Al Franken then and now

President Trump nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals four months ago. Justice Stras’s nomination has not been take up by the Senate because it has been blocked so far by Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. They have withheld their blue slips to prevent the Senate Judiciary Committee from holding a hearing.

I have done my best to bring to light the machinations involved in the blocking of the Stras nomination. Wheels are in spin. The story is of interest to many Minnesota citizens of different stripes, yet it has received virtually no coverage in the Star Tribune or the Minnesota media. The story is also of interest to a national audience following the Minnesota senators, each of whom has big plans for the future. From the perspective of their aspirations, Justice Stras is a bit player.

One sidebar to the story is the coarse partisan hypocrisy on display. Senator Klobuchar has carved a niche projecting an aura of bipartisan good feelings that conceals pure partisan hackery. As I think our coverage has demonstrated, the Stras nomination presents a powerful case in point, several times over.

Senator Franken’s hypocrisy is slightly more obvious. It is of the conventional that was then, this is now variety to which we have become so accustomed. Today, for example, Senator Franken says this about executive branch and judicial nominations:

The Senate has an important role to play in giving the President its “advice and consent” on nominations. We have an obligation to thoroughly examine the record of nominees and to determine whether a nominee’s understanding of the Constitution takes proper measure of the challenges that the American people face every day. We must determine whether a nominee’s understanding of our founding document is one that will make real its promise of justice and equality for all Americans—black and white; immigrant and Native American; gay, straight, and transgender. We must determine whether his or her interpretation of our laws and Constitution will unfairly favor corporations over working families, or limit the ability of Minnesotans to get their day in court. It’s a role I take very seriously.

Only yesterday, however, before the advent of a Republican president, Franken said this:

The Senate has an important role to play in giving the President its “advice and consent” on nominations, and I take that role very seriously. Yet we’ve only just begun to fill the key vacancies in the executive and judicial branches because the unprecedented use of filibusters, holds, and other procedural tactics has delayed an extraordinary number of highly qualified people. Filibusters are sometimes even being used on nominees that Senators actually support, in an effort to extract other promises or just to slow the Senate down. It’s time for this to stop. For our government to function the way it’s supposed to for Minnesotans and all Americans, it needs to have personnel.

This noble statement of malleable principle is still archived online. It is to be dusted off for use once again the day a Democrat returns to the presidency.

Franken is of course a former humorist. Once upon a time I thought he was occasionally funny. I don’t think he’s been funny since the expiration of the Al Franken Decade in 1990, but he deserves recognition for this unintended example of political satire deriving from his new career.

Hat tip: Janet Beihoffer.


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