Al Franken’s digs at President Bush please students

Author and comedian pays visit to Princeton University.

By: Jessica Stahl
   In a lecture Thursday afternoon that ranged from the irreverently funny to the deadly serious, Al Franken, a comedian famous for his work on Saturday Night Live and the author of a current New York Times bestseller, criticized President Bush and his administration for misusing the patriotic spirit of the country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
   "The president had the opportunity to take this unique moment and lead this country and the world into a new American century and he blew it," Mr. Franken told an audience of over 200 in Princeton University’s Dodds Auditorium. "He hijacked 9/11 for political purposes."
   Mr. Franken focused on how, in his opinion, the Bush administration misled the country to gain support for a war on Iraq. He said the United States went to war because the administration lied and said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
   "President Clinton lied," Mr. Franken joked. "Some good things came out of it. Married couples are now having open and honest discussions about what does and does not constitute adultery."
   According to Mr. Franken, President Bush’s lie about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is much worse because it has placed American lives in danger.
   Mr. Franken became very serious when he began to speak about the young men and women serving in that country. He recently returned from a USO tour through Iraq and Afghanistan, where he says he saw first-hand the danger soldiers face every day.
   "It’s chaos, total chaos over there," he said. "A large part of the reason it’s dangerous is because the president didn’t do his job. He misled us in here."
   Mr. Franken said he also blames Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney for the precarious situation in Iraq. He faults these prominent administration figures for pridefully ignoring the need to plan for postwar Iraq, and in fact purposely ignoring all attempts by others to do so.
   "People your age are dying because of the hubris of these men, and they gotta go," Mr. Franken told the students, who responded with loud cheers.
   Mr. Franken also lampooned the Bush administration on domestic policy, a topic in which his characteristic satiric sense of humor was evident.
   "In the 2000 campaign when Bush said he was against nation building, I didn’t realize he meant only our nation," Mr. Franken quipped.
   Mr. Franken said President Bush is the first president since President Hoover to sustain a net job loss. He then looked at the years of the first President Bush and announced that the two Bush administrations together did not create a single new job.
   "If the Bushes had run this country from its inception to the present day, not one American would have ever worked. We’d all be hunter-gatherers," Mr. Franken said.
   The audience responded with almost continuous laughs throughout the 90- minute talk as Mr. Franken lampooned well-known conservatives and the right-wing media. He directed his most biting words, however, at President Bush.
   "Although in fairness to President Bush," Mr. Franken quipped, "there is more to being president than being articulate, intelligent and knowledgeable."