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Al Franken tells ‘The Truth’ after telling ‘Lies’

In his latest book, the political satirist writes about a future Americans can build together. Here's an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

The liberal voice of Al Franken first came calling when he declared "Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot!" Now the political satirist turned radio talk-show host has a new book on the shelves simply titled "The Truth (With Jokes)." Franken was invited on the “Today” show to discuss the book. Here’s an excerpt:

When Al Franken asked me to write a foreword to this astonishing and profoundly moving book, he had only one condition: that I remain anonymous.

“Why?” I asked. “Having a big name like mine on your cover would be an enormous feather in any author’s cap.” “That’s exactly the point,” he responded.

Al, you see, is too modest to want to call attention to the fact that he and I are such close friends. Typical Al. He always hides his light. I reluctantly agreed to his condition, but in return I extracted one of my own. In exchange for concealing my famous identity, I demanded total control over the text of this foreword. I knew Al too well to give him the chance to edit out all the well-warranted praise I intended to heap on him.

But even though this enthusiastic foreword will no doubt embarrass Al, I believe that you, the reader, deserve to know the full truth about this great American and about this book. I believe it to be not only the finest volume he has written, but perhaps the Great American Nonfiction Hardcover itself.

"The Truth" is a very different kind of book than the ones this multifaceted genius has given us before. Oh, it’s funny. (How could Al Franken not write a funny book?) But it’s more than that. Gone is the familiar cast of villains: the psychotic Ann Coulter, the sex-addicted Bill O’Reilly, the drug-addicted Rush Limbaugh. Consigned to their own personal hells by their failings as human beings, Franken mercifully leaves them be. Ann Coulter has been banned as effectively from these pages as from the intellectual salons to which she so desperately craves admittance.

In "The Truth," the fish are bigger, and the fry is deeper. Franken’s targets this time include both people — Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rove, DeLay — and something new: ideas. In particular, the idea that the 2004 election meant that Franken’s beloved America had moved to the right. Al Franken ain’t buyin’ it.

Using access to confidential documents and firsthand accounts, Franken weaves the true story of the Making of the President 2004, starring the Three Horsemen of the Republican Apocalypse: Fear, Smears, and Queers.

Franken shows more than how Bush won. He shows what Bush won.

(Or in the case of a mandate, what he didn’t win.)


But this story chronicles more than a rise. It chronicles a fall. And what a fall! Was Bush like Icarus, simply a man who dared to dream — a man who flew too close to the sun? Or like Daedalus, a man who equipped his son with unsafe wings made of easily melted beeswax?

As Franken makes clear, the answer is both — and neither. If you doubt that Icarus has fallen, then I say these words to you: Terri Schiavo, Social Security, Ahmed Chalabi, Tom DeLay, and Iraq.

But this book is more than just a disconnected list of names, places, and topics. Far more. It is something new for Franken. And, I would argue, for literature. Here, Franken has taken a single stem cell — the English language — and grown from it a fully functional kidney with which to purify the blood of the body politic.

In the rarified sphere of contemporary general-audience nonfiction, few books live up to the promise offered by their title. Fewer still, their subtitle. But in “The Truth (With Jokes),” the author lives up to not only his title and his subtitle but, most important, to the name that appears on the cover, Al Franken.

AnonymousNew York, NYAugust 13, 2005

Excerpted from “The Truth (With Jokes),” by Al Franken. Copyright © 2005 by Al Franken. Published by Dutton Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA). All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.