The 2004 Republican National Convention will come to a close Thursday night with speeches from New York Governor George E. Pataki and President Bush.
Comedian and Air America radio host Al Franken took your questions Thursday, Sept. 2, at 5:30 p.m. ET on the convention, the election and his Air America radio show.
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The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Al Franken: I am here at Madison Square Garden and it is pretty disgusting.
I'm curious to read your thoughts on the "speech" the Bush twins gave.
Al Franken: I never believe in being critical of the family members of the politicians so I will, from a standpoint of a comedy writer, say that it looked like someone else wrote their jokes.
Some of the jokes were sort-of funny and others were less funny and that is the nature of doing a list of jokes. Whereas I felt that the Kerry daughters each wrote their own speech and really wrote from their personal feelings and experience and therefore it was richer and actually reflected more from their father. All that said no one is going to change their vote on any of that.
What happened between you and the producer of the Laura Ingraham Show?
Al Franken: It is a long story. Basically it goes back several months when I was first doing the book tour for the hard cover addition of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and my publicist asked if I wanted to do the Laura Ingrahm show. I said no.
Then later there was an item in Page 6 of the Post that said that I was scheduled to do the show but backed out cause I was afraid.
The long and short of it is that her producer had either himself called Page 6 or had someone else do it and lie to them. So I had my publicist call him and she asked why he did that and he said they get guests all the time that way -- by "Page 6ing them." So I was not amused. Page 6 ran a kind-of correction -- they had never called us to confirm because Page 6 is Page 6.
So then I later did a debate with Ingraham, and after the debate, not wanting to color the debate, I spoke with Ingraham I ended up on the phone with her producer. He asked me to do the show. I said no cause he lied. He kept asking me and I said no.
Cut to now and we are in Radio Row and he asked me to do the show and I said "No, because you lied." And he said "I didn't lie" and then started giving me some incomprehensible story. And then I got mad at him and then he acknowledged that he had lied. And then I got mad at him again and he evidently lies so much that he seemed to not understand why he would make someone else angry. So when he wouldn't acknowledge that I had a right to be angry it only made me angrier.
That was really the source to all that.
Have you had any funny or awkward encounters at the RNC?
Al Franken: The first night I was on the floor the RNC seemed to appoint five goons to follow me around to block me from where I wanted to go including surrounding me and not moving. They wouldn't talk to me. They wouldn't answer my questions or look at me. I found it very uncomfortable. Anyway, the next night I brought a feather so I could tickle them and they didn't show up. So I was more or less free to walk around though it seemed like they were eyeing me. The goons had earpieces, though they weren't secret service. Certain delegates seemed to be assigned to keep an eye on me. They were a little less weird and eerie.
How come there aren't any funny Republicans? I scan the shows and the online sessions, but the good humor man is definitely not at home. Why is that do you suppose?
Al Franken: Well, I don't know. I think there is something about current republican temperament that seems particularly unfunny.
Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.:
Has anyone attempted an intervention with Dennis Miller? Shake him a couple of times and a couple slaps to the face and maybe he will realize how ridiculous it is to support this president and his ideals. 9/11 affected us all, but Dennis has really lost it.
Al Franken: Dennis was always sort of conservative on certain kinds of issues. I am not quite sure why he decided to become a comedian with a dog in the fight, but as a comedian with a dog in the fight I sympathize with him.
Shall we concede the girlie men vote to the Democrats?
Al Franken: I hope so. We need every vote we can get. But I really believe Schwarzenegger made a big mistake. I don't think that unemployed steel workers in Pennsylvania would appreciate being called girly men.
Please provide us your impressions of the Zell Miller experience. Thank you.
Al Franken: I thought it was horrible and sad. The litany on John Kerry's support or lack of on weapons systems was totally dishonest and shameful as was every part of his speech.
Why is that whenever Democrats make fun of the intellect of their opponents (Ike, Reagan, Bush -- Bush II) they lose? Is it the intellectual arrogance which common folks despise?
Al Franken: I agree. I don't think Bush is stupid. I think he in not very curious and intellectually lazy and dishonest.
Quick, name five of Kerry's accomplishments in 20 years in the Senate.
Al Franken: Okay. Resolving the MIA-POW controversy. The BCCI investigation. The investigation of the CIA's role in drug trafficking in Central America. Leadership on the Democratic side in balancing the budget. Leadership in killing drilling in ANWR. Early in his Senate life of getting CAFÉ standards raised.
Also wondering why all the cool musicians lined up Democrat -- Springsteen, Bono, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews. Have the Republicans got ANYONE cool on their side?
Al Franken: Trying to think. I think the drummer from Foghat.
St. Paul, Minn.:
When will you announce your decision -- to run or not to run against Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota?
Al Franken: I think that I would don't have to decide on that until 2006. Taking this one election at a time. I am considering it. It is a long way off though. Probably should check with my family.
Al...love your show and I hope you get a station here in D.C. soon!
My question involves the election of supposed "moderate" Republicans like Pataki, Ehrlich, Romney, Giuliani, etc. in Democratic states like New York, Massachusetts and Maryland. We elect these people and the next thing you know the Republicans are trotting them on stage to attack our candidate and party at their convention. Shouldn't we Democrats make a top priority to regain the Governor's office in New York, Maryland and Massachusetts and the Mayor's office in New York City?
