Is there any way for Oklahoma's senators to make national news that doesn't make it look like the Sooner State is represented by those relatives you hope don't show up for the party?
The latest installment of wackiness from Oklahoma legislators came via Mr. Sunshine himself, Sen. James Inhofe. Public embarrassment, meet Inhofe. Inhofe, meet public embarrassment. Oh, you two have already met. Well, then, you should get along just fine.
And so they did.
At a hearing on global warning in Washington, D.C., last week, Inhofe finally was in a position for which he had waited years. Sitting directly in front of him, in a straight path he couldn't miss even if he were flying his private plane, was the man he considers fossil fuels' public enemy No. 1: former Vice President Al Gore. The room was packed, Inhofe was foaming at the mouth, waiting to get his chance to sock some solar energy at Gore's brain and publicly humiliate his arch nemesis. Considering the senator's performance, he better not ask for copies of the videotape.
For more than a decade, the two men indirectly have traded barbs at each other through media and speeches, trying to expose the other as loony. It seems Gore may have accomplished that task when the two faced off, and Gore hardly said a word.
The new chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, allotted Inhofe 12 minutes to question Gore. Boxer sits in the seat Inhofe used to rule in.
Inhofe pointed to Gore's high energy bill at his home in Tennessee and asked whether Gore would pledge to live like regular people. As Gore started to answer, Inhofe began his routine of cutting off the answer.
Like a mother scolding her child, Boxer stepped in: "You've asked (Gore) an important question. "¦ How can you ask the man a question and not give him a minute to answer?"
The questioning continued as Inhofe began asking Gore about his use of scare tactics on global warming. This time, Inhofe didn't even want Gore to answer.
"I'll ask you to respond in writing, because that would be "¦ a very long (verbal) response, I'm afraid," Inhofe concluded as Gore sat in disbelief, trying to respond.
This time, Boxer moved in like a third-grade teacher, explaining the rules to pupil Inhofe.
"I want to talk to you for a minute, please," Boxer said, placing her hand on Inhofe's arm in calming but listen-up way. "Would you "¦ agree to let the vice president answer your questions? And, then, if you want an extra few minutes at the end, I'm happy to give it to you."
It's just like when CFN intern Bucky wants another turn at the karaoke machine.
Inhofe then began to suggest how he thought the situation could be handled, but principal Boxer wasn't going for that.
"No, that isn't the rule," she said. "You're not making the rules. You used to when you did this; you don't do this anymore."
A polite way to say, "Take a seat, Sonny Boy; you ain't the chairman, anymore!"
And how did all of this look to the rest of the country? Here is MSNBC "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann's take on it: "Mr. Inhofe is putting the fossil back in fossil fuels."