Franken puts Arkansas front and center 

Live broadcast of radio show a big hit.

Al Franken’s latest visit to Little Rock was a smashing success. Hosted by the Rumba Room, Franken broadcast his three-hour radio show last Friday with local guests Congressman Vic Snyder, author Gene Lyons, Dean of the Clinton School of Public Policy Skip Rutherford, and the editor of the Arkansas Times, Max Brantley. “The Al Franken Show” (formerly “The O’Franken Factor”) is the flagship show of Air America, a counterpart and answer to Rush Limbaugh’s show on the network Excellence in Broadcasting.

Franken’s resume is fascinating, full of milestone successes, and it is hardly a surprise that he has ended up working hard for the left, pushing for what he believes in, doing it well, and doing it funny. Winner of five Emmys, a Grammy, and months and months on the New York Times bestseller list for his many books, Franken also served as anchor for “Indecision ’92,” on Comedy Central, for which he garnered rave reviews.

So it is no surprise that Franken is the star and leader of Air America Radio. Air America is expanding affiliate stations under the name Nova M, the first in Phoenix and the second here, with other markets targeted.

Franken’s show here was a big hit — there was a line that extended out the door and the house was packed with both locals and Franken’s Dallas Fan Club, a large group who made the lengthy trip to show their support. Franken has lost none of his irreverent humor while maintaining a clearly deep respect for President Clinton, his various guests, Little Rock and left-wing politics.

Before turning to his guests, Franken gave a fine rundown of the history of Little Rock. Then he performed several hilarious pieces, starting with United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, whom he considers an ineffective schoolyard bully who avoids trips to Darfur and other dangerous places.

Next Franken was joined by two players from the Rep — Matt Walker as Roger Clinton and Illana Newton as Hillary Clinton — in a send-up of Richard Mellon Scaife’s ridiculous accusations that Clinton murdered teen-agers and engaged in extensive drug use in order to win the presidency.

Snyder was unable to attend in person, but he spoke eloquently on the danger we face as the United States is widely hated around the world.

Gene Lyons, local freelance writer and co-author of “The Hunting of the President,” discussed the ludicrous rumors that Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster while President Clinton was murdering those teen-agers. He talked at length, and with some disgust, about the failure of the Wall Street Journal to do any real investigation, choosing to print those silly rumors instead, just as a tabloid would, functioning as entertainers rather than journalists.

Franken gave Skip Rutherford a hard time for the heavy rain that fell during the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center. In good form, Rutherford explained that he’d been told that, according to Air Force One, which has a top-of-the-line weather system, there was a two-hour break from the rain and so the cover was removed. Unfortunately, there was a two-hour shower instead. Rutherford also discussed the reasons that regard for Clinton has increased in recent years, suggesting that his intellectual curiosity, ability to deal with complex matters, and willingness to surround himself with people who don’t necessarily agree with him cause people to give him a newfound respect, especially compared to President Bush.

Brantley was the final guest and, sad to say, Franken was short on time. Franken, clearly familiar with recent issues of the Arkansas Times, asked Brantley about the recent article on The Lord’s Ranch and discussed the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Franken is heard on Nova M Radio, 1380 KDXE-AM in Little Rock weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and his shows can be heard on the Internet at http://www.airamerica.com/alfrankenshow.



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