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Al Franken: Wrestling Rush Limbaugh wouldn't be fair

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,

Our recent Q&A with conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh drew an avalanche of responses from Dittoheads and Rush-rippers alike.

In his BadGolfer.com interview, Limbaugh said of Michelle Wie: "It's a triumph of marketing. If she really wants to play with the men, it's fine. Let her try for a tour card. But now it's a marketing tool they're using to build her up to a level much greater than her actual accomplishments. At some point, she has to get some wins."

Limbaugh's comments were picked up by Time magazine in a Q&A with Wie, and Limbaugh felt compelled to clarify his comments on his radio show and Web site.

There is some precedent here. Limbaugh once made controversial comments about black NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb that led to Limbaugh's resignation as an ESPN commentator.

Limbaugh's thoughts on sports figures aside, his critics wondered what he was doing on a golf site in the first place. Did his very presence in this publication represent a political bias?

Well, in the interest of fairness and balance we decided to get a liberal spokesman to respond. And who better than Al Franken, the famous comedian and comedy writer who has evolved into a spokesman for the political left?

A longtime writer and performer on Saturday Night Live, Franken has won seven Emmys for television work and authored 1996's Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, among other best-sellers.

While he acknowledged that he was far from an expert on Wie, Franken did offer opinions on a variety of related topics, including what kind of a wrestling hold he would put on Limbaugh. Franken was expansive, thoughtful and laughed frequently.

Q: Tell us a little about your golf background.

A: When I was growing up I was a caddie. So I like golf courses a lot. I liked the experience of caddying, by and large, and that's how I made my money when I was in my middle to late teens. The only time I would play golf was on caddie day. I had a set of clubs, hand-me-downs from my brother, that were right-handed. Well, I used to bat lefty, so what's weird is I actually putt lefty and hit righty. My brother had a two-sided putter, and I still do that.

I don't play that often. The only time I really play is when I do corporate events that are at golf resorts. I really enjoy it. I'm terrible. I mean, I'm very inconsistent. Anyone who pays golf knows what I'm talking about. I think I've only broken 100 once or twice.

Maybe my best round of golf was at Spyglass. I think I broke 100 there. I got a birdie on a par 3. I skied a shot that left a divot in the green. I hit it so high, it was crazy, and then I sank the putt. I shot, like, a 98.

Q: How far do you hit your drive?

A: I think I can hit it about 250.

Q: What's your take on Limbaugh's opinion of Wie?

A: All I know is she's, what, 16 years old? I've seen her on TV and read stories about her. Rush famously did a Donovan McNabb thing which I thought was really out of line, but I knew something about Donovan McNabb. I do know a marketing campaign can't hit a drive or sink a putt, and it can't chip, but it can attract people to a golf tournament. So I'd have to know more about it to express an opinion on whether Rush was being oddly on point or typically off.

Q: Fair enough. Let's talk about a sport you do know something about. You were a high school wrestler. What kind of a hold would you put on Limbaugh if you two were in a wrestling match?

A: If it were a high school match, we'd both be in heavyweight, I guess, but I think he'd have a big weight advantage. So probably what I'd try to do is just make him wrestle and tire him out. [Laughs] I think that probably he might have stamina problems. Plus, he hasn't wrestled, so it wouldn't be fair to him. It would be like playing golf against someone who hasn't golfed. If he had wrestled - there's a lot of ifs there.

Q: How much can you bench-press?

A: When I was actually wrestling, I could bench-press, I think, about 160 pounds when I weighed about 110 pounds. But I now weigh like 200 pounds and I don't know if I could bench that.

Q: What advice would [Franken's self-help-obsessed SNL character] Stuart Smalley give to Limbaugh?

A: Take responsibility for your actions, according to your values. [Limbaugh] used to say that people who used drugs illegally should be put away. I guess then he should ask to be put away for the longest possible time. He made it pretty clear all those years what his values were, and that was to imprison anyone who used drugs illegally, which it's clear he did. So I guess Stuart would tell him: turn yourself in and offer to go to prison for a long time.

Q: People might be surprised to know you were once a Republican. What changed that?

A: It was in 1964 and the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater for president. He was against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that's what made my dad change. And because he changed, I changed. I was 13.

Q: So you were already having political thoughts at that age?

A: Well, I was paying attention. I can't say I totally understood it. I did understand that issue, and that was a good reason to change. When LBJ signed and said we were going to lose the South for a generation - in my family, the Democrats gained a few people.

Q: You've been accused of all sorts of things by conservatives, chief among them that you're unpatriotic. How do you respond to that?

A: That's just sort of silly. I don't know why they would believe that. I've done six USO tours and entertained the troops in Germany, Italy, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq a few times. My wife doesn't like it when I go to Iraq. She says, "You don't see Bill O'Reilly going on a USO tour." I say, "Honey, that's not fair. He has no talent."

Q: Why do liberals have such better senses of humor than conservatives?

A: I don't know if that's the case. I know a lot of humorless liberals and funny conservatives. There tend to be more liberal comedians, but that's not even totally true either. I think Drew Carey is quite conservative, and Dennis Miller, is and Norm MacDonald. Obviously the ones who do political stuff, like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and myself, I think you might identify as being liberal.

People in show business tend to be more liberal and I think that might be because of the nature of what you do. You see things in a more general way. Your job is to take in the big picture, and I think sometimes there should be some kind of tolerance and just a more liberal understanding of the world than someone who has a very narrow focus, on their business and on their belief that the market is what drives everything in the world.

Q: What would be your first act if you were president for a day?

A: Oh wow. I think it would really depend on who would be president the next day.

Q: How about you come bream fishing with us on the Suwannee River this summer?

A: Wow, that sounds like fun. On the Suwannee? I'm not sure - most of my vacation time is spent with my family, so I'd have to get the rest of the family to go for that, and the chances of that are almost nil. I'll think about it, though. I really appreciate the invitation.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • FrankenLoser

    douglas wrote on: May 14, 2013

    this guy is a jerk,
    his book sold 17 copies.
    Rush Limbaugh doesn't even no he is alive.


  • Al Franken is Hilarious

    Luis Huang wrote on: May 2, 2006

    If anyone's ever heard Al Franken do a live show, he is a great performer. And his impersonation of Limbaugh is one of the best I've ever heard.