QNA: Horse in a Bookcase

I’m starting a new feature on this blog, because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, called “Questions Nobody Asked,” or “QNA.” In this feature I will explain some things that I say in ordinary conversation that might be confusing to people who don’t know me. No one has ever asked me to explain them. Hence the title. Let’s begin.

The question: Why did you just refer to Merrick Garland as “the senior horse in a bookcase?”

I’m so glad you asked!

To explain this term, I must take you back in television history to the Adam Schiff days of Law & Order. Adam Schiff, played by the late Steven Hill, was the District Attorney for Manhattan on the show until 2000. Two things always struck me about this character: his grumpiness, and that he was almost always stuck in his office, at his desk, in front of a shelf of law books. Sure, sometimes he left, walking down the hall in that raincoat and hat combo, but mostly he grumped from the desk.

Now leap with me to children’s cartoon Phineas and Ferb. This series, the adventures of two curious and inventive brothers over the longest summer on human record, featured many running jokes in the background. One of those was the programming on television in their universe, and one of those shows was titled Horse in a Bookcase. Here is the title sequence:

See the grumpiness of that poor equine? How he never leaves that bookcase? As soon as I saw this I thought of poor trapped Adam Schiff, and from then on I referred to him as “the horse in a bookcase.” This was helpful because it took me forever to learn the character’s name.

The term took on new life. It was much easier to refer to any district attorney as a horse in a bookcase, no matter who they were. I even applied it to George Castle on Law & Order: UK, even though his title was “Director of London Crown Prosecution Service,” and his office is strikingly devoid of bookcases. Finally, I use it for real-life DAs, and since Merrick Garland is head of the DOJ, the “Order” to the FBI’s “Law,” this term applies to him as well.

Aren’t you glad you never asked?

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