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Cory Booker’s Bear Hug

New Jersey Democrat shows Team McMahon love, until voting time

Linda McMahon did not get New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s vote, but he did express an interest in working out with her son-in-law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Linda McMahon did not get New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s vote, but he did express an interest in working out with her son-in-law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Cory Booker could have asked Linda McMahon, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Small Business Administration, pretty much anything.

At McMahon’s confirmation hearing on Jan. 24, he could have asked the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment about how WWE fudges attendance numbers at Wrestlemanias. That could have been interesting in light of Trump’s insistence that more people attended his inauguration than actually did, a provable falsehood.

Or he could have asked about the billionaire businesswoman’s ties to the billionaire president’s charitable organization.

But the New Jersey Democrat didn’t do that.

Instead, he challenged McMahon’s son-in-law, Triple H (real name Paul Levesque), one of the WWE’s most recognizable stars, to a workout in the Senate gym.

“I’m grateful for your patriotism. I want to also just say when your daughter and son-in-law stood up, I just want to say for the record that your daughter is far more fierce and intimidating than your son-in-law,” Booker gushed.

(Triple H’s appearance at the hearing may be the first time a C-SPAN video has been tagged with ‘rassle’.)

Booker continued. “He and I are about the same age, almost exactly the same age, and Paul is letting himself slip a little bit. So after this, maybe we should go to the Senate gym and so I can give Triple H some triple help in getting back in shape,” the senator said. Then he talked a little bit about some issues Booker tends to, SBA loans to his home state and a few other items.

As inquisitions go, it was nothing compared to questions other members of the committee posed, such as Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who grilled McMahon on the WWE’s use of 1099 employees. Duckworth was concerned that WWE was trying to avoid paying health benefits.

So it was a surprise when Booker, who spoke so highly of McMahon’s patriotism and about his possible man-date with Triple H, cast on Jan. 31 the lone committee vote against sending her nomination to the floor.

We don’t know when McMahon might actually get a confirmation vote on the floor, with the Senate so enmeshed in partisan bickering over other nominees. But it’s reasonable to expect she will be confirmed after the 18-1 committee vote, even without Booker’s support.

There are some other things we don’t know that McMahon could have shed some light on, given how long she’s known the president. Let’s not forget, after all, that Trump is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

For instance, we still don’t know why the Trump administration likes to run with alternative facts or provable falsehoods.

And we don’t know why the Trump White House championed incorrect attendance numbers for the inauguration.

The further we get from that first lie, the more inconsequential it seems.

Those fake numbers, apparently, aren’t nearly as important as creating bad blood with Australia or banning refugees from Muslim nations, or putting Iran “on notice” or whether Betsy DeVos will squeak by in her confirmation fight, or whether sanctions against Russia will go away, or why a white nationalist is a senior White House adviser or why Trump seemed to think Frederick Douglass is still alive.

Too bad, because maybe billionaires who understand sports entertainment know something about numbers that voters and fans don’t.

Maybe someone other than a senator willing to go to go toe-to-toe with The Game (The Game is one of Triple H’s nicknames) can ask future Small Business Administrator McMahon about why billionaires lie about attendance.

Instead, the one dissenting senator offered to work out with her son-in-law.

The chance to ask relevant questions about business practices and alternative facts took a back seat to issuing physical challenges.

And it might be a while before McMahon appears again before the Small Business Committee.

At that point, we’ll most likely be feuding with Denmark or something, and senators won’t have time to ask about things like facts.

Brandon Wetherbee is the co-author of “The Donald: How Trump Turned Presidential Politics Into Pro Wrestling” and co-host of the podcast “Great American Bash.”