First Opening Statements Thread

I am having problems with my wireless connection, but it seems fixed now. Specter and Leahy have already spoken. Hatch is speaking right now. You can see the entire judiciary committee here.
  • It is over for a few hours. I'll have more on this later in the afternoon and evening. The hearings open again at 9:30 tomorrow, and will last until 8:30 pm (yikes!)

  • Senator Orrin Hatch: "[T]he Senate can and should do what it can to ascertain the jurisprudential views a nominee will bring to the bench in order to prevent the confirmation of those who are likely to be judicial activists.” [Address before University of Utah Federalist Society chapter, 2/18/97]. I guess he changed his mind.

  • Can someone be disqualified for excessive use of baseball metaphors? Lots of Americana, nothing of substance from Roberts.

  • I think it is particuarly interesting that as Roberts begins to speak, the news wire has Brown resigning from FEMA. This is not hte same Bush administration of even four months ago. This is an administration that has become weak to the point where it will indeed back down and cave to public pressure.

  • Coburn in tears when he says: "When I ponder our country... my heart aches for less diviseness, less polarization, less fingerpointing, less bitterness, less mindless partisanship, which at times sound almost hateful to the ears of Americans." And then he promptly left the hearings and went to a Club for Growth fundraiser.

  • Brownback opens by wishing himself happy birthday. How very humble of him.

  • Durbin looks to shift the burden of proof to those looking to confirm Roberts, rather than those who are not yet sold. Frankly, that is where it always should have been, but somehow our checks and balances have eroded enough that it doesn't work that way anymore.

  • I can't even remember which Republican is droning on right now. Its all the same: you never have to tell us anything about anything ever, except that you will stop persecuting us humble Christians. Don't they ever get bored of hearing themselves?

  • This seems to be the culimination of five years of speeches for Schumer. I remember when he first laid out this argument five years ago, and I was hooked instantly. Ideology needs to be a determining factor in judicial confirmations because, let's face it, ideology plays a role in how judges rule. As Schumer just said, certainly both Ginsbewrg and Scalia think they are fair, yet they rule differently case after case after case. Ideology is the reason. We all know that, and thus we must consider it when confirming a judge, just as President's consider it when selecting a judge. Ideology is perhaps the number one determining factor in determining how a judge will rule, and thus it is absolutely necessary for Roberts to answer every qeustion, so we can develop a clear picture of his ideology.

  • Woo-hoo! He actually said "resume" instead of calling him "well qualified." I always thought Schumer was excellent on judges.

  • Schumer's up--perhaps the main event. He tries to frame the debate as mainstream versus ideolouge. Says he will vote based on the answer ot this question.

  • They are back, and I'll tell you right now, if Lindsay Graham really is a "Democrat by night," then the sun won't go down for a long, long time.

  • Feingold just spoke--nothing remarkable--and the first break has been announced.

  • Did Sessions really just say "objective standards of morality," after a huge tirade about "activist judges," and then go on to argue that ideological concerns should not be a factor in approving nominees? Wow.

  • Feinstein was way too wonky (autonomy is not exactly the most emotive word for self-determination), and her speech ran long. This was too bad, because the end was the most interesting part, where she began to talk about the potential abuses of religion. I've been waiting a while for someone to finally talk about that.

  • The Dems are conceding the "well-qualified" point. Worse, they keep repeating it. Kennedy did it earlier, and Feinstein just did it. In fact, it was practically the first thing out of Feinstein's mouth. For crying out loud Dems, if you want to concede the point, that's one thing, but don't help the Republicans hammer it home by constantly repeating it yourself. Just come up with another word for it, like "you have a long resume," or something. Don't use their words, for crying out loud.

  • DeWine seems to be fretting about the loss of his base. He just indicated that he will be voting for Roberts.

  • Whether or not the basic Democratic talking point will work in slowing or stopping Roberts almost doesn't matter to me, because it is just so wonderful. We must protect civil rights. We must allow the government to step in and work toward a common good. Big government is not a bad thing, as long as it is effective. The struggle for civil rights is not over. A lot of this is related to Katrina, but it seems to be a near-total reversal of 1990's era rhetoric that dominated the party leadership for a time and helped turned me away from the party for a number of years. Even if it is rheotic--and coming out of the mouth of Bankruptcy Biden it sounds like just rhetoric--it is an important turning point in the national debate that will indeed be to the benefit of progressivism. The era of small government is over.

