the work of digging up exciting and relevant material like this?

Not being a huge fan of Frankin as a Senator does not make me uncomfortable saying he is using a tool to make his point. (rather effectively I would add)

I see no problem here. The headline is disingenuous.

say what you will. he's right. fat cats.

What a moron. The AAA ratings he referred to were INSURED securities. The adjustments by the rating agencies he referred to were changes to the assumption that INSURED always equals AAA. The insurers melted down and couldn't cover their commitments, meaning they had to actually spread the financials on the insurers and rate the INSURERS accurately. The AAA ratings on these exotic securities reflected the quality of the INSURANCE, not the security itself. Do your homework moron. Maybe if you researched a little deeper than an editorial cartoon you would understand.

Stuart Smalley saves the world. He was an idiot on SNL and he is an idiot in the senate

Funny that Al Franken felt it necessary for a congressman to explain what garbage looks like.

Hey Al, don't worry, we know exactly what garbage looks like.

Holy smokes, this is a joke. Franken obviously did not write this speech. He is having trouble reading it. What a joke on the people of Minnesota.

Franken is a Horse's as____ So what would anyone expect. ??? Certainly not dignity. He juts contributes to the the alraedy dumbing down of congress!!!!!

Al Frankin and others like him show just how stupid the American voter really is. Well, look at DC we now have a bunch of communists in charge, case and point made.

Senator Franken obviously understand the intelligence and attention span of the electorate.

dahuh, thanks Al I did not know that? What an ass! no one I know, democrat or republican, that voted for this buffoon! He got in due to a former acorn worker who validates elections in this state, his good buddy, Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie. It was Voter fraud if there is any!!!!!

I can see the decline and fall of SOCIALISM from my kitchen window.


The Progressives are moving so fast now that they don't even stop to think. Arguments have reached a point of pure stupidity (see Mr. Franken above). Slurs and accusations are so commonplace that they're being used in situations that don't even apply. Words that have been used as long as we can remember are being taken out of the language. The liberals got the Progressives elected, but even the liberals are realizing what's happening. Keep watching the news, because I feel like the Progressive bubble is about to burst.

Great...more proof that Franken is an idiot. Why are we still sending morons like this to Congress? At least Franken was trying to explain the source of all his information.....cartoons. Explains a lot.

al frankin is a devout communist and an endangerment to the american way of life. he must be defeated in his next senatorial election.

Let's see, European governments with excessive government programs and bloated government payrolls are disintegrating before our very eyes. People in Greece are murdered just because they work in an "evil" bank. California is set to have it's own Grecian Meltdown. And we want to emulate these systems on a Federal level? Looks like Senator Smalley isn't good enough, or smart enough, and darn it, people don't like his ideas.


I've always gone to the library for research. Who knew that cartoonists were such a valuable resource.

OMG. Way to go Minnesota! Now I get 'outcome based education". Duh... I would laugh if Frankenstein weren't such a boob. What is even more flooring is that I can't tell if he is trying to be funny (he never was) or the more likely fact that he really believes we are all just that stupid. Why don't these maroons ever go away? Meanwhile, he will be MN senator until.... Wait. Maybe we are as dumb as he seems to think.

What an idiot!

Funniest skit this bozo ever did! Is there anyone sane left in D.C.?

Quit forcing private business to give loans to people who dont deserve them......govt. intervention caused this problem, more intervention will not solve it.....quit blaming Wall Street.....the govt. is the root of the problem, we need less govt. not more govt. Repeal all laws requiring lending institutions to give high risk loans, problem solved. Let businesses run their business with common sense, if they make poor decisions on thier own then they deserve to go bankrupt, the cream will rise to the top and all will be good in the markets.

Apparently, the columnist has no knowledge or recollection of a cartoonist named George Lichty, whose crudely drawn seven-a-week panels, titled "Grin and Bear It", often satirized politicians using a character named Sen. Snort...who was in it for himself and not his constituents. Al Franken used the example of the late, great Paul Wellstone, in his career as a political commentator and as a U.S. Senator...Wellstone was definitely not in it for himself to the exclusion of others.

This is strange. I am as far to the right from Al Franken as you can get. On this issue however, I find myself on the same side with him. As to the cartoon, it was a valid illustration of the issue.

Once a clown, always a clown. I can't believe this bozo was elected but then again, MN elected Jesse Ventura governor. He talks about wasting the taxpayers money but he is the real waste of money.

