But even the Democrats are too dull to take much of. With the multiple rounds of questioning, we're hearing more questions of the I'd-like-to-get-back-to-the-issue-of type. It's often painfully obvious that the Senators have nothing left to say.
This morning, I heard one of my Senators, Herb Kohl, going over and over whether Alito thought there should be term limits or age limits on judges, a question with almost no value in the first place, since the Constitution establishes life tenure for federal judges. There is utterly nothing for a Supreme Court justice to do on that subject. Alito was ploddingly patient with the Senator. Too bad he couldn't say: What possible relevance does my opinion on that subject have? After Alito explained why the Framers chose life tenure and why it makes sense for those who interpret constitutional law to serve for very long terms, Kohl ridiculously criticized him for giving "on the one hand, on the other hand" comments and nattered away about just being really interesting in knowing his opinion and how this may be the last time that the American people will get to hear his opinions. (Huh?)
I would have perked up if Kohl had asked questions like: "Judge, you know the Constitution gives federal judges life tenure, but don't you think they hold on to their jobs too long? Don't you think the judges have an ethical obligation to step down at a certain age or maybe after 20 years at the most? Would you reveal your thoughts on when you will retire and pledge to step down if you suffer a serious illness or reach the age of 80?"
For those who aren't subjecting themselves to this easily avoidable ordeal, there are the newspapers. Here we find the equivalent of weather reports: How was the atmosphere today? Yesterday, according to the WaPo, "The once-sluggish confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. turned confrontational." Today, with the hearings just started, the NYT tells us, the tone has become "calmer." With a slight chance of storms?
I'm sorry, yesterday was sluggish. The fact that Kennedy blew a gasket at one point and that Mrs. Alito left the room at another was not enough to dilute the overwhelming tedium of the event. I mean, how tedious does something need to be that a woman walking out of room is a big to-do? And was this exciting (from the WaPo article):
Alito edged closer to suggesting that he might be willing to reconsider Roe if he is confirmed to the high court, refusing, under persistent questioning by Democrats, to say that he regards the 1973 decision as "settled law" that "can't be reexamined." In this way, his answers departed notably from those that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. gave when asked similar questions during his confirmation hearings four months ago.Oh, my Lord, he edged closer!
Yesterday, Alito said that Roe must be treated with respect because it has been reaffirmed by the high court several times in the past three decades.
But when Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) peppered Alito with questions about whether the ruling is "the settled law of the land," the nominee responded: "If 'settled' means that it can't be reexamined, then that's one thing. If 'settled' means that it is a precedent that is entitled to respect . . . then it is a precedent that is protected, entitled to respect under the doctrine of stare decisis." Stare decisis is a legal principle that, in Latin, means "to stand by that which is decided."
During Roberts's confirmation hearings, he, too, was reluctant to disclose how he would vote if asked to overturn Roe . But during the 2003 hearing on his nomination to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, he had said he viewed the ruling as settled law.
We have had separate (and multiple) lines of questions on the meaning of "stare decisis," "precedent," and "settled law." Who knows, maybe one of these terms has some special dimension that could bring new controversy to Alito's views on abortion rights, which were actually thoroughly spelled out in the very first set of questions he answered (at the beginning of Day 2).