Elena Kagan's Jokes Disarm Senators

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kagan laughs Elena Kagan's Jokes Disarm Senators

(AP)

If  there’s one thing we learned about Elena Kagan Tuesday, it’s that she has a good sense of humor.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham was leading a line of questioning about Kagan’s views on the war on terror when he asked the Supreme Court nominee where she was last Christmas Day, when a group of suspected terrorists attempted to blow up a plane en route to Detroit.

“You know,” Kagan told Graham. “Like all Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.”

The joke got a big laugh from Graham and other senators in the hearing room — though it wasn’t the first time Kagan has cracked wise during her moment in the spotlight. At many times during day two of her Senate confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court nominee exhibited some of the wit that we’ve heard so frequently about, playfully joking with senators about everything from her hair to her time in the hot seat.

In the process, Kagan not only displayed a little personality — something usually intentionally hidden in these kinds of nomination hearings — but was able to use humor to diffuse a tense situation, as Republicans sought to portray her as someone out of the legal mainstream.

At one moment, when Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy got into a spat with Republican Orrin Hatch over the “fairness” of his line of questioning, Hatch explained the fight was something that keeps Congress from being “boring as hell.” Kagan playfully encouraged the men to continue. “It gets the spotlight off me,” she joked. “I’m all for it.”

Later, after several minutes of curt questioning, Sen. Arlen Specter asked Kagan about her statement earlier in the day that she’d support televising Supreme Court proceedings. “Televising would be a good idea,” she said, adding, “It means I’d have to get my hair done more often.”

As many in the room laughed, and Leahy ran his hands over his bald head, Specter seemed momentarily stunned. After a few seconds, the Pennsylvania Democrat smiled his first real smile of the day and leaned toward the microphone.

“Let me commend you on that last comment, and I say that seriously,” he said. “You have really shown an admirable sense of humor, and I think that’s really important.” The Senate, he said, was looking to “moderate the court.”

“A little humor would do them good,” Specter said.

— Holly Bailey is a senior politics writer for Yahoo! News.

© 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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