In one of those freak occurrences, I’ve found a point of disagreement with the illustrious Carpetbagger. He suggests that the Supreme Court nomination hearings serve no real purpose and perhaps should be scraped altogether. Needless to say, I disagree. While I do think these things are pretty awful, they don't have to be. And the main purpose that they serve is to weed-out anyone who couldn't holdup to this process. I'd do away with the grandstanding, but I kind of like the ultra-intense job interview aspect to this.
While most job interviews almost entirely test your ability to bullshit, sometimes that’s exactly what you want to test. If you ask a potential sales agent “What are your three weaknesses” (a bullshitty question I absolutely abhore), that is entirely a call to bullshit; and if someone can’t answer that question with the proper bullshit, then they probably are in the wrong profession. And for a Supreme Court justice, I’d like someone smart enough to bullshit a bunch of Senators regarding matters of law. And honestly, if someone can’t legally bullshit a Senator, do we really want them on the Supreme Court? I don’t see what’s so wrong about that.
But bullshit isn’t the only thing on display. How well can they hold up to pressure? How well do they respond in front of cameras? Will they freak out and start damning everyone to Hell? Some might find these concerns beneath the High Court, but I certainly don’t. The Supreme Court is a very stressful and important position and these are all qualities I want in a justice, and I think that this process works decently.
When does this process not work? It doesn’t work if you want to weed-out a somewhat extremist nominee who’s intelligent enough to bullshit the Senators. A real extremist won’t be that intelligent, but someone like Scalia or Alito can probably pass muster. And so it’s not really good at weeding out ideology. But should it be? Is that really what this is about? I don’t know. But I do know that this will keep the complete freaks out, and that’s at least something.
Would Harriet Miers have been as likely to get stopped if they hadn't had to get her passed the televised hearings? The accounts I heard said that her rehearsals were dreadful and that was one of the final straws that broke it all. I've gotten into enough constitutional discussions with legal-types to know that she really could have had her ass handed to her with even half-decent questioning by a half-ass politician. Because the Senators don’t have to know the answer. They just have to ask the question, and if Harriet didn’t know enough to bullshit the answer, she’d be humiliated. And had the questioning not got her, the ultra-long speech-questions certainly would have.
But imagine how different it would be had she been allowed to submit only written answers. Written answers that could have been given a little “help” by conservative-types. Would she still have been stopped? Maybe, but I’m not so certain. Miers was awfully unqualified in a lot of ways, but one of the most obvious would have arisen from the hearings that everyone derides. And really, wasn’t the biggest fear of the Bushies that she’d just implode in front of the cameras, getting carted away as a broken mess who couldn’t answer the most basic of constitutional questions? Of course. Above all else, these people are appearance-oriented, and the idea that Bush’s pick could have blown-it bigtime on live TV must have scared the bejezzus out of them.
So I think that's the kind of thing that this stops. Will it stop an extremist ideologue from getting on the court? Not necessarily, but it might just stop the incompetent ones, or the ones who can't take a few days of intense pressure. And I think that’s better than nothing.
And the one thing that we can all agree to is to do away with the grandstanding and speechifying. It’s almost like the Senators are just wanting to burn out the clock, or wait for a miracle, or something. I’m sure it’s hard for a politician to resist giving a speech in front of such a large audience, especially one who has aspirations to do so on a full-time basis for four to eight years. But that stuff has no place during these hearings. And to me, I don’t want a president who feels the need to make speeches all the damn time; particularly at the wrong time. And these speeches have no place in the hearings. Nobody likes a long-winded interviewer, and these guys even tire out the wind. So I say Yes with the hearings, but a big NO to the speeches.