Franken disappoints TribFest crowd, saying he won’t run for president


U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., delighted a huge and enthusiastic audience that filled Hogg Auditorium Friday to see him in person — as well as several more who gathered at the adjacent Texas Union Theater and saw him, seconds later, in simulcast — as part of the initial session that kicked off the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival at the University of Texas campus.

But ultimately, Franken, who counts himself as the only professional comedian to have been elected to the United States Senate, left many in his audience disappointed when he told Evan Smith, the Texas Tribune co-founder and CEO who interviewed him, that, no, he does not want to run for president in 2020.

“I don’t want to be president,” Franken said. “I think the president of the United States should be someone who wants to be president.”

Franken, who won his first term in the Senate in 2008 by 312 votes and his second term in 2014 with a 10-percent lead over his Republican opponent, said, “I’ve gotten to see the job of president closer up as a senator than I did as a comedian and I like my job now. I like my job now and I want to continue doing that job.”

“I’m sure we’ll find someone in 2020 who will want to be president and emerge from many candidates and be a great president, but not me,” said Franken, a liberal Democrat.

Franken is the author of, “Why Not Me?: The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency,” but that was written in 1999, when Franken was still being funny for a living.

Franken came to TribFest to talk about his book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate” — the title is meant as a mock-pompous act of self-deprecation — in which he deploys the sense of humor that made him one of the original cast members and writers of Saturday Night Live, but which he attempted to keep under wraps during his first term, and then some, in the Senate.

Franken said that his rival in his first campaign, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, had deployed the Dehumorizer, which he described as a state-of-art machine that employed the latest Israeli technology to turn Franken’s lifetime of jokes into politically-damaging statements.

With his defeat of Coleman, the task of dehumorizing Franken’s statements, he said, fell to his staff, who, for example, decided it was best if he did not describe what he characterized as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s “hateful dissent” on the marriage equality decision as “very gay.”

Asked by Smith whether it was hard to think of clever ripostes to things happening in the Senate but keep his mouth shut, Franken said, “It was excruciating.”

But, seemingly secure in the Senate, Franken said he decided, “Now I can write a book that’s funny.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Man dead, child critically injured in East Austin crash, EMS says
Man dead, child critically injured in East Austin crash, EMS says

A man in his 20s died in an accident on FM 969 Saturday morning that also left a child with life-threatening injuries, Capt. Darren Noak of the Austin-Travis County EMS said. The child with the critical injuries and another child were taken by an ambulance to Dell Children’sMedical center, while two adults in their 50s were taken to Dell Medical...
Highs in the upper 90s expected for Memorial Day weekend in Austin
Highs in the upper 90s expected for Memorial Day weekend in Austin

It will be a sunny and hot Memorial Day weekend in Austin, starting off Saturday with a high temperature of 99 degrees and a heat index of 104, according to the National Weather Service. Highs will stay in the upper 90s through the holiday on Monday, so stay safe and keep hydrated if you are spending time outdoors. At night, the temperature will fall...
Community news: CodeNext hearings scheduled for Tuesday, Saturday

TRAVIS COUNTY DOWNTOWN AUSTIN CodeNext hearings scheduled The city of Austin is considering a comprehensive revision to the Land Development Code, called CodeNext, and the City Council will host public hearings at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Saturday at City Hall, 301 W. Second St. The code affects what, where and how much can be built in Austin. It covers...
Where to honor those who gave their all
Where to honor those who gave their all

No matter where you are in Central Texas, there will be a place nearby to remember those who died while serving the country’s armed forces. The following are among the places to go this Memorial Day weekend: TRAVIS COUNTY West Austin: World War II close assault re-enactments at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday at Camp Mabry, 2200 W. 35th St. East Austin...
PolitiFact: Death penalty is now only for those 18 and older
PolitiFact: Death penalty is now only for those 18 and older

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling keeps the 17-year-old who has admitted being the shooter at Santa Fe High School from facing the death penalty because he’s not 18. Still, a meme brought to our attention by readers suggests Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who is white, is getting some type of special treatment. It contrasts his case with that of an African-American...
More Stories