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Spinsanity debate: Al Franken vs. Rich Lowry

March 15-18, 2004

From the editors (3/15):
We are pleased to introduce the first-ever Spinsanity debate between author/humorist Al Franken and National Review editor Rich Lowry, who have critiqued each other's books, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right and Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years. This is not an endorsement of their work, but a unique opportunity for our site to serve as a nonpartisan forum for a debate between two of America's top political writers. We believe both pieces represent useful contributions to the debate over those books and the issues they discuss.

When Lowry and Franken approached us about publishing their exchange, we agreed provided that the essays were generally serious and substantive. We also reserved the right to respond in order to point out deceptive claims or ad hominem attacks (just as we would for any political writers), and we plan to post our response to a few points that they raise later this week.

We hope frequent readers will enjoy this debate between two writers who appreciate Spinsanity's reputation for non-partisan fairness and that those coming to the site for the first time will stay and explore more of our work.

-Ben, Bryan and Brendan

Al Franken on Rich Lowry's Legacy - Paying the Price for the Clinton Years (3/15)

The genesis of all this - reviewing each other's books here on Spinsanity - can be found in Chapter 38 of my book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.

Rich followed with this ridiculous column.

And the story of our subsequent agreement to review each other's books can be found on the National Review website.

There. Now you're all caught up. But in summary: Rich said on C-SPAN that Democrats had sissified politics; I challenged him to a fight in my parking garage; he demurred like a little girl; I wrote about the incident honestly in my book; he wrote a column that gave his readers a totally misleading characterization of my book, which he later admitted he hadn't read; I challenged Rich to another fight; he demurred again, but challenged me to a contest of ideas. So here we are. (Read the whole column.)

Rich Lowry on Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (3/15)

Al Franken is a clever guy, and Lying Liars has both laugh-out-loud moments and substantive policy arguments. He can be self-deprecating, and he has a field day puncturing such mindless conservative over-statements as "liberals hate America." He catches conservative mistakes and - appropriately - makes fun of some of the conservative anti-Clinton excesses of the 1990s. It's easy to understand why liberal readers have so eagerly lapped up this book. But Lying Liars is also vicious, sloppy, unfair, paranoid, and a pretty good sample of the kind of unhinged and self-destructive anger on the Left that is one of George W. Bush's great secret weapons this year. (Read the whole column.)

The editors respond (3/17)

Al Franken and Rich Lowry's reviews of each other's books make some excellent points. However, they also offer some misleading claims and use unfair rhetoric in places. Here, we hope to set the record straight on a few key points (please note that we can't possibly cover everything, nor are there always clear answers to the issues they raise). (Read the whole column.)

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Rich Lowry responds on National Review Online (3/18)

Spinsanity.com has just posted an exchange between me and Al Franken. I critique Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right; he critiques Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years. This is my response to Franken's piece, which seems deceptively substantive at times, but in which Franken ultimately falls back on his usual mistakes, misunderstandings, selective quotations, and personal cheap shots. I'm going to roll through the Franken piece pretty thoroughly skipping the plot summary, silly insults, and other fluff so please excuse the length of this reply, but I want to set the record straight.

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