Al Franken's lightening up, Washington Post says; doggone it senators like him better

Former comedian Al Franken works his butt off to be taken seriously as a U.S. Senator, and now the Washington Post runs a story suggesting his colleagues like him better when he lightens up.

The Post ran reporter Jason Horowitz's 1,700 word story on Franken yesterday under the headline "Senator Smiley."

"Fits of pique reinforced Franken's image as a champion of the liberal left," and ruffled some August senatorial feathers, Horowitz writes. He might as well have added, "He's good enough. He's smart enough. And doggone it, people like him better now that he cracks funny from time to time."

As we've reported, and the Post recounts, Franken has publicly fact-checked South Dakota's John Thune on health care legislation. He shut down Connecticut's Joe Leiberman after he ran out the clock on a floor debate. And he cheesed off a raft of Republicans with anti-rape legislation that forced them to choose between supporting defense contractors, or victims of sexual assault. And he hammered Kentuckian Jim Bunning for flagrant filibustering.

Without humor to soften his acute observations, Franken's naked sarcasm, short fuse and sense of showmanship ran amok, leading to public blowups with Republicans, private grievances among Democrats and attacks on senior Obama administration officials.

Now, Horowitz says, Franken's a whole lot more collegial. Maybe the comic book helped.

He has taken Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to breakfast, and he has wept at a blues song Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) wrote for Ted Kennedy. He plays squash with Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.). He and his wife of 34 years are preparing invites for senatorial barbecues at their converted carriage house on Capitol Hill.

No word on whether he'll reprise his Mick Jagger imitation on the Senate floor.

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