Thursday, July 16, 2009

Roberts Redux

A Martian who had last visited earth for the John Roberts confirmation hearings and then returned for the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor might reasonably conclude that Roberts and Sotomayor are of one mind on almost anything – or rather that they both operate on a legal plane where precedent decides almost everything and the narrowest possible construal of legislative intent decides the rest. Had that Martian also attended the hearings for Sam Alito, he, she or it might have come to a similar conclusion about that nominee as well. But if pressed to say which of the three is the most independent thinker, the Martian would have to opt for Alito. Worse, unless that Martian was well versed in the nuances of Democratic and Republican politics and able to draw inferences from the tone of the questioners, he, she or it would be quite unable to discern any political difference between Roberts, Alito, and Sotomayor. I feel sorry for Sotomayor for having to go through this nonsense -- and not just because she has to accord “all due respect,” as they say in Washington, to Senatorial cretins. But girls gotta do what girls gotta do; and, given the white male resentment Republican senators exude, that dictum holds especially for wise Latina ladies.

Call it kabuki theater, call it farce. In either case, the hearings would be a major bore but for two things -- both of which are, unlike Sotomayor’s testimony, outrageous. Only the first, however, has any entertainment value. That would be the chance to witness conspicuous displays of stupidity from Republicans. I would hazard that, in a free and fair election, most observers would vote Jeff Sessions MIP, Most Imbecilic Player. However, I’d vote for Tom Coburn for his performance in not understanding how dumb his questions about his “right” to defend himself with a gun were. I especially liked how, when he finally stopped badgering the wise Latina over the point, he opined that, as a doctor, he understands how difficult it can be not to think like a doctor – implying that the reason Sotomayor just couldn’t get his point is that she thinks too much like a judge. [Coburn is the Senator who advised his pal and fellow Christian cultist Senator John Ensign to pay off his mistress and her family, but who won’t talk about it, claiming “doctor patient privilege.” Coburn is an obstetrician!]

There is a certain voyeuristic pleasure in watching Republicans act dumber than fifth graders, but there is none in watching Democratic senators, with one partial exception, endorse the persona Sotomayor is obliged to project. Al Franken was the partial exception. The rest of them had not an unkind word to say about the Roberts court, plainly the most noxious and reactionary in recent history. Instead, they outdid themselves suggesting how Robertsonian Sotomayor is, notwithstanding her Latina “identity.” They couldn’t even find it in themselves to cast aspersions on Antonin Scalia – the Mafiosi character I call “Tony Two Vote” (because it was his second vote for the Bush boy, along with the votes he marshaled from the other right-most Supremes, that unleashed the horrors of the past eight years). When Sotomayor joins the Court, as she surely will, it will not make the Roberts court appreciably better; for that, she’d have to be replacing one of the more reactionary Justices. Her appointment, much like Obama’s milquetoast stimulus package, will just keep what is very bad from getting even worse. But there was at least a chance for Democrats, even the milquetoast Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, to explain to a receptive public just how awful the Roberts court has been. So far, they haven’t done anything of the kind, and time is running out. It has been yet another “educative” moment lost.

No comments: