The reviews are in, and they’re not very flattering Posted by: mcq
on Thursday, January 12, 2006
Or you could call this a case study on how not to procede if you wish to build popular sentiment toward dumping a Supreme Court nominee. Richard Cohen on Sen. Joe Biden:
The reviews for Biden's first crack at Samuel Alito, the humorless Supreme Court nominee, were murderous. The New York Times had Biden out on Page One — normally a position to kill for — only this time it was not a paean to his considerable merits, but an account of how it took him nearly three minutes of throat-clearing to ask his first question and then took the rest of his allocated 30 minutes just to get in another four. He concluded with about half a minute still left to him — something of a personal best that even he had to acknowledge.
The Washington Post had a similar account of Biden running off at the mouth. In that piece, Dana Milbank wrote that during Biden's 30-minute round of questioning, he ``spoke about his own Irish-American roots, his 'Grandfather Finnegan,' his son's application to Princeton (he attended the University of Pennsylvania instead, Biden said), a speech the senator gave on the Princeton campus, the fact that Biden is 'not a Princeton fan,' and his views on the eyeglasses of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.''
Edward M. Kennedy, the 73-year-old liberal lion of the Senate, did not so much roar as huff and puff Tuesday, as he faced Judge Samuel Alito. He and other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who had spent weeks preparing for Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearing seemed to be shooting blanks at President Bush's nominee.
Sen. Kennedy appeared to have lost his fastball in the 19 years since he eviscerated nominee Robert Bork. But Alito is a deceptively more difficult target. While Bork appeared a flamboyant scholar eager to expound his worldview, Alito came over as a cautious lawyer dealing in fine print and footnotes. Republican senators had feared the nominee's uninspiring style would undo him, but they now feel it actually carried the day.
And Sen. Chuck Schumer:
Schumer, at the end of the committee table in seniority, had to spend the entire day Tuesday watching his colleagues shooting blanks before he got his chance to fire the real thing. Schumer was well prepared, with a senatorial third degree of Alito demanding repeatedly to know whether he believed in a constitutional protection of abortion. That question led off a harsh, carefully scripted interrogation of the nominee. It made Chuck Schumer look mean and nasty, but that hardly derailed Sam Alito.
Alito entered the hearing process with the burden of following John Roberts. The previous nominee dazzled the Senate Judiciary Committee during his successful quest to become chief justice. Alito is not as crisp or intimidating. And for the most part, his average-guy demeanor helps him. Alito sounds conversational and knowledgeable as he discusses cases he ruled upon. He also appears human, from the occasional quaver in his Garden State-accented voice to the balding circle of scalp visible when the camera shoots from behind.
His interrogators often sound arrogant and sanctimonious. That doesn't mean questions from Democrats about abortion or the limits on executive power are meritless. But, particularly on Tuesday, they were posed so poorly and loquaciously that Alito won, or at least, never lost a round.
On Wednesday, Kennedy seemed like a crazy man when he suggested that the committee subpoena records relating to Alito and the Princeton alumni club. I know some people who don't buy Alito's "no specific recollection of that organization" answer. For my part, the older I get, the more credible I find it when other people claim lapses of memories.
In the end, this is all about smear. Some Democratic senators, like Dianne Feinstein, are ready to stick to the issues. I respect her questions. Alas, others — like Kennedy — dive deep into the sewer to make Alito look bad. They put what he did or said decades ago under a microscope. If they can't make Alito seem racist or sexist, they dig for some association, no matter how negligible, with a racist/sexist group. If Alito says he wasn't aware of how insidious the group was, he's lying — or, critics intone with knowing cynicism, it's fishy.
Well you get the picture. As Billy Hollis noted in comments to this post:
I never know if the Republicans are lucky or smart. I must say, though, that with both Roberts and Alito, the GOP’s "give them enough rope" strategy has worked spectacularly well.
The Democratic Party would have been better off if these gasbags had kept their mouth shut and just let this thing go through. Instead they have managed to look surly, mendicious, and idiotic, all at the same time. Quite a feat.
I think this, given the bipartisan leanings of the particular opinion writers I've included, is pretty much consensus. One wonders if it is possible now for the Democrats on the committee to actually drop the ego and the arrogance and get serious about serious business. In the end, given the theatrics (loved the blowup between Specter and Kennedy which Dale paraphrased), it seems clear that in reality they have nothing with which to credibly stop the Alito nomination from proceding. They're very frustrated about that, and it shows.
Justice Ginsburg — and we've heard a lot about her and what she would answer and would not answer, and what her philosophy was, her beliefs, before she was confirmed by the Senate with only three votes. She had 384 questions asked and she answered 307 of those, for an 80 percent answer rate.
You know, listening to the back and forth about whether you've been responsive to questions reminds me of a saying that I heard recently. I can answer the question, but I can't understand it for you.
In other words, I think you've done to the best of your ability and to the limits of your ethical responsibility, tried to be responsive to the questions here.
I don’t get it....why do people make such a ruckus when Teddy Kennedy goes out and acts like....um.....Teddy Kennedy?
Endless thanks are due to the people of People’s Commonwealth of Massachusetts for unleashing him on us term after term after term. I understand there’s an MIT research grant approved for stuffing him and making him an animatronic after his soul goes on to the big distillery in the sky so that Massaschusetts can continue to enjoy his special form of leadership.
I found that both the staunchly pro-choice and staunchly pro-life Senators practically demanding that Alito conform to their views where equally ridiculous, while Alito himself did and excellent job of standing up to the volleys of both sides with relative class. Both sides were practically making demands as to what he would do were he confirmed, and he successfully brushed each of them off.
Whether you dislike where Alito stands on various issues or not, he has stood up to the volleys of Senators with an amount of class and calmness that I wish our Senators were capable of emulating.
You know, listening to the back and forth about whether you’ve been responsive to questions reminds me of a saying that I heard recently. I can answer the question, but I can’t understand it for you.
In other words, I think you’ve done to the best of your ability and to the limits of your ethical responsibility, tried to be responsive to the questions here.
Completely off topic here, but I think the "saying" that Sen. Cornyn was going for was uttered by Samuel Johnson:
Johnson having argued for some time with a pertinacious gentleman; his opponent, who had talked in a very puzzling manner, happened to say, "I don’t understand you, Sir;" upon which Johnson observed, "Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding." Boswell: Life