I'm not sure why so many people want to insist Sen. Al Franken is going to flop in his new job. Sure, he spent many years making a living being a comedian. (Considering what a joke our Congress can be at times, wouldn't that alone qualify him for the job?) But Franken has been involved in the political scene for years, whether as a talk radio host, author, or USO volunteer (which he started doing in 1999). And guess what? He's not stupid. Quite intelligent, actually.
He hasn't even officially been a senator for one month, having been sworn in on July 7. But as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he's been an active part of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Yeah, there was the Perry Mason bit, but there was also the comments he made the other day (in the clip above) that are worth noting (as quoted by Doug Kendall):
[T]his Supreme Court came close to overturning critical portions of the Voting Rights Act. The Court did this despite the powers that Congress was granted under the 15th Amendment to enact this law, and despite the fact that this body has reauthorized these measures four times, most recently just a few years ago by a vote of 98 to 0....Outstanding points, all around.
[T]his Supreme Court reversed a 100-year old ban on price-fixing under the Sherman Act. This shifts the burden to consumers and small businesses to show that price-fixing hurts them....
This is the same Supreme Court that said that older workers don't have the same rights in the workplace as minorities or women - that made it harder to sue for age discrimination in the workplace. It is now harder, if not practically impossible, for an older worker to sue an employer who fired him because his pension was about to increase in value.
This is the same Supreme Court that stands poised to overturn another 100-year old principle, in place since the Tillman Act of 1907, that corporations should not be spending money on our election campaigns -- not in donations, not in ads, not in anything. The Court upheld this principle in 2003, when it upheld McCain-Feingold. And yet, the Supreme Court has decided to reconsider the constitutionality of a provision it upheld just six years ago.
This is judicial activism. This is a Court that is willing to reverse itself to limit the rights of individual Americans. This is a Court that is more than willing to overturn Congress to achieve its own agenda of what is right.
And in this context, in these times, a vote for Judge Sotomayor is a vote against judicial activism.
Franken has also introduced his first Senate bill, for a program that's designed to give service dogs to wounded veterans. (And he apparently got into it with T. Boone Pickens at a lunch the other day, over Pickens' funding of the Swift Boat ads in 2004; how delicious is that?) AP has a story that quotes Sen. Tom Hawkins as saying "[Franken] really understands the sort of workings of government and how policy is developed and the effect it has. This is not some passing fancy of his. This is something he's been intellectualizing on and studying for many, many years."
So, go ahead with your Stuart Smalley jokes and other methods of reducing Franken to a one-liner, but if I were a conservative, I'd be keeping a close eye on Franken. He's already shown he can be a huge pain in your ass. Now he's on his way to becoming something even better: a great Democratic voice in the Senate.