Tuned In

The Morning After: Oral Arguments

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Between closing a dead-tree article and packing up my office, I had time to watch the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings only on and off. Which is probably the most any sane person should be watching. 

The point of a televised hearing, this one demonstrated again, is that it is a televised hearing. That is: barring new developments, there is little suspense as to whether Sotomayor will be confirmed. And the process and history of these hearings pretty much precludes the possibility that the subject of the questions will answer them in any revealing way. 

Instead, the hearings quickly become an opportunity for Senators to say: “I am now going to hold forth on the law and my favorite hot-button issues for a half hour, and you, America, are going to have to listen.”

And, well, better that than more nonstop coverage of Mark Sanford, but the whole high-horse steeplechase got tiring. From the Democratic side, Sotomayor received the expected softballs, coupled with speechifying disguised as questions: the sort that begin “Wouldn’t you agree…” Sen. Russ Feingold used his questioning time, for instance, to ask Sotomayor a series of questions on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act that he must have known she would never directly answer—since she may have to decide related cases from the bench—but that allowed him to hold forth to a captive audience on the Patriot Act. 

From the Republican side, Sotomayor showed mastery of the art of biting one’s tongue while taking questions that veered from condescending to base-pandering. Repeatedly, senators sent the clear message to their constituents that they understood the plight of American white men, who have been under the oppressive thumb of power-monopolizing Latina women for far too long.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, for instance,  asked Sotomayor to reflect on how, “in the world in which we live in” (quoting the lyrics to Live and Let Die), a white man who made the equivalent of the “white Latina” remark would be publicly pilloried. Which, speaking as a white guy: yeah, I see the point. We are too P.C. as a society, too quick to take remarks out of context and take offense.

But. When you’re complaining about that from the perch of a Senator, in a body of legislators made up mostly and not concidentally of white men, and the greatest racial injustice you can think of addressing is the fact that one of those white guys would take a harder hit for implying that his white-guyness gave him an advantage in judgment—you sound like a bit of a whiner. But I don’t know. Maybe one of South Carolina’s current or former Latina senators would disagree with me.

In any case, The Daily Show had the subject covered, including my neighbor Chuck Schumer’s turning on the waterworks and the debut of ex-SNLer Al Franken: 

At this point, I would welcome musical guest Third Eye Blind.

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