Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The John Roberts "hearings"

I know threat watched some of the proceedings...did anyone else? I saw some of the "grilling" by the Democratic senators and most of the independent testimony, which included old-school black civil-rights advocates hating on him and a handicapped woman from Tennessee talking about the importance of law for the disabled. But much of the questioning from senators was a joke:

HATCH: Let me just ask you this general question: Will you give us assurance that you will keep an open mind as the administration and Congress adopt and implement new policies and legal procedures that govern the apprehension, interrogation and detention of suspected terrorists?

Thanks, Hatch. You hit hard and don't hold back.

I'd like to discuss the hearings as such, moving away from Roberts personally and whether or not he's qualified to be on the Supreme Court. I want to know what people think about the purpose of the hearings, and how important Roberts's objective qualifications to be on the Supreme Court actually are to those who would be voting. Every senator has a number of things to think about when he or she is casting a vote; I would think "qualifications" and "record" are probably somewhere in the middle. Other factors would probably include how the vote is going to look; whether the party is going to stay united or not; how they personally want to look during the hearings; what the consequences of a yes or no vote are going to be for their careers; what the consequences of passing this justice are for law and the country; etc. I'd give anything to hear what the senators say to their aides and spouses once they leave the chamber.

Biden: Man, it was hot in there. Let's grab a Coors light.
Kennedy: Feinstein was looking good today.
Hatch: I have no conscience.


At 10:34 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Feinstein never looks good.

I think the hearings are so ridiculous because Roberts is such a strong candidate. Congressmen can't just accept a candidate sponsored by an other-party President without taking the opportunity to posture, confuse, mislead, and complain - in short, to be politicians. If Roberts were deficient in some area, the politicizing would focus on criticizing him in that area. Since he's not, there's really nothing for them to talk about. He's a done deal, but they have to make a big fuss over it first. That's how things are done here.

I agree with what you're implying - Roberts actual qualifications as a justice distinct from his endorsement by a republican president have very little if nothing to do with the preceedings. But I see it more as a matter of course - the way we do politics in this country - and while it's upsetting, it's not any more upsetting than doing things like fillibustering for years on end to avoid letting nominations come to vote.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

All very true--so what are the "obstructionist" senators thinking? How does it gain them anything to furrow their brows for weeks unnecessarily?

At 1:31 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

I think that the Senate confirmation hearings have been given far more importance than they ever should. I believe that the point of the confirmation hearings is to make sure that the nominee is fit for the post and the President is not just nominating his friends or family who are incompetent. This idea that the Senators have to make sure that the judge is going to rule a way that they like most of the time, or even that they have to approve of him/her, is ridiculous. One of the President's jobs is to appoint judges. If it was meant to be up to the Senate then they would have been the body chosen to appoint them and the President would just have veto power, or something like that. The people know when they are voting for a President that he/she is going to appoint judges, and they ought to vote accordingly. There is no reason to believe that the Senate is better at picking a good judge than the President, and its the President's job to do so. So the senate should just make sure he's not doing something ridiculous and besides that let the nominees through. And yes, I would say the same thing about a liberal president appointing liberal judges. Its the way I believe the system was meant to work. Senators today claim that they are trying to weed out "activist judges" but it is a thin veil over the fact that for them its all about politics and power, no matter who the judge is or what he/she actually believes. I think its ridiculous that we have to run judges like elected officials with promotional (or smear, if you're on the other side) ad campeigns in order to get them confirmed. I just don't believe that is the way the hearings were meant to be used.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

standingout, I agree. I think senators, though, if they could be candid, would acknowledge themselves that a lot of what you said is true. So you might (fairly) ask why the process is so contentious--the American people chose the president, he nominates the judges he wants, the Senate makes sure they're not crack dealers, and they're good to go, right? What I'm asking is why these nominations aren't either A) MORE contentious or B) a pure formality. The government is wasting our time and money otherwise.

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous inviolable said...

I'm of the opinion that most of the vetting goes on behind the scenes. The C-SPAN fodder sounded like a bunch of sound bytes, almost like the whole thing was scripted. It not like JR was going to 'drop a bomb on them' or anything.

What worries me more is that (given my earlier opinion) these senators are making their decisions based on whatever information gets past all the filtering and massaging and ends up in their inboxes. I know that many of the members of the judiciary committee have passed the bar, but none of them seemed as comfortable and conversant with the law as was JR. What kind of information does one need to make a decision about the USSC Chief Justice? Do they get it in the report produced by their staff, or are they working with some self- or party- serving motives? (I'm sure they are, but to what degree...)

The word verfication for this post was 'sixpq', as in 'what is under my shirt (proximally)' or 'how one might buy his Coors Light'

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

Do you remember a few years back when you'd see something on the news about Clinton going to church? In a way it's exactly like the confirmation hearings- you know nothing is really happening, and the whole thing feels strangely scripted.

The hearing are all about posturing, the senators use it to ram home their opinions on pet issues to motivate their base. That's why all questions can be answered with a cursory yes/no, but only after five minutes of-
Senator: "When I was a boy back in 1912, I learned that civil rights and abortion are the biggest issues of the 19t.. *cough* 21st century. I learned from my dad, who carried around a wooden spoon and some forceps in case he met any AfricanAmericans who needed an immediate abortion, yadda yadda yadda, being a republican supreme court nominee, do you ever wish you could buy a pregnant slave and force her to carry the baby to term?"
Roberts: "What? No! That's ridiculous."
Senator: "Damn that Roberts, he's good... I thought I had him"

Incidentally, my confirmation word was "oakirk" which is the sound your mother makes when dreaming about Star Trek...

At 10:03 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I don't know what they're thinking. The only answer I can give is that our politics always involves posturing, and that Harry Reid is an idiot. Patrick Leahy at least seems to understand that at the end of the day, Roberts is the best canidate their ever going to get, and there's no political gain to be had by opposing him. I think they're obstructing for the same reasons they fillabustered so many judicial nominees: because they have no unified party line, and it's all about showing the people that they're whiny little weasels who'll oppose Bush for no damn good reason but just for the sake of opposing Bush.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

"they're whiny little weasels who'll oppose Bush for no damn good reason but just for the sake of opposing Bush."

redhurt, while I (1) disagreed with the initial filibuster, (2) agree with you that the Dems have no unified party line, and (3) think they might indeed be wrong for opposing Roberts, it still doesn't follow from all that they they're opposing Bush just for the sake of opposing Bush. As my post pointed out, they have many considerations, few of which ever come to the surface. Opposing Bush isn't a politically smart move all the time...so call they hypocrites, call them weasels, call them two-faced, call them posturing politicians, but analyze them a little harder than to say they're opposing Bush for the sake of opposing Bush. If that were ALL, there would be no reason to do it--Kennedy could vote yes and be drunk on Martha's Vineyard by noon the next day.


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