July 17th, 2009
11:38 AM ET
14 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. uncledoc

    chris: not what southerncousin presented as fact earlier in the comment thread. He said that more people voted in Minnesota than were registered, which can and has been refuted. fact check...

    July 17, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. dan

    This guy is an embarrassment the Senate and the the people of Minnesota. He added absolutely nothing to the hearings. If this is better than a republican and no one else could be found I would suggest we change the Constituition and allow Minnesota to leave the Union.

    July 17, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Proud to be a FORMER Democrat

    Hey Jordan!!

    And thank YOU for Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and Chuck!! Thanks for ignoring the billions given to ACORN, the billions given to Fannie Mae to continue its reckless spending, thanks for ignoring George Bush and Senator McCain when they pleaded with the Democrat Majorty to rein it in two and a half years ago. Thanks for continuting to vote for idiots like Lynn Woolsey and Nancy Pelosi. Great Work!!! Right–it's ALL Bush.

    July 17, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. D. Tree

    He's a very smart guy – and its even better that people underestimate him because he's a former comedian. When he's done with them, they won' know what hit them.

    July 17, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Matt

    Unbelievable that Minnesota is that incompetent to let this man into the senate.

    July 17, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. dan

    We should really be education more Americans: Seriously? I hope you do do some reading yourself. A: Unlike AL Franken, Reagan was Governor of one of the largest economies in the World. B: Two bit actor? Well I guess we know Reagan wasn't elected for his acting then huh? Funny how it was never close in any national election Reagan ran in.

    July 17, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. Get Real


    Not sure what your point is. My post says that there were around 300000 LESS votes than registered voters. So there were less votes than registered voters. Making the statement that there were more votes than registered voters a LIE>

    July 17, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. judy

    What an IDIOT!!!!!!!!!! old freaken franken

    July 17, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Procedural minutia is the hardest thing to learn about this stiff. This is a non-issue. Franken is a thoughtful non-career-politician. Both sides shuold be applauding him.

    July 17, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    @phoenix86, who said "Franken will spend his next 6 years in the Senate making Minnesotans look foolish for electing such an idiot to represent them"

    That's ok. The GOP will spend the next 3.5 years committing political sepuku like they've been doing for the past 8.5 years.

    July 17, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. The Shrooming Liberal

    Why do neocons call Frankens old show on Air America hateful? Have that not been listening to Rush or Monica Crowley or Laura Ingaram or Anne Coulter or Sean Hannity or Micheal Savage or Glenn Beck lately? Now thats hateful stuff!

    July 17, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  12. Will - Minneapolis

    Critics of Franken really don't know anything about him or why he is good for the state of Minnesota. Instead of making him out to be a caricature, do some research and find out what his views and opinions are.

    I suppose doing research and being informed is against the principles of the Republican party.

    July 17, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Cynthia

    Congratulations to Al Franken. It's about time. I think he is going to do a great job and I am so happy for him and Frannie.

    July 17, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Rick in OP

    First Jesse Ventura, then Al Franken. Who's next, Bozo the Clown?

    July 17, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. Ernesto

    It's going to be a better Senate with Al Franken there. The Alabama idiot Jeff Sessions could do himself some good to hang out with Franken and learn.

    July 17, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. poli sci major

    Many of these comments are just evidence that the dittoheads will never forgive Franken for his book on Limbaugh.

    July 17, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. Proud to be a FORMER Democrat

    Hey Jordan!!

    And thank YOU for Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and Chuckie !! Thanks for ignoring the billions given to ACORN, the billions given to Fannie Mae to continue its reckless spending, thanks for ignoring George Bush and Senator McCain when they pleaded with the Democrat Majorty to rein it in two and a half years ago. Thanks for continuting to vote for idiots like Lynn Woolsey and Nancy Pelosi. Great Work!!! Right–it's ALL Bush.

    July 17, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    Proud to be a FORMER Democrat July 17th, 2009 12:47 pm ET

    Really? Would be fascinated to hear the precepts and ideals that led to your Democratic Party affiliation.

    BTW, have now asked this question of at least a dozen "former" Democrats whose posts sound like recycled Limbaugh. Responses so far: zero. Odd that none of these these folks can remember .

    July 17, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  19. Linda Fleisher, New Jersey Democrat

    I think the Senate could use a few laughs, and I'm happy that Al Franken will be there to provide them. He also appears to be taking his role as Senator seriously, and anyone that's heard him speak on his old radio show can attest to the fact that he will bring knowledge as well as a "human touch" to legislating.

    July 17, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Honest AB

    Bottom line Sotomayor interjected intellectual thoughts and answers. Why in the world the republicans keep making themselves look like fools, is beyond me. Just like Sen. Session practically had to swallow his tongue after make that crazy crack statement, but he wants to judge and comdemn Sotomayor on her comments. These people are just a bunch of hypocrites and liars, who don't care about any of us. They are getting their pants pockets lined with our tax dollars, why would they care about us and what we are forced to pay or suffer. We are their breads and butter. People wake up!! None of those bafoons in Washington care about us. We as a people need to rise up and come against all of Washington.

    July 17, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. hunter

    It would be interesting for all who post here and make large policy pronouncements, judge a lawmakers qualifications, and call candidates, and by extension the people who voted them, clowns and idiots and so forth, to state their education, experience, and the main source of their expertise.

    July 17, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. Focus, people

    Most of these comments have nothing to do with the confirmation hearings or Franken. They seem to be people arguing over which party is better. It's so tired.

    July 17, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. Eric

    Hey Chris,

    You just backed Get Real's point... I think you thought you were proving him wrong...

    July 17, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. Karl in SLC

    For all of you whiny conservatives.

    So, what does it mean when your candidate can't even beat a comedian?


    July 17, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. Independent Buzz

    Its embarrassing to America to have lightfoot Franken in office as well as to have a arrogant elitist as president who really hasn't a clue as the past months have shown....... I would take George Bush over whats in the oval office today

    July 17, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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