Thursday, January 12, 2006

It Ain’t Beanbag

Browsing through Technorati and the other blogs to see the take on the Alito hearings, I’m coming away with the sinking feeling that we — and I include myself in this — are paying more attention to the process and the gotcha games (“You evil bastards made his wife cry!”) than what could come from the outcome. I touched on it earlier, but the more I think about it, the more it concerns me.

While the Democrats seem to have spent most of yesterday doing little more than picking at nits and giving the Republicans cover to pull out their phony piety act and shake their heads sorrowfully that the Democrats were being so mean, what seemed to escape both parties is that this man will be serving on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life. He’s going to be hearing cases and interpreting the law for the next thirty to forty years at the least and they will be on issues that no one can fathom today; did John Paul Stevens have any idea when he was confirmed during the Ford administration that he’d be voting on a case like Napster? There are good reasons for digging into Judge Alito’s past and his writings so that the Senate can vote on him, but when it gets down to both sides using him as the straw man to score political points for their side or their potential presidential campaigns, it does a disservice to the process, and frankly I find it both short-sighted and insulting that Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) would go on for hours to get to his point and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) would carry on as if the only reason he was born on this Earth was to lay claim to every uterus within the jurisdiction of the United States. (Not surprisingly, these two are mentioned as candidates in 2008… mostly by themselves.)

At the risk of re-stating the obvious, this short-sighted approach on the part of Senate, the networks, (each which led with Martha-Ann’s tearful exit) and the blogosphere (ditto, including yours truly) is glossing over the fact that we’re choosing someone who will have an impact on our daily lives. (Actually, I wrote several posts about the importance of SCOTUS appointments leading up to the 2004 election, but that’s all water over the damn.) We may not see it as that because we have a veil of ignorance about the future, but if the past is any predictor — look at the impact of someone like Earl Warren in the 1950’s — we should not be playing trivial pursuit with the court appointees.

I suppose it is human nature to focus on the short-term and the self-indulgent issues in the confirmation process because of the veil of ignorance, but if there was ever a time to try to rise above it, this is it, and it would do well for the Republicans to remember that when they are on the other side of the fence.