Sen. Ted Cruz sought to illustrate the human side of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch by asking him Tuesday for the notorious answer from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
"We've focused on a lot of weighty matters, so let me start with something lighter," the Texas Republican began at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "What is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything?"
"Forty-two," Gorsuch responded amid chuckles in the Senate Hearing Room.
Cruz then asked the nominee to explain the exchange, with Gorsuch saying he often asks his law clerks the question to calm their nerves when they seek to be admitted to the bar.
"They come to court — and they're very nervous," Gorsuch said. "The clerk tells us about their career and their record and submits them to the court.
"I sometimes ask them that question to put them at ease," he said. "They all know the answer because they have read 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.'
"If you haven't read it, you should. It's very much a family joke."
First published in 1979, "The Hitchhiker's Guide" is comedy science-fiction series of novels created by Douglas Adams that began as a radio broadcast on the BBC in 1978.
The number 42 is the "answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything" — calculated by a huge supercomputer named Deep Thought over 7.5 million years.
However, the book does not specify what the question is.
The novel has since expanded into stage shows, comic books, a 1981 TV series, a 1984 computer game — and a 2005 film.
Cruz also asked Gorsuch about clerking for Supreme Court Justice Byron White, whom Democrat John Kennedy nominated in 1962. He retired in 1993 and died in 2002.
"He really was my childhood hero," he said, adding it "remains the privilege of a lifetime.
"It has everything to do with why I'm here. I wouldn't have become a judge from watching his example and the humility with which he approached the job."
But the mood soon turned hostile under questioning by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who repeatedly tried to get the nominee to disclose how he would vote on various issues — as well as the role of politics in the judicial process and whether he would be beholden to the White House once on the bench.
Franken asked Gorsuch about comments White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February on whether the nominee was "central to President Trump fulfilling his policy objectives."
"Mr. Priebus doesn't speak for me, and I don't speak for him," Gorsuch responded. "I don't appreciate it when people characterize me, as I'm sure you don't appreciate it when people characterize you.
"I like to speak for myself.
"I am a judge," he said. "I am my own man."
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