Sen. Al Franken is not only one of the best guys ever — he is also one of the funniest comedians and writers of our lifetime because he appreciates absurdity and the hard nugget of truth sometimes concealed inside it.

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell is a pretty sharp truth hawk himself, but I was working last night, so I missed his “Re-writing Obama metaphor” segment on The Last Word, lauding Al Franken’s refinement of President Obama’s “car in the ditch” metaphor.

Most of you are familiar with this analogy, as seen in the video above from President Obama’s September 28 rally in Madison, Wisconsin: The Republicans drove the car into the ditch, did nothing to help get the car out of the ditch, but nevertheless expect us to give them the keys back on Election Day.

Amy paraphrased Lawrence O’Donnell’s retelling for me, but thanks to the Internet, today I can watch not only that brief segment, but also Al Franken’s full 12-minute speech preceding Obama’s this past Saturday at a Get Out the Vote rally at the University of Minnesota in support of Mark Dayton for governor.

Franken made a few important introductory points:

  • He won his U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota by a margin of 312 votes. As a percentage of the estimated 7,000 people listening to his speech, that would represent less than one full person — so every single vote can matter a lot.
  • Health care reform will reduce the federal deficit by over $100 billion (actually $143 billion) over the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and by an additional $1.5 trillion in the following decade.
  • The stimulus did work, according to economist Mark Zandi, who calculates that the Obama recovery package has created or saved over 3 million jobs and averted a second Great Depression. Mark Zandi was John McCain’s economic adviser during the 2008 presidential campaign.
  • The month that President Obama took office, we lost 750,000 jobs in this country.

Then Sen. Al Franken went to work on Obama’s “in the ditch” metaphor:

I think the analogy that the economy was a car in a ditch when he took office, that he uses, is just a little too static. Here’s my analogy, which in my opinion is both more kinetic, and frankly far more accurate.

When the president took office, not only had the car gone into a ditch, the car had flipped over, and was rolling down a steep embankment.

We, the American people, were in the back seat, and the Bush administration had removed all the seat belts. So we were all flying around the interior of this car, as it was rolling and flipping and careening down this steep embankment, headed to — a 2,000-foot cliff. And at the bottom of that cliff were jagged rocks.

And alligators.

Now at noon of January 20th, 2009, as the car was careening toward the cliff, George W. Bush jumped out of the car.

President Bush jumped out of the car — and President Obama somehow managed to dive in through the window, take the wheel, and get control of the vehicle just inches before it went over the precipice.

Then, he and Congress started pushing this wreck back up the embankment. Now, you can’t push a car up an embankment as fast as it careens down an embankment. But we got it going in the right direction — and slowly, we got ourselves up that embankment, past the ditch, up on the shoulder of the road.

There. That is what happened. That’s where we are today.

But you wouldn’t know that from these ads, all these smear ads, all these deliberately misleading ads — all these ads that are paid for by organizations led by people like Karl Rove. And we don’t know exactly where the money’s coming from, but we can guess: From the coal companies, the big oil companies, the big multinationals that want to continue outsourcing our jobs. From the big banks that want to roll back Wall Street reform, and big insurance companies that want to roll back health care reform.

Well they may have the powerful corporations on their side, but we’ve got you.

And that’s why I talked about my recount, as painful as that is for me to relive. I know firsthand that every vote counts, and that’s why we need all of you — every one of you — to work your hearts out over the next 10 days.

I want you phone-banking! I want you knocking on doors! Now many of you have families; ignore them. Get on the phones! Get on the doors! Talk to your neighbors and tell them the truth, and tell them what’s at stake.

Are we gonna go back — back to the policies of Karl Rove and George W. Bush? Because that’s exactly what they say they’re going to do. Or do we continue moving forward, with the policies that not only averted a Depression but invested in our future — in education, and infrastructure, and broadband, and research, and development, and medicine, and renewable energy.

Now: Who here wants to go forward?

Who wants to go forward with President Barack Obama? And with Amy Klobuchar? And Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum and Tim Walz and Jim Oberstar and Colin Peterson and Shelly Madore and Jim Meffert and Tarryl Clark?

And with Mark Dayton?

Because that’s the choice. That’s the choice: It’s forward or backward.

And what we do — what you do in the next 10 days — may very well determine which direction we go. I know, because remember, I’m the poster boy for close elections. And I know that you don’t want to wake up on November 3rd and think, “If I had just done a little more. If I had just listened to Al!

It’s up to all of us. Are we going to do it? Let President Obama hear you, he’s driving here. Let him hear you! Let Minnesota hear you! Let America hear you!

Here in Wisconsin, Amy and I have knocked on some doors for Democrats this month, and I thought Al’s speech was very much worth sharing.

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