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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reading For Content

On the Roberts confirmation hearings, the vast majority of people are a little floored at the content. Betsy Newmark is perturbed about Feinstein's approach:
So, if she decides to vote against him it will be because she just doesn't like him as a man? This is a totally new standard to be using for assessing judicial nominees.
No kidding. Ann Althouse, who just had a tooth chopped up and extracted, aptly conveys the oddity of the hearings. It is not that there aren't some meaningful questions, it is just that far too many of the senators asking questions are intent on grandstanding or trying to convey to the audience what incredibly soulful and eloquent people they are, and this shows. Don't miss her take on Crying Tom Coburn, for example. Ann also was provoked by Feinstein:
Why did I dislike that so much? Because there is a complete disconnect between the legal question, the scope of the Commerce Clause, and the rhetorical listing of victims of violence. Is the listener not supposed to notice that there are state laws against murder that don't prevent all murders? Why would a federal law against gun possession have been more effective? Or is one of Congress's enumerated powers the power to show it cares?
Good question. Apparently a lot of them think so. What far too few of them are doing is asking substantive questions. Roberts will not answer how he will judge a case, and he shouldn't - but Roberts will and should explain the type of factors and precedents he will use to judge a case, and what he says is very telling.

For more about what a bad impression this is making on ordinary people, see Dave Barry's blog. The comments are extremely funny. One comment:
This is from the live coverage, and is precisely what Dave's talking about. You will think that what you're reading comes from "Dave Barry's Guide to the Confirmation Process":
12:17 - Senator Biden is up. He suggests that Roberts is out-classing the Senators in his legal knowledge. (He's pretty much right.) He says Roberts "hit a home run yesterday." So far, no questions.
12:21 - Still no question. Biden says that judges could change the strike zone given ambiguities in the Constitution.
12:23 - Biden is talking about "tacit postulates." (At some point, the Gang of 14 will decide this is an improper filibuster.)
12:24 - "Let me get right to it."
12:24 - A question: Is there a right to privacy in the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? Yes. Roberts thinks that every member of the Court believes that to some extent.
Hysterical. Even Dana Milbanks couldn't control himself about the spectacle in this column about the first day:
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) made 49 first-person references in a 10-minute statement that was, ostensibly, not about himself.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) showed exceptional emotional versatility, working a crossword puzzle during the hearing and then choking back a sob while making a prosaic statement about partisanship.
Even inside the storied Senate Caucus Room -- scene of the Teapot Dome, McCarthy and Watergate hearings -- some were preoccupied with Katrina.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the committee's ranking Democrat, led off with an observation that the hurricane was "a tragic reminder of why we have a federal government." Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, in one of three references, "Katrina tore away the mask that has hidden from public view the many Americans who are left out and left behind."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. If anyone doubts why polls consistently show that Americans have a very negative view of Congress, these hearings are demonstrating the cause. These people are, in concert, promulgating the impression that they care less about doing their job well than the impression they make while pretending to do it.

Now, contrast this with No Oil For Pacifists' coverage of NY Times interview with Condoleeza Rice. It's like the difference between a high school prom and a college seminar. If the senators can't act like adults then they should not go out in public without their handlers. Shrinkwrapped covers the problem in detail by analyzing the Biden/Roberts interaction from day two, and concludes:
I find that the more I know in my chosen field, the less certain I am about the so-called verities and the more aware I am of how much I don't know; I suspect many people feel the same way in their chosen fields of expertise. I am reassured that Judge Roberts has not only a great intellect but the judgment and wisdom that is rare to find these days in public officials.
Exactly. Roberts looks like a serious man with a mature, adult mentality. Too many of the senators are having moments of pure egocentric childishness in front of the public. Yesterday Dr. Sanity posted a link to a new Gallup poll which shows Bush's approval numbers increasing, and she commented:
It's wonderful to realize that most Americans possess simple common sense and a basic sense of decency.
Well, the senators aren't really conveying that they share those traits collectively. This is extremely unfortunate because under our system Congress has far more power than the President to set the course of the country.

Having the hearings prove once again what posturing preening narcisscists the Senators are is a good thing. They are total slime and this is a reminder. And these are the people who want to appoint a committee to investigate Katrina. Give me a break, and I think that is what most people are saying.....
Oh Howard, I didn't think of that, but you are right!

I cringe at the thought. What a mess they would make of it.
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