What We Learned From The Alito Hearing
Now that the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito are over, what did we learn? That a nominee for the high court won't answer questions he's not supposed to answer? Or that liberals will then use those non-answers as a public rationale for opposition?
We did learn (again) that televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearings featuring the questioning of a nominee have outlived their usefulness, if such usefulness ever truly existed.
We also learned (again) what the left values and opposes in a judicial nominee. We learned that they hold results to be more important than old fashioned notions of justice and an impartial application of the law.
In the case of these hearings, opposition to Alito centered around the issue of abortion, and the fact that he will be replacing Sandra Day O'Connor on the Court and the fact that Alito is less likely to see abortion as a constitutional right.
It is true that O'Connor has been a swing vote on the court on a great many issues, and it is also true that Alito is likely to be more conservative than O'Connor. But this doesn't have the dire and immediate impact on Roe vs. Wade that the left suggests. If you subtract O'Connor, five of the currently sitting Justices have upheld Roe in previous opinions. In other words, the court would still have a pro-Roe majority.
Such facts don't deter those on the far-left however, as they continue to use abortion and the fate of Roe vs. Wade as a billy-club to attack conservative nominees and whip their donors and activists into an apocalyptic frenzy.
At its more basic level, liberal opposition to Alito (and all other conservative judicial nominees) is about fundamental values, and their quest to use the judicial system to achieve ideologically driven results as opposed to impartial justice.
Democrat Senator Herb Kohl admitted as much in the hearings when he stated, "The neutral approach, that of the judge just applying the law, is very often inadequate to ensure social progress€¦".
Well isn't that just dandy. If we were to follow that logic, then why attempt to choose judges who have knowledge and experience with the law? Why not do away with all pretenses and make the judiciary a completely popularly elected branch of government, stocked with politicians with political agendas endorsed by a majority of the voting public?
For liberals, the answer to that is two-fold. First, naked liberalism has a tendency to do poorly in our electoral system. And second, it would deprive liberals of the ability to use the publicly perceived impartiality of the court system to endorse (or dictate) their values.
Aside from this lesson in liberalism and the increased likelihood of Alito's confirmation, perhaps the best thing to result from these hearings was to hear Senator Joe Biden advocate an end to televised hearings featuring the questioning of a nominee, suggesting that future nominations go straight to the Senate floor for a vote. I don't know what Joe had for breakfast that morning, but I sincerely hope he keeps eating it.
As with much of what is wrong with our political system, these hearings are the product of television. Many of those who defend the current "made for TV" process are also those who promote the broadcast of all judicial proceedings including those of the Supreme Court. Just what we need, another branch of government playing to the cameras.
The fact is that our republic functioned quite well for over one hundred and fifty years without nominees appearing before the Judiciary Committee for questioning. To argue now that it is somehow a necessity is specious, unless your primary concern is television face time for self important US Senators.
How many more such examples do we need? First the Robert Bork hearings, (featuring Ted Kennedy's smear campaign), then the "high-tech lynching" of Clarence Thomas, and now the televised accusations of bigotry against Sam Alito. Notice anything that these nominees have in common?
In the face of such abuse and grandstanding in the nomination process, the country suffers from a self-inflicted wound to the size of the talent pool from which future nominees will be chosen. If televised inquisition style hearings continue to be the norm, the most highly qualified candidates will opt for more profitable and appreciated means of employment, leaving those who are strictly agenda driven (either left or right) to make up the balance of future applicants.
So what did we learn from the hearings? Nothing we didn't already know.