Political Notebook

Al Franken drew this map of the 50 states from memory for Sen. Joe Donnelly.

Donnelly gets famed drawing

Back in his comedy days, Al Franken of “Saturday Night Live” fame was known for his ability to draw a map of America’s 48 contiguous states and the Great Lakes in about two minutes.

Franken more or less swore off comedy when he became a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota in 2009. But he proved recently he can still draw a map.

Franken, the organizer of a yearly Secret Santa gift exchange among senators, drew Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in this year’s swap and gave him a U.S. map – including Alaska and Hawaii – he had drawn from memory.

It included arrows and notes of geographic importance to Donnelly: “You were born on Long Island!” “You went to Notre Dame!! (where you met Jill!!!)” “You represent Indiana!!”

Senators had a $15 maximum on gifts. In a story broadcast by NPR, congressional correspondent Tamara Keith reported that Franken had been able to keep his cost to the price of a sheet of paper.

“And then whatever the Sharpie cost, but I can amortize that over other maps,” Franken told Keith.

Donnelly’s office said he gave a book about President John F. Kennedy to Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

Merry holidays

Gov. Mike Pence apparently took both sides in what some conservative Christians in recent years have been calling a war on Christmas.

These are the people who insist that greetings of “merry Christmas” are under attack from those who prefer the more secular “happy holidays.”

Pence’s office on Monday issued his “season’s greetings” to Hoosiers. The four-paragraph news release referred to Christmas six times, ending with “Merry Christmas, Indiana.”

But in an email from his campaign website, the Republican governor offered a family photo and five-paragraph message Monday in which Christmas was never mentioned. Instead, Pence referred three times to the “holiday season” and wished the recipient “Happy Holidays from our family to yours.”

More ideas

Last week, we told you about some of the ideas fourth-graders had for Gov. Mike Pence on what they would do if they were running the state. When Pence visited Fort Wayne recently, he shared a few more of the things they wrote down:

•Make a video-game school

•Ban homework and make a lot of class pets

•Go missing into the woods for an adventure

Pence said he put this one up on his refrigerator: Make a difference.

And this one, Pence said, was his personal favorite: Make Indiana awesome.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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