Al Franken: I think that we should but there may be bigger fish to fry. The first thing we have to do is get rid of this president and take congress.
Los Angeles, Calif.:
Will your new TV show (Sundance Channel) be available live on-line similar to the way Amy Goodman's Democracy Now prgoram is?
Al Franken: I don't know.
Mission Viejo, Calif.:
Do you really believe that George W. Bush would sacrifice American lives solely to enrich his "oil buddies from Texas?"
Al Franken: Not solely.
Al, I'm having a hard time staying positive about Kerry's chances with so much negativity at the forefront. What can I do to prevent drowning in a sea of total despair beofre November 2nd?
Al Franken: Work for Kerry day and night.
Why do you think the Kerry campaign is not more forcefully defending their candidate in the wake of all these Republican attacks. They seem to be asleep at the wheel!
Al Franken: Well, sometimes when you respond to attacks you end up playing on their turf.
LBJ once wanted and aide to accuse an opponent of having sex with farm animals. And the aide said we don't have any evidence that he had sex with farm animals. And LBJ said,"I just want to see the SOB deny it."
Is it hard to live with the fact that most people still think you're just a comedian, and refuse to take you seriously in any political debate?
Al Franken: Well I think that is becoming less and less the case but it is OK. I can live with it.
Don't you think the Democrats close identification with celebrities actually hurts? After all, these aren't serious, sober-minded people. I like Dave Matthews, Barbara Streisand, Ben Affleck, and the rest, but would anyone want them figuring out how to deal with Al Qaeda? Or you, for that matter? I, for one, won't vote for anyone who takes advice from Hollywood twits.
Al Franken: What exactly would Schwarzenegger be?
The Republicans must be euphoric. Their leaders have been impressive, especially McCain, Schwarzenegger and Giuliani. The street demonstrations have just shown that the Democrats are not the kind of people you want to trust with important decisions. This convention looks like the turning point in the election. Are they taunting you yet?
Al Franken: Obviously I disagree. I thought Schwarzenegger made a huge mistake with the girly-man comment. I saw Giuliani disgrace himself by lying about Kerry and by exploiting 9/11 in a way that was shameful. For example talking about seeing a guy jump from the Trade Center and then making up this thing about thanking God George W. Bush is president. I don't think the demonstrators who misbehave were Democrats. And while I respect McCain I thought his comments about Michael Moore were unfortunate considering he had never seen the movie as he admitted later.
As far as taunting: you are going to lose, loser.
Although I saw both the pro-Choice side of the Republicans at their convention with R. Giuliani and Gov. Arnold and the pro-Life side with Sen McCain and Sen Zell Miller, why did the Democrats in Boston refuse to give ANY prominence to ANY pro-Life Democrat?
Al Franken: Which prominent pro-life Democrats would those be?
Al Franken: Why didn't the Republican Party give any place on the platform to any prominent anti-war Republicans?
It seems to me that McCain has sold his soul and abandoned his family for politcal expediency. Have you had any interaction with him since your on-air interview?
Al Franken: No, unfortunately not. We requested an interview but no luck. I think he is deeply ashamed.
Los Angeles, Calif.:
Look, I'm a huge fan and I say this with complete faith that I am not anti-semitic. I have a few Jewish friends too. I am a fan of Jewish women.
But the Jewish lobby has royally screwed this country with its support of the war in Iraq (and possibly the spy in the Pentagon).
Tom Delay was quoted as saying "there is no Arab-Israeli conflict, there is only the war on terror" at an AIPAC meeting.
These types of comments will destroy America. Israel's struggle is not our struggle. We should support our ally, but not fight wars for it as we did in Iraq.
Al Franken: I don't believe Tom DeLay is Jewish.
Mt. Lebanon, Pa.:
What do you expect from Bush's speech tonight? More NUK-U-LUR language? Faux pas? Dyslexic monologue?
I can hardly wait. Carol: get the gin and tonics ready. I'll freeze more ice.
Al Franken: I have a solution. I have organized something called the Great American Shout Out. Basically you can vent your frustration by either going to a party to watch the convention or you can do this alone: when the president appears on stage jump out of your chair, throw open your window and scream, for example in New York, "Fuhgettaboudit!" or, in Minnesotta "Oh no you don't!" or, in North Carolina "Hush your mouth!" or, in California "Noooooooo Dude!" Yell for only about two or three minutes while the delegates on the floor are yelling things like "Thanks for my tax cut. I am very rich." or "Thanks for rolling back environemtnal regulations. I am a big polluter!" or "thanks for sending someone else's kid to Iraq!" Then, when the president begins to speak quiet down out of respect for the office and watch him give his awful speech.
Al Franken: Thanks everybody for joining me for this online chat. I hope you all had as much fun as I have. Please listen to the Al Franken Show on Air America Radio. If it is not available on a station on your market you can listen to the Al Franken Show by streaming online to www.airamericaradio.com. Remember, for you Kerry voters: work hard until Election Day, which for you Bush voters in Nov. 3. God bless America.