The voice was Stuart Smalley, but the occasion was no joke, and Sen. Al Franken, on his fifth day in office, was sober and respectful as he made his public debut during Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings today. Franken said deferentially that he had much to learn from his colleagues, and was almost folksy as he positioned the hearings themselves as opportunities for the public—"Americans sitting in living rooms and offices in Winona and Duluth"— to learn about the workings of the high court.
But Franken didn't pass up the opportunity to rib Sotomayor's GOP critics. "I'm wary of judicial activism," he said, "I believe in judicial restraint." But he quipped that for some who've been wielding the term lately, the definition of judicial activism seems to be "someone who votes differently than they would like." In fact, he argued, there has already been entirely too much "activism" on the court in the last 10 years.