I am sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Nashville (having just had my face melted off front-and-center at the first The Jesus Lizard show in the U.S. in over a decade) "enjoying" one of those complimentary, inedible chain hotel breakfasts with many of my fellow hotel guests. On the television is today's installment of the Sotomayor confirmation hearing. Dozens of Nashvilleans and Nashville visitors are positively glued to the set, letting out muffled sounds of displeasure when the judge says something displeasing (which, as best I can tell, is often) and slightly less muffled cheers when a rhetorical superstar like John Cornyn or Jeff Sessions performs a soaring, backboard-shattering tomahawk dunk (which, as best I can tell, describes every word they say).
If CNN or the other networks declined to cover this, I would probably be critical. I'd let loose with some torrent of indignation about the awful media and the collective dumbing down of America. But honestly, if I've seen anything less interesting or less newsworthy being covered live on CNN I can't remember it right now. This makes the Michael Jackson memorial coverage look relevant in comparison.
1. Provide less-than-no insight into the nominee's judicial philosophy, personal beliefs, or favorite New Kid. As our nation has been through many of these hearings in the last 10-15 years it is readily apparent that the answers given are rehearsed exercises in obfuscation and monuments to meandering vagueness. And to the extent that the nominees provide any direct answers, they bear absolutely no relation to future judicial behavior.
2. Have a predetermined outcome, hence this is little more than a cheap opportunity for the majority Senators to lob softball questions ("Judge Sotomayor, I've heard you described as fair-minded. Would you agree with that?") and the minority to show off for the combined audience of the 700 Club and the UFC.
The design of the Constitution in no way implies that the Supreme Court is the slightest bit accountable to the public. Neither the President who appoints them nor the Senate who confirms them were popularly elected in the original text of the Constitution. We don't need these hearings. If the Senators are interested in asking real questions and getting real answers, turn the goddamn cameras off and have these hearings in closed session. The Senators would be much freer to say "Look, this is what we really want to know" while the nominees could provide answers that aren't the product of excessive coaching and stage fright.
Neither I nor the knuckleheads mouthbreathing around the waffle iron in this room have a relevant opinion about this or any other judicial nominee. If we want the Court subjected to public scrutiny and approval, Congress should grow some nuts and amend Article III. Barring that, what is the point of any of this? We're watching a woman give non-answers to grandstanding questions in a process of which the outcome was decided the morning after the 2008 election. The idea that the nominees owe this to the public or that the Senate is making the process more "democratic" with this spectacle reflects the cheapest, least informed kind of We the People demagoguery.