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Editorial: Passion and Principle

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is a potential thorn in the side of would-be media mergers everywhere. But he comes to his passions honestly. Franken inherits his progressive sword and shield from his father, a Republican whose move to the Democratic party was fueled by the Civil Rights movement.

And while he says his Saturday Night Live humor was not meant to make political points, for the former Harvard government major, there always seemed to be a method to his madcap-ness. After he left SNL, he was free to take a comedic broadsword to the political right. Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiotand Other Observations was, after all, the title of his best-selling book.

We don’t agree that big is necessarily bad, but we understand and respect the senator’s point of view. He is nothing if not consistent. Plus, he does his homework and knows his stuff.

In doing research for this week’s exclusive interview with the junior senator from Minnesota, Washington bureau chief John Eggerton came upon a YouTube video of Franken talking healthcare at an event in his fair state. Faced with Tea Partyers critical of his stand, he impressed them with his command of the subject and willingness to discuss it point by point, giving his opponents their due when warranted.

We also found some common ground with Sen. Franken. Protecting online privacy is an important issue and we appreciate his attention to it, particularly in trying to crack down on stalking apps. His recounting of a victim of domestic violence who was tracked on her phone as she sought help was harrowing.

Franken does not do many national print interviews, and our expectation was that he would not make an exception for a magazine whose constituency is the media companies in his sights. We were wrong, and we appreciate his time and his candor.