Remember the 1995 statement of Elena Kagan where she groused about the “vapid and hollow” confirmation hearings for Supreme Court in the Senate, where nominees don’t really answer questions. Today we will see if she does the same.
As expected, Senators in both parties eagerly reminded Kagan of their thoughts on the confirmation process, and how nice it would be if someone actually answered questions and engaged in some meaningful dialogue with Senators.
The problem is, the last person to do that was named Robert Bork.
And he did not make it on the Supreme Court in 1987.
“Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us,” grumbled Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who argued last year that Sonia Sotomayor should also open the spigot on answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He got nowhere on that one.
“The question I would ask you to ponder is should the American people really know what you believe before we install you for lifetime tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court?” asked Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
“You asked me for advice,” Coburn told Kagan, who was not smiling at the time, “and my advice to you was to be absolutely completely honest with this committee.”
15 years ago, Kagan was the one dispensing that kind of advice, repelled by the Kabuki Theater that is a Supreme Court nomination hearing, where Senators try to get the nominee to say something controversial and the nominee goes to great lengths to avoid saying anything that could come close to being important.
That came after being involved as a staff member on the Judiciary Committee during the hearings on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom Kagan would serve with if she is confirmed to this post on the bench.
I wouldn’t put too much money on Kagan becoming a fountain of sound bites, but we’ll see what happens today.
Each Senator gets 30 minutes for questions, which will certainly stretch into Tuesday night and likely into Wednesday as well.
It should be apparent pretty fast as to how this nomination hearing is going, whether Republicans are landing any shots, or whether this hearing is just going to stay beneath the News Radar.
Meanwhile, the importance of these hearings was driven home on Monday by the Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment, where a 5-4 majority held that the ‘right to bear arms’ was a right that should be enjoyed by all Americans.
It was the first time that the High Court had ruled that the Second Amemdent applied to the states, providing gun rights groups with a major victory, but reminding everyone that winning the White House is not a joking matter.
“I’m not too happy about her nomination,” said possible 2012 GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee, “but here’s political truth that might sting a bit: Elections have consequences.”
Just think if more Republicans had swallowed their opposition and voted for John McCain. There might not be a health reform law. The Democrats might not have had 60 votes for a time in the Senate.
Oh, but that’s right – the GOP needed to teach McCain and the party a lesson.
Two Supreme Court nominees – and maybe more in the years to come – are a pretty high price to pay to teach that lesson, eh?
Remember, Democrats have only nominated four people to the Supreme Court since 1967, when Thurgood Marshall was chosen by President Lyndon Johnson.
Elections have consequences, and Democrats have lost a bunch of them since Richard Nixon won the White House in 1968. But they won the last one, and that may have saved them from Judicial Oblivion.