Apparently not all of us have the mental capacity for humor like Franken. So glad he took the time to explain all of this.

Alert the media: "many moments" have been wasted! No!

After reading the lead-in article here and actually watching the speech leading up to the few seconds of the cartoon demonstration, I was instead struck by how proud I was of senator Franken for being an effective speaker, using a visual aid to make a very strong point in less time than it might take to expound upon it fully, or draw his own diagram. Using a creative technique and taking a bit of a risk on the Senate floor also made me a bit prouder. Signs of life in the dry and boring halls of our government can only be a good thing.

"The current White House's pedantry is apparently infectious."

I don't know about you, but using a cartoon to prove a point on the Senate floor strikes me as anything BUT pedantic.

Getting to the heart of the actual issue, and away from the desperate grab to make a story here: I am also proud that someone out there is supporting a bill to protect consumers from rampant credit rating abuse. At any time issuers hold us as individuals completely hostage. They can be completely in the wrong, such as in the case of an erroneous billing, and yet ruin someone's credit score and possibly their finances and their entire life with no accountability by the company and no recourse for the consumer.

Keep on trucking Al, America needs more free and creative thinkers like you.

I am from MN and would like to recall this bum. I did not vote for him (nor N Colman). I disagree with his politics and the way he delivers them. The US Senate is not a joke; I guess Al never received that memo.

What a shame to our great the way, when is the last time you spent more then 12 hours in Minnesota? Go back to New York; they have need of another village idiot

Al...Retire, step down and just fade away before you embarrass us further.

Expect nothing less from the distinguished gentleman from MN. He's the joke but it's on all of us.

When a newspapers are no better than blogs, newspapers are already dead.

Another nut job who clearly does NOT understand what he is talking about. Franken needs to go back to Harvard where he and his vastly more intelligent colleagues can discuss how much smarter they are than everyone. Senator Franken in this video appears either drunk or drugged...otherwise the man is absolutely delusional...

Minnesotans should be so proud of themselves!

Sounds a bit drunk...

Al Franken is a mean-sprited, petty, ill-tempered fool. His state voted him in and deserves him.

The conflict of interest is the political payoffs, bribes, "contributions": all with full expectation of political favors in return using taxpayer dollars.

Congress is full of inept, corrupt, arrogant fools. Franken is a huge joke, but not the funny kind.

This Genius has finally figured out how to communicate with the rest of the Senators on his side of the aisle. This guy is a cartoon and the people of Minnesota should be embarrassed.

Is this for real???!!!! A sitting U.S. Senator is explaining his amendment to we the little people through a political cartoon. Is this where we are now? With our tiny brains we can't possibly follow you brillant intellects in the Senate, so please explain your genius to us through cartoons. What's next, hand puppets? This only proves how high the pedestal is that they've put themselves on. Now pardon me while I go back to my diaper and drool cup, before I make a mess of myself.

Franken provided a detailed explanation of why he supports financial reform. He briefly explained his visual which, by the way, highlighted his point quite well--credit agencies who are supposed to be objective in assessing companies are instead being paid by the very agencies they are assessing.

What's the matter, Andrew? Were you so easily distracted by the cartoon that you couldn't even listen to Franken? Or is it the fact that Franken is a liberal that you chose not to?

If only he had his reporter hat on with the built in satalight dish on, that would have made it a real SNL moment.

Thank goodness Al Franken is on the case with his crystal clear comic strip!

But really... who in their right minds makes investment decisions based SOLELY on investment ratings?! Yet more proof that Washington has no concept of how the world really works...

So proposing another new agency? Just do the oversight like you are supposed to. In the fall of 2006, Congress passed the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act, providing the SEC for the first time with authority to supervise rating agencies. Using this authority that became effective in June 2007, the Commission has adopted two major rulemakings, has conducted an extensive 10-month examination of three major credit rating agencies, and has several pending proposals to further the Act's purpose of promoting accountability, transparency, and competition in the rating industry.

"Although our statutory authority to regulate rating agencies has only been effective for less than two years, it is clearly one of this agency's most important responsibilities," said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. "The SEC will hear from leading experts on credit rating agencies and the financial markets. Their insight will help the Commission as it continues its aggressive oversight of the industry, and considers whether to adopt the pending proposals."

I agree with you Andrew, Mr. Franken is the best!

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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