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Franken takes on Trump at DNC

PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. Sen. Al Franken leaned on his comedy roots in a short speech to the Democratic National Convention on Monday night made up largely of ridicule for Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“I’m Al Franken – Minnesotan, senator and world renowned expert on right-wing megalomaniacs,” Franken said in a prime time speech from the stage of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. “Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and now Donald Trump.”

Franken, of course, was a “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer for years before shifting into a career in political satire. His most well-known book of humor bashing conservatives was “Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot.”

In 2005, Franken moved back to Minnesota – where he spent his childhood and teenage years – and mounted a political career that saw him elected to the U.S. Senate in 2009 by a historically thin margin. He was reelected much more comfortably in 2014.

Franken joked in his speech that “I got my degree in right-wing megalomania from Trump University.” That’s the controversial business school established by Trump that is the subject of fraud lawsuits. Franken also mocked the New York real estate tycoon’s bankruptcies, saying it featured a 101 class entitled “Leaving Your Friends Holding the Bag.”

On Trump’s claim of being able to teach business success, Franken added: “If you believe that, I’ve got some delicious Trump steaks to sell you.”

He then pivoted to praise for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he talked of knowing for many years.

“I’ve never met anyone tougher, smart, or ready to lead us forward,” Franken said.

Morning Hot Dish: Will Sanders and Clinton play nice?

By J. Patrick Coolican

Star Tribune staff writer

Greetings from Philadelphia. (Or King of Prussia, Penn., a suburb that is as far from Philly as Apple Valley is from Minneapolis.)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was on my plane. Rumor that she bought everyone on the plane drinks as she tries to get her numbers above 60 percent: Not true.

There’s a mall in King of Prussia that my shuttle driver claimed was the largest in the world. Have you not heard of Mall of America, good sir!? Does your mall have a Shake Shack!? Does it!?

While inconvenient, the suburban locale probably puts DFL Chair Ken Martin somewhat at ease, as it’s harder to get into serious trouble out here, meaning delegates are less likely to get busted urinating on the Liberty Bell or something like that, but we in the media can still hope. Minnesota delegates are joined here by Michigan and Tennessee.

Speaking of Michigan: If Donald Trump can win Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and convention host Pennsylvania he will win the presidency. Those are all states Obama won twice but have struggled with a hollowing out of manufacturing base.

This morning Sens. Al Franken and Klobuchar will address the delegate breakfast at 7:30. (Drinks with the chairman event ended at 1 a.m., so this should be interesting.) Gov. Mark Dayton arrives today.

Of course all the chatter this weekend has been about leaked emails that show the Democratic National Committee was in the tank for Hillary Clinton, as Bernie Sanders’ supporters had argued for months and carries all the surprise of an Soviet election in the Brezhnev era. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, long reviled by seemingly everyone, has resigned, to be replaced by Donna Brazile, who is beloved and trusted by Democrats.

Call me cynical, but institutions act in what they believe is their best interest, and the DNC believed it was in the party’s interest that Clinton be the nominee. What’s amazing is that people continue to think no one will read their emails.

Regardless, CNN was blaring in the hotel bar and they were talking a lot about the emails, and they were talking about how they’re talking about the emails, and therefore they’re not talking about other things, like Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine or Clinton’s nomination. Imagine my frustration as I was trying to eat. In any case, it’s true: The story is a distraction.

The other interesting storyline is the provenance of the leak: It seems highly likely based on the reporting that someone with ties to Vladimir Putin is responsible for getting emails in the hands of Wikileaks, which released them. Putin has a history of trying to sow discord via ethno-nationalist candidacies in Western democracies. Even more interesting, Trump, his family and his campaign -- namely chairman Paul Manafort, via Yanukovych -- have ties to Putin and the Russian government. Once the convention is finished, look for the Democrats to go hard at the relationship between Putin and Trump, who has repeatedly expressed admiration for the KGB strongman. Plus, the only issue of any interest to the Trump campaign wrt to the GOP platform was removing language about giving Ukrainian rebels arms to fight the Russians. Kinda weird.

But for now, the DNC emails deepen the trust deficit Clinton has with Sanders voters. I wrote about that after talking to a number of Sanders delegates last week.

Sanders can help Clinton with his convention address tonight. Wonder if the Clinton camp has been able to offer input into his speech. He doesn’t seem like the type to take advice. First Lady Michelle Obama will also speak in primetime.

Let’s turn closer to home: House Speaker Kurt Daudt has a primary challenger in Alan Duff, a military veteran who is working the district hard. My impression in reporting the story is that Daudt and his people are taking this seriously.

Also re: Daudt, he said this at a GOP convention Minnesota delegate breakfast last week: "We're getting close to special session. Let me decode that for you. The governor has caved on almost everything." Bloody Mary for breakfast? Baffled as to why he would say that with a reporter in the room. If it’s true, and it may very well be true that Dayton is caving and Daudt winning, the only thing that might derail Daudt’s negotiating victory just months before the November election would be insulting the governor in public. You can bet we’ll be asking Dayton about this here in Philly.

For your calendar: Gov. Wendell Anderson’s memorial service will be held at 2 on Monday, August 15 at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church (5025 Knox Avenue, Minneapolis.) A reception will be held prior to the service at 1. Both the service and reception are open to the public.

Also, today, interesting event by Citizens League: “Conservative Approaches to Clean Energy.” 2:30, Minneapolis Event Center. Details.

The Strib has a partnership going with some strong regional papers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, which has a lot of great convention coverage: Curated landing page; easy-to-scan reverse chronological list of DNC stories; coverage of protests with on-the-ground reporters; Inky reporters on Twitter.

Buzzfeed politics editor Katherine Miller, formerly of conservative Daily Caller, with a very personal and insightful essay on how things fall apart, parties change, ideologies change, and that’s what we’re seeing with Trump. Interesting history of the movement, as well. Likewise, Clare Malone quotes Yuval Levin up high in a long piece with lots of data analysis suggesting the Republican Party has come to the end of something. Same old story, with insights from GOP strategists and pollsters: Whiter, older, less educated than the country over time. But how quickly things can change! Here’s a piece from RCP by GOP vote counter Sean Trende that says the Republican Party is stronger than it’s been in recent times. Published in the spring of 2015. Indeed, at the state level, the GOP’s share of governorships is the ninth-highest since Reconstruction, and the third-highest in the post-war era (1996 and 1998 were higher). The party’s showing in state legislatures is the highest since 1920, the ninth-highest ever, and the third-highest since the end of Reconstruction.

Also, the word “bitch” was quite in vogue in Cleveland to describe the Dems’ nominee, apparently. Bill Maher -- Bill Maher! -- says this election is a “referendum on decency.”

Dems VP pick Tim Kaine took a lot of “gifts” while governor of Virginia, legal under the state’s liberal gift law (why, why can’t we adopt this in Minnesota for the sake of the Capitol press corps?) Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had a conviction overturned after accepting more extravagant gifts from a single donor. Kaine’s flight on a private jet from Big Pharma while he was deciding an issue important to them is ugly. Kaine, by the way, is a St. Paul native, but he moved to suburban, Kansas City, as a toddler. I asked the Clinton campaign about his Minnesota roots but they didn’t have much. Anyone out there know Kaine’s parents when they were in Minnesota?

Jamelle Bouie: There is a very large, native-born group of Americans ravaged by collapse of industrial economy and the frequent target of elite disdain.

Who is he talking about? No, not working class whites. African-Americans. Every four years we get paeans to the working class and often hear how Democrats have abandoned them. But this always neglects the people Bouie cites above. Wonder why.

Life is more than politics.

Read this excruciating story by Eli Saslow about a young woman trying to kick heroin and the terrible suffering of her mother. This continues the Post’s powerful series exploring the rise in mortality among middle aged whites, and women especially. The woman began with pharmaceutical opioids. Here’s data on how and why heroin has spread, following the explosion of opioid prescriptions, from which certain drug companies have made billions of dollars.

Note to local governments, in St. Paul and Minneapolis especially: Study finds delays in housing permits drive up the cost of housing by choking off demand in expensive cities like San Francisco and Boston. There’s a relatively simple solution to all the gnashing of teeth about the disappearance of affordable housing: Make it easy to build.

A couple weeks ago I linked to a study from a Harvard economist that showed that in the jurisdictions he studied, blacks were more likely to be manhandled by police than white suspects, suggesting racial bias. At the same time, he also found in his close review of shootings in Houston, there was no evidence that police shootings were racially biased. This is a good deeper look at the study and why it is causing so much controversy.

Related: Strib data story on arrest rates of minorities vs. whites.

Also, FiveThirtyEight on why so many black Americans are killed by police. Charles Epp, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, thinks most scholars in the field would say the convergence of black people and police officers in places of concentrated disadvantage plays a major role, although he added that the decisions of departments and officers also are significant and interconnected. “A more aggressive style of policing” in those areas “almost certainly contributes to more rapid escalations toward use of deadly force,” said Epp, co-author of the book “Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship.”

Conservative National Review writer Josh Gerlenter takes readers through an FBI training exercise to explain how unarmed suspects can wind up dead: The situations officers are dealing with can be tense, and adrenaline is running sky high.

Strib’s Jessie Van Berkel on drive for civilian oversight of police. This is another fight at the Legislature next year, because in 2012, state legislators passed a law barring the commissions from imposing discipline on police or making determinations about complaints against officers. The groups can only offer recommendations about whether a complaint should be sustained and an officer disciplined.

Both Baton Rouge and Dallas murders of police were done at the hands of military veterans, but Phil Klay says do not judge veterans by these two examples. Klay, a Marine, is the author of a wonderful short story collection called “Redeployment.”

Correspondence: patrick.coolican@startribune.com and be sure to folo on Twitter @jpcoolican here at the convention. We’ll be blogging and writing up major events and finding fun Minnesota angles.

That is, when we’re not at fabulous parties.

Have a great day everyone!

J. Patrick Coolican