I was wondering how I would react to the first speech by new Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).
As a big fan of his Saturday Night Live stint, I wondered if I could get over his typically deadpan delivery of satire if, as it turned out, it was a similarly deadpan delivery of serious subject matter.
Well, it was, and I could–and pretty easily.
In his first appearance as the newest member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, Franken was in command of his subject matter, firm in his delivery, and even though there were moments when just the quality of his voice echoed comedy bits of a past life, as a package the statement, substantive and thoughtful, was not hard to take very seriously.
It might have been tougher if I had seen a 1991 skit in which Franken played a senator on the judiciary committee (Paul Simon) asking questions of a Supreme Court nominee (in a parody of the Clarence Thomas hearings).
But even then, I think I could separate the two.
There was even a moment when Franken was quoting Justice David Souter about the impact of the High Court on individuals. Franken was serious and statesmanlike, and I got the sense that he could prove a progressive force to be reckoned with.
Addressing Sotomayor directly, Franken said: “Justice Souter, whom you will replace if you’re confirmed, once said: ‘The first lesson, simple as it is, is that whatever court we’re in, whatever we are doing, at the end of our task some human being is going to be affected. Some human life is going to be changed by what we do. And so we had better use every power of our minds and our hearts and our beings to get those rulings right.’ I believe he had it right.”
I think Franken got it right, too, in his first appearance on SNL (Senate Nomination Live).