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September 15, 2005
Day 3: The Democrats Read Their Reviews

Yesterday's grilling of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts continued the contentiousness of the previous day, when most of the first round of questioning took place. However, for the most part the panel's more rabid Democrats scaled back their open derision for Roberts and allowed him time to answer questions in between their monologues. That doesn't mean that Democrats got more satisfaction from the answers, as the Washington Post notes:

Democrats' frustration boiled over several times during the eight hours of questioning, as Roberts repeatedly declined to discuss his personal or judicial views on matters that he said could come before the court someday. Senators implored him to speak from the heart, but Roberts told them time and again that he would be guided by "the rule of law."

"We are rolling the dice with you, Judge," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said. "It's kind of interesting, this Kabuki dance we have in these hearings here, as if the public doesn't have a right to know what you think about fundamental issues facing them."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused Roberts of treating the hearing room as a "cone of silence." "It seems strange, I think, to the American people that you can't talk about decided cases -- past cases, not future cases -- when you've been nominated to the most important job in the federal judiciary," the senator said.

Roberts asked for extra time to defend himself. "I think I have been more forthcoming than any of the other nominees," said Roberts, who had reviewed the confirmation hearing testimony of all the sitting Supreme Court justices in preparation for his hearing. "It is not a process under which senators get to say: 'I want you to rule this way, this way and this way. And if you tell me you'll rule this way, this way and this way, I'll vote for you.' Judges are not politicians. They cannot promise to do certain things in exchange for votes."

If they appeared frustrated, at least they avoided -- mostly -- the kind of silly and juvenile antics shown in the first round by Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. I reviewed the taped testimony again last night and saw a marked difference in the tone from the Leahy side of the table. The questions remained tough, as did the nominee in insisting that he hew to the code of ethics regarding jurists making prejudicial statements about issues that they may see in cases brought before them in the future. However, the tone settled back into a more professional and restrained level than the day before.

That doesn't mean the Democrats still didn't act out. A number of them, including Biden and Chuck Schumer, kept complaining that their long-winded questions generated detailed answers that ate up too much of their microphone time. Biden again spent his 15 minutes mugging for the camera, using exaggerated and insincere compliments and smiling inappropriately, while making faces during Roberts' answers. I only listened to Schumer's remarks on the way home from work, but he made the same complaints about Roberts talking too much, while Schumer pontificated at length about his own points.

For a party that wants to proclaim this hearing as John Roberts' "job interview with America," this manager can tell you that the entire panel knows nothing about conducting such an interview. Rule 1: Let the candidate do most of the talking. Just as in a confirmation hearing for a judicial appointment, employers know that they cannot ask for certain information, most if not all of which has no application to the job anyway. However, if employers ask short, open-ended questions, they mostly get the information anyway. People like to talk, and if the interviewers don't get in their way, they will.

This hearing has nothing to do with job interviews; it's a forum for a group of politicians who like to hear themselves talk. In that sense, the hearings have been a rousing success for the Democrats, but it's the only victory won by the opposition. In contrast to Roberts' warm, friendly, and highly knowledgeable presentation, the Democrats have come across as surly, repetitive, whiny, and even shifty as the nominee has gently but clearly shown their readings of his carefully narrow writings as out of context and intentionally blown up into hyperbolic and sweeping accusations of bigotry and misogyny.

Inexplicably, the Democrats have demanded a third round of questioning, having lost the first two rounds by any accounting. The Republicans must hardly believe their luck; at any rate, none objected to extending the embarrassment for the Leahy contingent for an additional day of the demonstration of Roberts' skill and intelligence at the expense of showing the Democrats' lack of the same.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 15, 2005 6:22 AM

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» Roberts 2, Leahy Posse 0 from Hard Starboard
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