Some senators at the Supreme Court nomination hearings of Sonia Sotomayor seemed to chafe a bit today because the answers seemed evasive. Now they know how voters feel when the politicians provide vague and evasive answers at debates around election time.
Their goal is to get re-elected. Her goal is to get the Supreme Court job, and weighty political and judicial discourse will have to wait for the lecture circuit.
If there was ever a subject that could have led to a wonderful discussion on the Constitution, it was the one asked by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., on whether Sotomayor had any constitutional qualms in the days after 9/11.
Oh, gosh, where to begin? Eavesdropping of conversations and e-mail, the Patriot Act, government snooping on library records, arresting people without pressing charges? Are we too quick to throw the Constitution under the bus when we’re scared?
Sotomayor’s answer made it abundantly clear that she had been well coached to say nothing interesting, let alone controversial.
Of course, Feingold’s question may well have been an attempt to draw the judge into the brewing controversy over a reported hit squad program in the CIA in the days after 9/11. But she did not take the bait.
Still, it’s becoming clear that a Supreme Court nomination hearing is not the time for honest dialog about the law. Again.
Tom Goldstein, who is live-blogging the hearings on ScotusBlog, says he’s not surprised.
“She’s following the tradition of saying very little. Ideologically, I’d say the hearings so far have confirmed to me that she’s on the middle left. Intellectually, she does seem quite well informed and very capable of covering a lot of complicated topics without difficulty. So, she’s quite smart,” he said.
Certainly smart enough not to say anything that will get her nomination in trouble.