Admiral warns we need a realignment to save America

FRANKEN SAYS HIS EXPERIENCE OF FIGHTING EBOLA IN AFRICA NEEDED FOR IOWA IN THE SENATE

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

America is at a pivot point in history that requires a steady hand at the tiller in the US Senate, retired Navy Admiral Mike Franken says.

With a pandemic raging, unemployment soaring and people despairing, voters have a choice to make, he argues: for more “fecklessness” or for a united march of progress based on science and commitment to the rule of law.

“We need a fundamental realignment in this country,” said Franken, 62, who retired from his military career to Sioux City the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President. “We really went off the rails in the 1980s and we haven’t found our way back.”

He told me during a phone interview last week that the “jury is out” on whether people choose to continue this “libertarian, bare-naked screw your fellow man” pathology or buck up together and act like heroic Americans again.

“I’m just not sure,” he said.

Franken is among a field of five seeking the Democratic nomination in the strangest campaign cycle in US history. “Imagine asking people for money right now,” he says. “I’m calling people in Vail who have no idea who is feeding us. They have all gone up there in their mansions on the mountain to isolate themselves.”

He was reared among a large Evangelical Lutheran household in Sioux County, the son of a machinist who went on to earn a degree in engineering and a graduate degree in physics. Franken worked summers in a Sioux Center packinghouse.

His specialty is wave theory, and Franken’s early career in the Navy was as a technologist. He ended up as vice commander in the African Theatre, where he oversaw the military response to the ebola pandemic. As he described bodies piled up in houses, Franken comments, “There is a level of depravity we don’t quite understand.”

He ended his career on a high-tech task force looking into how you would take a country down using technology, propaganda, psychological operations or disease. He says he cannot discuss it but that it would make your hair stand up without butch wax. And, he issues an especially dire warning: “How would we take down America? That was what I looked into. And we have like-minded people in America, who may call themselves libertarian or whatever, for whom rape-pillage-burn was the key to victory, who are putting those psy-ops into operation. It is the most successful messaging campaign I have ever seen.”

He worked with Sen. Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion, and with Senators John McCain and Chuck Hagel, war hero Republicans both. He talks up his connections. He spoke with the British foreign minister about whether to evacuate UN observers in Africa during ebola. He sent up the health maintenance infrastructure after the worst of it cleared. It has lasted relatively well through the years.

That’s his basic argument. He has played this war game. He knows how to handle national security. He has spoken with the world players. The Trump crowd can get nothing over on him, and neither could the big swags from Wall Street in his telling.

Franken is pushing universal health care and paid sick leave. He wants usury laws that set interest rates at no more than 5% above prime. He says climate is the most urgent issue, and claims to know what to do about it (agriculture being at the center of sequestering carbon, for starters).

Franken hears that he needs to pick up about 12 percentage points to beat the presumptive leader, Theresa Greenfield of Des Moines, who has the endorsement of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and $5.6 million in fundraising last quarter (compared to $176,000 for Franken).

“But we are on the ascendancy,” Franken says. “Our rate of climb is faster than Greenfield’s.”

He looks forward to a May 18 Iowa Public Television Democratic debate. Beyond Facebook live events and TV ads, that is the main public vetting of the candidates.

Sen. Joni Ernst, the Red Oak Republican, put her military service at the center of her campaign that beat Bruce Braley. Franken is eager to argue that she has spat on her military oath by her conduct in office supporting a lawless and incompetent administration. He told me earlier that Americans often “like to elect morons,” and he meant it. That’s how he talks. He is direct and confident to a fault. He claims that Greenfield is not, that she is not up for Ernst and the pillage machine. He waxes about being confined on a ship waiting for combat to commence, of that sheer terror breaking the utter boredom. “I would prefer to be on the ship,” he says. Despite confinement, his volunteers are making 1,000 calls per day. Over the weeks it will get up to 2,000 calls until the June 2 primary. He thinks he will win.

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