July 17th, 2009
11:38 AM ET
5 years ago

Franken handles Senate debut with a light touch

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It was the role of a lifetime for comedian-turned-inquisitor Sen. Al Franken this week during Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination hearings.

The Senate's newest star seemed comfortable in front of the cameras, but less at ease with Senate procedure.

In one instance, Franken looked to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, to approve a request.

"I would ask for it to be entered into the record ... can I enter it into the record?" Franken asked. He was given the green light to go ahead.

Franken's national debut is also amusing his old peers on the comedy circuit.

"I just kept expecting 'Live from New York!'" said Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" this week.

Franken is also giving his new peers in the Senate a laugh - especially after an incident where the newly minted Minnesota senator switched seats with the committee chairman.

But Franken also hit serious notes, reading from a pocket Constitution, asking Sotomayor about the Voting Rights Act; whether Internet access should be protected; asking for the definition of an activist judge.

He even went where the administration didn't want Democrats to go by pressing the judge on abortion rights - arguing that abortion rights don't have to be written into the Constitution to be protected.

"Are the words 'birth control' in the Constitution?" Franken asked. Sotomayor responded, "No, sir."

Franken then pressed the judge: "Are the words 'privacy' in the Constitution or the word?" Sotomayor said the word "privacy" is not.

But the watercooler moment of the hearing came when he asked the judge - who'd revealed she's a lifelong fan of the TV show "Perry Mason" - to name one case Mason lost. She couldn't.

"And you don't remember that case?" he asked.

Sotomayor responded: "I know that I should remember the name of it, but I haven't looked at the episode."

Franken followed up with this tongue-in-cheek question: "Didn't the White House prepare you for that?"

Nonetheless, the senator says he's pleased with Sotomayor's answers and plans to vote to confirm her.

And on the Perry Mason case question, CNN found that, according to the Perry Mason TV show book, he actually lost three cases. But in one of the cases, despite a guilty verdict, the client was ultimately set free.


Filed under: Al Franken • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Al-NY,NY

    Sonny Bono–2 bit actor/singer–Republican from California. Fred "Gopher" Grandy–2 bit actor on a cheesy 70s show–GOP representative from Iowa. Ahnold–action character–GOP governer of California. Ronald "mommy I soiled my diaper" Reagan–2 bit actor–Governer and the POTUS–GOP. Enough said to all you dolts that question his ability. And to Jon in CA, it's DRIVEL, not Dribble

    July 17, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  2. not even surprised

    Sonny Bono, Arnold Schwartzeneger, Ronald Reagan...

    Franken has EVERY right to be there and he's bright, which I realize is a negative to conservatives (they like 'em dumb and folksy or foreign) and he's going to do a good job showing us what actual clowns are already in DC.

    July 17, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. RepubliKLANs Are Plain Stupid

    Al Franken deafeated FALSE NEWS in court when they accused him of using their "FAIR & BALANCE" logo. Indeed! lol

    AL Franken deafeated Norm Coleman, a republiklan lackey who tried to steal the election like GW Bush in 2000 and failed miserably after 6 months of holding out on Rush LimpFrog orders!

    and his haters call him a clown? PUHLEASEEEE!!!!!

    AL Franken is threading where FALSENEWS and Republiklan Norm Coleman failed woefully!!!! – no wonder right wing nuts can't stand him!!!

    July 17, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. tullymet

    For those of you who don't remember or never knew-----FRANKEN is a HARVARD grad in POLITICAL SCIENCE. That doesn't necessarily mean he will be great but I do believe he is owed a chance.

    Govoner Palin had to go to 6 colleges to get a degree in communications. nuff said!!

    July 17, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. Ilona Proud Canadian

    Minnesotans, you should be really proud to have Senator Al Franken
    as your Senator. This man may have made his living as a comedian,
    but I have been watching his conduct during the confirmation hearing
    of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and I must say that I have been truly
    impressed.

    The fact that he tries to bring a little levity to a very OUTRAGEOUS
    and DISGUSTING confirmation process, (just how many times do the Republicans have to GRILL this woman on her "WISE LATINA" REMARK HOW MANY TIMES DO THEY HAVE TO CALL HER A RACIST, AND ALL OF THE OTHER GARBAGE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN ACCUSING HER OF ?) does NOT DISCREDIT FRANKEN, he has actually succeeded in helping JUDGE SOTOMAYOR TO DEAL WITH THE IDIOTIC REPETITIVE QUESTIONS, DURING THIS VERY FRUSTRATING PROCESS!

    July 17, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. mp

    Al Franken is an idiot. Plain and simple.....although, Reagan made it to President so who knows.

    July 17, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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