Do we really want SCOTUS confirmations to go like this?

Recently, the confirmation hearings on Samuel Alito has been the subject of some debate. I am generally annoyed by the Demos in this proceeding. I have several objections to the kind of questioning going on.

  1. Non-question questions: Senators get up, and ramble for several minutes in a self-indulgent monolague about themselves before asking a weird question which doesn’t mean anything.

  2. Organizational affiliation. WHile I don’t suggest that all organizational ties are improper (the KKK and the Communist Party being two I’d be deeply suspicious of), I think there’s a difference between a group I think is antithetical to the public morality and opposed to the concept of America - and one I disagree with on abstract good. I don’t agree with the Koslings, but I don’t think hanging out there should bar one from being a SCOTUS Justice.

Moreover, what kind of precedent does this set? I don’t want a world where the Supreme Court justices are those who never took any political stand for anything. What kind of message does this send? Mor to the point, why should I worry if someone signed onto a group list? These days, you can’t get anywhere if you don’t put that foot in the door.

  1. One thing which really angers me is the general insinuation that Alito should have done X, even if it was unethical, because Senator Y likes the idea. That is also a really bad precedent. A Senator will ask if Alito did action X, and tell him he was a bad person for not doing X, when it would have been darn near criminal!

It seems to be pointless. None of this will really change matters - and it will only increase the likely hood of stealth nominations in the future. What good does this process serve? Stroking the collective ego of the Senate? Does it really make the ascension of a bad justice less likely? More importantly, aren’t we throwing away any standards of decorum in politics?

I say this with the full realization that the next justice opening is as likely to be filled by a Democrat as a Republican. Do Democrats really want the same kind of scrutiny, grandstanding, and BS? Moreover, do we really want to have to mount political campaigns to get justices in office? Isn’t that antithetical to the concept of the SCOTUS?

I strikes me this is unneccessaily vague: I am talking about the Senators demanding that Alito give his estimation of what he would rule on, if there was a certain kind of case (usually abortion, but also including many other things). Answering this is a major breach of public ethics.

However, the Senators keep doing this, then call Alito unethical for acting with perfect propriety. This bothers me. A lot. And ti’s emblematic of the entire process.

I has nothing to dow ith finding truth, or judging a canidate’s suitability. The entire process is a show trial so that the Senators can indulge themselves. My only hope is that Republicans won’t take it this far when Democrats have a canidate. We 'Pubs haven’t in the past.

I could not possibly agree more. I only hope that the conservatives don’t embarass themselves when (if) a liberal appointee ever gets this far. I think, without them realising it, that this line of questioning is turning off the moderate democrats. Oh, well.

I would prefer that the hearings be eliminated. I would also prefer that people recognize that there are people of integrity who can honestly claim that they will make rulings based on the law and the arguments regardless of their own personal views.

That’s as may be but we’re talking not about them. We’re talking about nominations from an Administration that appears to have taken cronyism and the pushing of a right wing fundamentalist agenda to new heights.

I think the hearings are quite justified. Afterall, the rulings of the SCOTUS reverberate across decades of US law and potentially influence generations far more than the acts of a sitting US President. Alioto is, in all probability, a just and honorable man. But, … he was nominated by a lying, mentally unbalanced, paranoid President whose every action and utterance is suspect. If anything, some of the questioning was too softball.

Alito is Catholic, so he’s not a fundamentalist.

Harriet Myers was an example of cronyism. Alito may be a conservative, but he’s not a Bush crony.

Any other misundertandings that I can straighten out?

Yes. Why you think point 1 is either/or and why your assertion for point 2 should be taken as gospel.

If he was nominated by Bush I take it as read, until proven otherwise, that he is a whacked out nutjob along the lines of Brown et al.

I’m assuming this is referring to the CAP?

Why shouldn’t someone be concerned when a nominee for the Supreme Court belonged to an organization that openly tried to block the admittance of women and minorities to their university? It doesn’t trouble you whatsoever that not only was Alito a member of an openly racist and sexist organization, but that he was proud of this and put it on resumes?

I certainly agree that it would be improper to answer hypothetical questions about potential future cases, but to refuse to give one’s opinion on past cases is absurd.


The atmosphere of the Alito hearings is because of a few factors that have come together.

