Having thoroughly enjoyed Franken’s last book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, I was quite looking forward to his new offering (which I was unaware of until I saw him on Leno a few days before its release).
I was immediately struck—and somewhat dismayed—by how bitter Franken sounded at first. The 2004 election, with which he opens this book, obviously had a profound impact on him. While Lies was a no-holds-barred jab at conservative pundits and political figureheads, The Truth reads like an honest-to-goodness polemic. In this case, the “with jokes” is ironic, since there is very little humour to be found.
This book is just as damning as its predecessor, however. Franken shows what one can do with Lexus Nexus: simply comparing two statements by, say, Dick Cheney, is enough to make the speaker look like a buffoon. The government’s (especially the Bushies’) propensity to lie is, I’m sure, exaggerated, but nonetheless horrifying. Franken takes particular offense to cronies like Karl Rove (the dark lord of smear campaigns) and Jack Abramoff, to the point where he completely forgets that he writing under the auspices of comedy and works himself into a fine froth. But certainly not without reason. The scandals that Franken exposes will have you cringing.
I wish I could share Franken’s optimism about the government’s future: to read his epilogue, one gets the impression that Americans are so incensed by the scandal and the war that the GOP will get booted out of Congress in droves in the 2006 and 2006 elections. I’m not so sure, though certainly if the poll numbers are any indication, the Right isn’t doing so hot right now.
The book has significant impact in part because it is so current. Franken makes references to things as recent as the middle of 2005, but I wonder how long that relevance will last. Lies and the Lying Liars is still a good read, but Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot…. not so much. Partly because the bloviating pill-popper has been defanged by controversy as of late, and shown up by Rush, Jrs. like Coulter and Hannity. And partly because the cast of characters has changed significantly since 1996.
I hope that Franken’s optimism is prescient, and in 2009 I can look back and say, “By gosh, he was right! I think I’ll reread The Truth (with jokes)!” But only time will tell.