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Senator Al on Sotomayor

Updated and edited

That, and other news, in today’s Roundup and Recap.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) spoke at the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in his first high-profile appearance since being sworn in. The senator at first avoided partisan ship, and was, in large part, deferential, but then took aim at notions of “judicial activism.”

“We hear a lot about judicial activism when politicians are running for office and talk about what kind of judge they want on the Supreme Court, but it seems that their definition of an activist judge is one who votes differently than they would like,” Franken said.

He then launched into a long criticism of the conservative court, and said that he is “concerned that Americans are facing new barriers to defending their individual rights.” He cited as examples of “judicial activism” in court actions that invalidated parts of campaign finance reform and watered down voting rights. He also signalled some of the issues that he planned to cover in the next few days, including those facing consumers and small business owners as well as open access to the Internet, the latter of which is otherwise known as “net neutrality.”

It was unsurprising what Franken said. His effort to turn the term “judicial activism” on its head — it’s usually a tool of the right — is the type of creative remark he’d have in handy from his radio days. That experience will come in handy as the round of questioning forces the Judiciary Committee members to stray at least a little bit from their prepared remarks. As he very well knows, there are few other serious platforms that offer a freshman senator chance to make a mark, as well as to stumble badly..

There is some clamoring for NBC to post clips of Franken’s last outing as a senator sizing up a nominee — when he appeared in a “Saturday Night Live” skit as Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), then on the Judiciary Committee in the legendary Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. For now, we’ll have to settle for the transcript.


Streisand on the Environment: Barbra Streisand answered questions from Politico on her thoughts about the Waxman/Markey environmental legislation that just passed the House. Her verdict: It needs to be stronger, but she understands the political realities.

Out But In: At an Outfest panel on entertainment and politics, director Todd Holland said he instructs young actors to “stay in the closet,” out of fear that it will jeopardize their career. One performer who came out, Neil Patrick Harris, was named host of the Emmys today.

Air America Adds: Air America has added celebrities to its nightly “Hollywood Clout!” series hosted by Richard Greene. Peter Coyote and Heather Mills are on air Monday; Noah Wyle and DL Hugley on Tuesday; Billy Baldwin and Mia Kirschner on Wednesday; Fran Drescher and Bai Ling on Thursday; and James Cromwell on Friday. A different comedy or music star will appear on Fridays as well, starting with Jon Lovitz this week and followed by Chris Botti and then Alanis Morrissette.

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