Al Franken's rally with former Vice President Al Gore at the University of Minnesota on Saturday was a thing of political beauty. You don't especially have to like Franken (though I do) to recognize and admire the quality of the event: Al stood with Al and Amy Klobuchar, and all three backed up their photo-op with heavy doses of policy and substance.

Just to name a few of the Franken planks: He promised to fight for middle-class tax cuts, for universal health care and against oil speculators. He promised to take tax breaks away from big oil and invest in renewable energy, and to seek a responsible end to the war in Iraq. He swore full funding for veterans' benefits. Gore, for his part, denounced the Bush administration and its supporters in Congress for having made "a complete mess" of the economy. As for foreign policy, he said, "They invaded the wrong country, hello?"

Most of it was pretty familiar. But Franken told a story I hadn't heard, and it speaks at least a slender volume about both Franken and the people opposing him.

We've all seen the Republicans' "Angry Al" commercials, showing Franken apparently in mid-coronary. He looks like Mussolini on crack, bouncing and shouting and pumping his fist. He looks deranged.

On Saturday, Franken announced that he wanted to tell a story about Paul Wellstone, and cautioned that he'd been filmed telling the story before, and that the film had been used in a commercial to make him seem to be ranting and raving. Even so, he wanted to tell it again.

Franken recounted a conversation with Wellstone's son David. He'd asked if it were true that the energetic Wellstone had actually run up and down the sidelines during his son's soccer games, to be close to the action.

David had replied, not only that: I ran cross country. Dad would run parallel to the course for the entire race.

Toward the end of a race, out of gas, David might feel outclassed by a competitor. At that point his dad would erupt with a rhetorical blitz: You can do it! You've got him! You can take this guy!

Retelling the story, Franken conjured the physical Wellstone, and did indeed look like Mussolini on crack. It was a pretty fair rendition of Wellstone at a certain point in some of his speeches. It was easy to imagine a sprinting Wellstone yelling, "You can take this guy! You can take this guy!"

And Franken concluded: "I'm gonna take this guy."

It's impressive that Franken, having had his likeness appropriated so dishonestly, would open himself to the same appropriation again. And it's astonishing that Coleman, knowing the context of Franken's frenetic performance, would have anything to do with something so dishonest.