Two Republican Minnesota legislators demonstrated top-notch reading and comprehension skills by sending an affectionate love letter desperately in need of a good spell-check to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken yesterday.
They turned what might have been minor Republican electoral flirtation into early-stage stalking by CC'ing all those thousands unfortunate enough to be in their address books with a 'manifesto' outlining some of humorist Franken's past writings and comments that they claim are 'not nice' and 'not funny'.
Franken's campaign has said it was simply satire.
"Satire?" repeated one of the two legislators, "Wasn't he a French writer or something?"
Yes, and no exit in sight.
Looking over the quote lists and humorous essays, one gets the impression that the entire 'controversy' itself is a Franken satire on the muckraking and money wasting that constitutes the American electoral process.
No such luck. Unfortunately, these people appear to be (if you'll pardon the expression) serious.
When questioned, Franken's campaign spokesman reiterated that Al Franken wrote s-a-t-i-r-e.
"These are not jokes made by a teenage boy in the locker room with his friends," sniffed state Rep. Laura Prod of New Proddy, a well known expert on teenage boys' locker rooms.
Sen. Betsy Gherkin of Princeton said, "These are jokes made by an adult man who has made his living this way, and only now, as a candidate for the Senate, wishes to be taken seriously."
Well, which is it, Ms. Gherkin, is Franken trying to get into government or is he witty?
Quite clearly he cannot be both, and in any case, his IQ may exceed the required maximum height for legislative office.
Franken was already under attack for an article he wrote for Playboy magazine in 2000. Critics, such as U.S. Rep. Betty Rubble, D-Minn., have called the piece, headlined "Porn-O-Rama,'' vulgar and concerned with sex.
Perhaps Ms. Rubble mistook Playboy for National Geographic.
On the plus side, however, she may be the only person to have really and truly looked at the magazine just for the articles.
Franken's campaign reminds critics that the humorist's past work was satire, and campaign volunteers are now handing out dictionaries and recommended reading lists to critics.
Campaign spokeswoman Jess McIntosh repeated that pro-education stance today.
"Al knows the difference between a satirist and a senator,'' she said. "They're different jobs.
"To be honest, he's a little concerned about these people who seem not to be able to distinguish between the two."
Asked to respond to reactions from some women that Franken's Playboy article was not objectionable, Prod said, "Yes it is!" and stomped her size 8 knock-offs.
"As a mom, I think rolling your eyes at this is absolutely putting your head in the sand," she said, mixing her metaphors as well as her context.
"Of course," she added, "I know the difference between being a mom and being a legislator. They are two different jobs."
Right, moms confiscate Playboy but legislators subscribe.
The two legislators said they released the material only so that people would be aware of it and are really, really sorry if it's caused any extra expense or headaches for the Franken campaign.
A spokesman for Playboy reports that the magazine has offered gratis Playboy subscriptions to Representatives Gherkin, Prod, and Rubble so they won't have to lurk at newsstands any longer, and in gratitude for the mass back-orders they've recently received for the 2000 issue in question.
Like these three legislators' collective sense of humour, the magazines will be delivered discretely, covered by plain brown paper and entirely indistinguishable from junk mail.
Franken and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer are seeking the Democratic Party's official backing this weekend to run against Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
The word satire comes from Latin satura lanx and means "a fruity, flavorful dish unsuitable for big fat idiots".