  1. The level of partisanship is as high as I’ve ever seen it.

  2. Alito is nominated to replace what was widely seen as a swing vote, and liberals are afraid of their judical philosophy continuing to erode.

  3. The Democrats are out of power and this is one of the only ways they can lash out at the President.

When one or more of these factors is removed, decorum should return. I hope.

In and ideal world, yes. In the current political climate, perfectly understandable.

As bad as the Alito hearings were, there was a lot of really good back and forth-- it just got burried in all the nastiness (which wasn’t that nasty compared to some other hearings.)

I seriously dount that the hearing process is going to change. The opposition party is always going to want to grandstand. If the nominee can keep his cool, it’s the grandstanders who end up looking like idiots. Alito was darn near unflappable, and went thru the process unscathed.

Yeah, and I hope I win the lottery today, too. I’d say odds of either of those things happening are about the same. :slight_smile:

He seems to me to be someone who can honestly claim that he decides cases on the law and the arguments regardless of his personal views. He did so in a way that might surprise you in one abortion case.
Alito Says Pennsylvania’s Pro-Life Law On Medicaid Abortions Too Strict; Didn’t Allow “Physical, Psychological” Exceptions

I agree, compared to Bork or Thomas, this was a walk in the park. I don’t see where all the decrying of nastiness comes from. For confirmation hearings, this was SOP.

Or as Peggy Noonan opined,

I don’t think that these hearings were particularly nasty. I object to them on the ground that I think it was a pointless exercise.

Fundamentalist as a term doesn’t apply to Catholics.

And I was objecting to your characterization of Alito as a Bush crony. To be a Bush crony, wouldn’t he have to have a record of working for Bush or the Bush family? Like, say Harriet Myers, or Gonzales, or Karen Hughes, or even Condaleeza Rice? He’s been a judge for 15 years, if you can’t show he’s secretly been taking phone calls from Bush on how to rule on his cases then he’s not a Bush crony.

If he’s a whacked out nutjob, wouldn’t his judicial record show some totally whacked out nutjobbery? Or has he been hiding his nutjobbery carefully, waiting, waiting, until someday fifteen years later someone could nominate him for the Supreme Court, and once he’s on the supreme court his insane fury will be revealed to the entire world?

If he’s truly insane he CAN be impeached by congress, which is likely to go Democratic in 2006. Note that conservative is not a synonym for insane.

I think the process has the potential to be very useful, but I agree that as it stands it isn’t particularly illuminating–though it does have some merit; it was useful to hear Alito describe himself as a textualist, and some of the witnesses had useful insights into his character. I think the merit that it does have could be expanded. Instead of making accusations about the results of a decision (e.g. “you would have allowed police to strip-search a little girl!”), which are meaningless without knowing the facts of the case, Senators could actually ask about the reasoning behind these decisions. Instead of grandstanding for the cameras, Senators could just ask simply worded, carefully reasoned questions.

But I fully disagree with the premise that the Democrats are responsible for it being more a political than a probing process. Republicans have asked as many non-question questions–“are you a bigot?” The questions about his affiliation with CAP are entirely reasonable, with many of them being asked by Republicans. And both sides have tried to get him to hint that he’ll rule a certain way on certain decisions (just look at the questions from Sens. Brownback and Cronyn).

IMHO, they shouldn’t televise the hearings. They ought to be public–they should publish a transcript–but putting it on TV forces the Senators to pander to the TV-watching public.

She’s an idiot. He sat there like a guy being questioned by his intellectual inferiors, which was exactly the case. Those Sentors were so out of their league it was embarrassing. Alito was every bit as good as Roberts-- which is to say head and shoulders above even the brightest Senator. And I’m talking about both sides. Super-duper precedent, my ass.

Though antithetical to modern interpretation of the Constitution (written when life expectancy was nearly half of what it is today), it might be time to take another look at this phenomenon known as lifetime appointments.

As the lawyers who fill these precious slots park their asses there for tenures that span generations, it probably won’t be too long before Congress gets around to looking at other options; like term limits.

Nah. It’s so boring. Let’s have Alito earn his post in the arena – the way Demetrios earned his freedom in Atlantis: The Lost Continent! :smiley: