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Al Franken in the house bada boom

Al Franken has no sooner reached Washington, that he’s fulfilling his comedic promise, no small thing. At the Judge Sotomayor confirmation hearing, Franken framed his parting question thus: he too was a Perry Mason fan, could Judge Sotomayor name the lone case which the television barrister famously lost? Giggles all around.

Surprising no one, Ms. Sotomayor was stumped. She could not name the case or the episode, though she’d claimed Perry Mason as an early inspiration for her practice of law.

Probably to step on Senator Franken’s cheap stunt, Chairman Patrick Leahy threw the question back at Franken: he’ll bite, what was the famous lost case?

“I don’t know either” said Franken, “that’s why I asked.” Bada Boom.

If Franken had looked it up on Wikipedia already, he wasn’t about to pretend to know more than a Supreme Court candidate. And if the joke got a laugh, there’s nothing gained by explaining it.

What Franken really drew out of his adversary was a concession to the shallowness of the hearing’s veneer. First, because a teevee legal case was as relevant as the other scattershot issues into which Sonia Sotomayor’s detractors were trying to mire her. And second, because all the pretense of getting-to-know-you curiosity masked nothing more than trick questions. Al Franken’s colleague expected him to know the answer because legislators only asked questions to which they knew what they wanted Sotomayor to say.

Franken played Mr. Smith Goes to Washington brilliantly, he’d asked an honest question.

And he wasn’t through. When the chairman’s microphone lost its power, Franken proclaimed that his still worked, and did Senator Leahy want to switch places?

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