Al Franken’s The Truth (with jokes) was the first hard-cover book I’ve bought in 20 years. Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9-11 was the first full-price DVD I’ve ever bought. Do you see a common thread? I’m going to put a few bucks in the pocket of anyone willing to the poke the Beast with a stick.
And Al Franken has a darn sharp stick. "…with jokes" is clearly an understatement since there is at least one razor-edge witticism on every page—if not every paragraph of Franken prose. The book contains a considerable amount of quoted material, presented in reasonably small snippets, that is, most assuredly not funny.
While nothing in the book had me guffawing on the floor with tears streaming down my face, that could be because the jokes are like the structure of tragedy. You gotta give the audience a laugh-line or it will explode with tension.
Here are a few teasers: "I blame the commander in chief, who was serving the military even less as president than he had as an Alabama Air National Guard pilot in 1972 (252)."
On American war dead: "If Paul Wolfowitz didn't care enough about U.S. troops to know how many died in his war, you can just imagine how little he cared about the number of dead Iraqis (282)."
Speaking of the Baptist Democratic expulsion in my old hometown, Franken remarked, "…Reverend Chandler was forced to resign and now manages a Republican-only Tastee-Freeze in nearby Hazelwood (120)."
The jokes are often transitional devices to get from one mind-numbing, testicle-squeezing, stomach-churning tale of bestial corruption to another tale of callous, causal, raging incompetence to another tale of privileged, pompous, smirking stupidity. He is not repeating specious, unfounded allegations (those get blacked out by censors—you will have to read it for that nifty gimmick). In fact, the book could well be sub-subtitled "…with footnotes." It lacks, however, an index. (Writers, please, please make indices. In MS Word it is such a simple thing to do. There is really no excuse, Al. Unless you're trying to make me read the book multiple times. Hmm…)
Franken and his crack team of caped-crusading fact-checking gnomes apparently penetrated every nook and cranny of the Byzantine maze that is the corporate political pig feeding so earnestly at the public trough. Franken even debunks Colin Powell's Pottery Barn analogy.
The research is well-documented. Facts are nice like that. It is going to be interesting to see how the over-pressurized right-wing volumetric mustard gas pundits attempt to pile onto this particular lump of 336 pages of facts. Many a deer will be caught in this book's headlights. (Ralph Reed pay heed.)
Finally, here a few chapter titles: "Bush's Little Black Dress," "The Tom Delay Saipan Sex Tour and Jack Abramoff Casino Getaway," and "Werewolves of Washington." If you are a political junkie, I doubt that there's anything here you haven't already heard about, though I did get surprised a time or two with the inevitable "how'd that get by me?" For those people who need to be introduced to what is really going on, you know, The Truth, The Truth (with jokes) provides an entertaining and thorough public service. Buy it for a political fence-sitter if not for yourself.