Could the Democrats Have Done Better?
Hell yes! (And it looks as if Steve Soto and I independently ended up on the same page on this one. But some conclusions are worth repeating.)
Is there any reason why Senate Judiciary members cannot coordinate their questioning of judicial nominees? Make sure that they ask clear and crisp questions that inform the public? Not bore them with what looks like needlessly repetitive questions?
There was no reason for more than a single Democrat in a single round of questioning to focus in on a woman’s right to reproductive privacy. A single one to address the CAP issue. One to take on his failure to recuse himself in the Vanguard case. One to take on the strip search of a ten year old girl. One to cover stare decisis (necessary but something average Americans tune out). Then they should have divvied up the Unitary Executive (along with signing statements, torture and spying), Alito’s other “troubling” past decisions and hammered him as a judge for the powerful and not the people.
Democratic Senators cannot seem to get it that these hearings need to play to the public. A public that is not going to be impressed with the ability of a Senator to cite legal jargon and specific important legal precedents. Or their ability to construct complex questions that a nominee is going to give a complex non-answer to. And they need to get over some misguided notion that keeping it simple wouldn’t be fair to a nominee.
Questioning Alito on Roe couldn’t have been simpler. The Senator’s opening sentence should have been no more than stating that the American people want and deserve to know Alito’s current legal opinion on Roe v. Wade - the right of women to reproductive privacy. Alito’s 1985 statement on it should have appeared on a visual aid. “Judge, in 1985 you stated that Roe was unconstitutional. Have you changed your opinion on it since then? And if so, what is your current opinion?” Alito would have gone off on stare decisis and process, blah, blah, blah. The Senator should have interrupted him after one minute, said that stare decisis would be covered later in the hearings, and then repeated the original question. Alito would have gone off again and the Senator should have repeated the drill -- modified to, “Judge, let’s try this one more time, in your opinion today is Roe Constitutional?” This time when Alito didn’t answer, the Senator would interrupt him and say, “With due respect, Judge, we can take your refusal to answer the question to mean that you have not changed your opinion on Roe. And from that can conclude that if you’re confirmed and a case challenging Roe is heard by the Supreme Court, you will have to rule to overturn Roe because, in your opinion, it is unconstitutional. I’m sure that all Americans appreciate knowing that you reject a Constitutional right to privacy for women. Thank you.” If Alito then tried to throw in more gobbledygook, the Senator should have stopped him and said, “Judge, I gave you three chances to change, amend or modify your 1985 very clear and direct legal opinion on Roe and you chose not to do so. I’m sure that is quite sufficient for almost everybody observing this hearing to conclude where you stand on this issue and we can move on to other issues.”
On the strip search of a ten-year old girl. When Alito said that if such searches couldn’t be made, drug dealers would use the bodies of children to hide their drugs, the Senator should have stared at Alito with an expression of disbelief, and then said, “Do you have any idea how crazy that sounds? There is no question that all too many children in this country are exploited and abused, but you are the first person I’ve ever met that is greatly concerned that if a single ten-year girl should not have been subjected to a strip search without a warrant, that drug dealers would begin using children to hide their drugs.”
Is it any wonder that Biden now recommends that the Senate do away with questioning of judicial nominees? After decades of sitting on the Judiciary Committee, Biden still cannot effectively question a candidate. No, Mr. Biden, the system is fine. It’s the incompetence of the Senators that’s the problem. And the incompetent Mr. Biden thinks that he merits a big promotion when he really deserves to get sacked. The failure of Biden and Feinstein to facilitate the unmasking of the bland Mr. Alito is similar to their failure to challenge the great WMD hoax. They fail to shine a light on the truth (a truth that is obvious to any thinking adult that cares to look at it). A failure that they can’t admit (not so different from the pig-headedness of GWB) and duck for cover by refusing to stop the lies of GWB and the GOP that allows the GOP agenda to advance step by step. Getting rid those dangerous to democracy like the Bidens and Feinsteins should not be considered a low priority.