So there was reason to hope, as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the nomination of Samuel Alito to sit on the Supreme Court got underway, that the senators might even allow the nominee to speak. As Sen. Joe Biden put it, “I really hope that this doesn’t turn out to be a minuet. I hope it turns out to be conversation.” It wasn’t to be.
During his first round of questioning, Biden spent 24 of his 30 minutes talking, allowing only about six minutes for Alito to answer. Some conversation.
Maybe Biden should have talked (dare we say filibustered?) even more. When he, and his liberal colleagues on the committee, allowed Alito to speak, the nominee easily answered every question they threw his way. Perhaps that’s because they didn’t have much to challenge him with.
Judge Alito has served on the Third Circuit for 15 years, meaning he has, as President Bush put it, “more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.” He’s sat on thousands of cases. That’s perhaps the longest professional paper trail in history. So it only makes sense that many liberals wanted to talk about … Alito’s job application for a Justice Department position 21 years ago.
“In 1985,” Sen. Pat Leahy noted, “your job application proudly put that you were a member of it, a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a conservative alumni group.” Alito’s response was direct and reasonable. “If I had been actively involved in the organization in any way, if I had attended meetings, or been actively involved in any way, I would certainly remember that, and I don’t,” he answered.
It’s not clear how this is relevant to whether or not Alito is qualified for a seat on the Supreme Court. Maybe liberals want us to believe that, because CAP is supposedly anti-woman, anti-minority and anti-gay, Judge Alito must be, as well. There’s no evidence of that, of course, in his rulings. Nonetheless, at midweek Sen. Kennedy attempted to use parliamentary tactics to shut down Alito’s hearings until the committee could review a few boxes of documents that may -- or may not -- even mention CAP or Alito.
That would have been a shame. We ought not shut these hearings down; we ought to extend them.