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Friday, February 11, 2005; Page C03

Al Franken, Staying Put

I'm Al Franken. And I'm not running for Senate. Yet.

It looks like Minnesotans will have to wait a few more years for liberal yakker Al Franken to announce for Senate.

Al Franken is taking a pass on running for the Senate from Minnesota in 2006. (Robert F. Bukaty - AP)

The current Manhattanite, who grew up in Minnesota, had mentioned his desire to hold political office but was focusing on the 2008 elections, when he could challenge Republican Norm Coleman, the state's junior senator. Ah, but then Mark Dayton (D) surprisingly announced that he is vacating his Senate seat next year, which caused Franken to briefly flirt with the should-I-or-should-I-not-run-now question.

The former "SNL" funnyman waited until the last 15 minutes of his three-hour radio show on Air America to come clean. "Wouldn't it be funny if I ran out of time and not tell people?" he joked. Then: "I would love to follow in [ Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone, Walter Mondale's] enormous, gigantic footsteps. . . . However, I believe in honoring my commitments. I agreed to do two more years on Air America radio. . . .

"So anyway, I'm not running for Senate in 2006. Minnesotans are very serious about their politics, and it would be silly for me to run. I don't live there. But if I do run in 2008, I'll move back there.

"Politics is important. It's about doing well for other people, as Paul Wellstone said. Who's on for tomorrow?"

Laura Bush's Puff Piece

Laura Bush used to be a smoker, and last week, when she sat down with editors from Time Inc.-owned mags -- including People -- to discuss women's health issues (a pet cause of hers), she remembered those days: "Yes, I smoked. I smoked. A lot of my friends smoked. George smoked."

She said she quit when she was trying to get pregnant, People reports, but would cheat a little here and there after the twins were born, then eventually quit cold turkey. How? "Well, I think because my husband got elected" governor, she recalled.

Mrs. Bush also said that she knows who the smokers are in the White House press corps: "Because I can see out of my window," she said with a laugh. "Do you want me to tell the ones?"

Asked about her recent response on national television when questioned about daughter Jenna's beau -- that he's "not a serious boyfriend" -- she said: "Well, I was shocked, to be perfectly frank. I didn't expect to answer. I wasn't very prepared -- didn't expect the question." Well, it was candid, the magazine noted. "A little too candid," Mrs. Bush said with another laugh.

Noted . . .

Yesterday at the Rayburn Building, the National Inventors Hall of Fame announced the 14 inductees in its Class of 2005. They include Les Paul, inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, and Leo Sternbach, who developed Valium. Left unanswered was the question: Did the first invention necessitate the second? . . . Simon Doonan, creative director for Barneys New York, is not amused that tonight's debut of Jennifer Lopez's fashion line as part of New York fashion week is the hardest ticket to nab. "We've only ourselves to blame because we've given celebrities these deranged feelings of omnipotence," he said. "She'll be doing brain surgery next."

. . . and Quoted

"Well, ideally, Cary Grant reincarnated. He's the ultimate. Off the cuff, I can't think of anybody I'd be particularly thrilled with. The world of movie stars today is not what it was 50 years ago."

-- Donald Trump, talking about whom he would like to play him in an upcoming ABC-TV movie about his life, as reported by the New York Post.

-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder

from staff and wire reports

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