Despite the serious issues that face us, the Senate and Norm Coleman are playing games over an ad.
I'm a satirist by trade. And as a satirist, my job was to point out the absurd, the hypocritical, the ridiculous in life.
It's been a banner week for ridiculous.
Case in point: On Tuesday, Sen. Norm Coleman took out an ad in this paper criticizing me for criticizing a Senate resolution that criticized MoveOn.org for taking out an ad in the New York Times criticizing Gen. David Petraeus.
It is, of course, ridiculous that the United States Senate spent a day debating and voting on a resolution condemning an advertisement while our troops remained in Iraq, fighting a war with no end. And it's doubly ridiculous that Coleman, of all people, is still playing politics with this issue.
After all, he voted last week against a resolution that condemned personal attacks on anyone who had served our nation honorably. That would include Democrats like Max Cleland, John Kerry and John Murtha -- proud American veterans who were the targets of political attacks not just on their character, but on their patriotism. In 2004, when Murtha (a Silver Star winner) called for better armor for our troops, Coleman himself accused him of "emboldening the enemy" and "undermining the morale of our troops."
And as his reelection campaign gets underway, it's worth noting that Coleman has hired the same media consultant who ran ads in Georgia that juxtaposed pictures of Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam, with Osama bin Laden.
I guess now it's my turn to be attacked. I've been to Iraq four times to visit our troops; I know the incredible sacrifice our men and women in uniform make every day in service to our nation. But Norm Coleman is who he is -- so he's accusing me of "undermining our troops."
Frankly, I'm used to this kind of smear -- it's what happens when you speak truth to power in George W. Bush's America. But I think Minnesotans have had enough of this kind of political gamesmanship. As I go around the state, I don't hear a whole lot about ads in the New York Times. What I do hear is that Minnesotans want this war to end, and that if this president won't end it, they want the Senate to force him to end it.
There are more than 160,000 troops currently serving in Iraq. We should honor their service by providing them with the best possible medical care when they return. We should honor their sacrifice by refusing to allow this president to keep them there in the middle of a civil war. And we should honor them by taking seriously the difficult debate about the best way, or at least the least bad way, to end our engagement in Iraq.
Bush and his allies in Washington have blocked increases to veterans' benefits, refused to be held accountable for the mistakes that ruined our military's efforts in Iraq, and dodged every effort to bring our troops home. Instead of solutions, Norm Coleman offers political games and pointless attacks.
As a satirist, I find the whole thing ridiculous. But as a Minnesotan who wants to bring the troops home, I also find it sad.
Al Franken, humorist and author, is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
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