  • The basic Republican talking point so far seems to be that Roberts is oh so well qualified, and that he should shut up and eveyrone should be happy with that and vote for him. That strikes me as a defensive talking point that seeks to avoid conflict (and democracy) at all costs.

  • Biden comes out hard and strong. Says right now he would vote no. Very impressive. I had stepped out of the room to grad some food, and when I came back in I heard Biden's voice saying words that I never thought I would hear from Biden. So far, itseems the Dems on the committee are united in opposition.

  • Kennedy now. He's a much better speaker than Leahy. His speech is mostly about rights, with a heavy emphasis on civil rights.

  • Hatch goes on about politicizing the judiciary, when no one has politicized the judiciary more than Hatch:Originally, after Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 1994 elections and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch assumed control of the Judiciary Committee, the rule regarding judicial nominees was this: If a single senator from a nominee's home state objected to (or "blue-slipped") a nomination, it was dead. This rule made it easy for Republicans to obstruct Clinton's nominees. But in 2001, when a Republican became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take objections from both home-state senators to block a nominee. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George W. Bush's nominees. In early 2003 Hatch went even further: Senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it could still go to the floor for a vote. Finally, a few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with "Rule IV," which states that at least one member of the minority has to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee. After that, he went on for ten minutes about how Roberts shouldn't answer any questions, and we should all like it. Seems to fit with his general pattern.

Tags: Judges (all tags)



Shorter Hatch
You don't have to answer any question that reveals your conservative bias.  Non answers will serve the people best, because ambiguity is what we require in a justice who will still be chief when the Chinese land on Mars.
by Stevo 2005-09-12 08:45AM | 0 recs
The Dems on the cmte should be
laying the groundwork during the Roberts hearings for all out war when Bush names Priscilla Owen for O'Connor's seat.
by jgarcia 2005-09-12 09:08AM | 0 recs
Biden is so frustrating.
I vividly remember Biden's eloquent condemnation of the Thomas nomination. I can still see and hear him talking about the history of SCOTUS and how the Thugs were politicizing it in an unprecedented way.

And then he voted to confirm. Total disconnect.

He has the ability to strike enormous blows ...

and then he caves.

Still, it's good to hear the Dems showing some backbone.

by Thresholder 2005-09-12 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Biden is so frustrating.
I agree wholeheartedly.  

Still, it's very heartening that Biden feels the need to start the way he has.

I think we have Katrina to thank for that.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-09-12 09:58AM | 0 recs
what they don't want us to know
I liked Kennedy here "The burden on him is especially heavy, because the Administration, at least so far, has chosen not to allow the Senate to have access to his full record. We can only wonder what they don't want us to know."
by pablue 2005-09-12 09:45AM | 0 recs
"After that, he went on for ten minutes about how Roberts shouldn't answer any questions, and we should all like it."

Then the Democrats should advise the President (if we had one) to nominate me to take the place of Sandra Day O'Conner... no questions asked or answered... and the Republicans should simply like it.

by Andrew C White 2005-09-12 09:46AM | 0 recs
The man IS NOT
well qualified to be Chief Justice. He's been a judge for 2 years for cryin out loud. He IS NOT well qualified. He is border line qualified to be an associate justice but nowhere near qualified to be chief justice. If they are saying that then they are caving already. It is an end-all argument to stop him. He has been a judge for 2 years. That's all. You have just learned a new job after 2 years. He just now has learned what it is he is supposed to be doing. He is not well qualified.
by Andrew C White 2005-09-12 09:51AM | 0 recs
Two years <> qualified for SCOTUS Chief
I don't care who he advised or clerked for or where he argued his cases.  CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT does not go to someone who has been a judge for 2 years.

Somebody should say "I'd vote yes in five or ten years, when Judge Roberts had enough age and experience being a judge to hold the most importantant judgeship in the land.  At this point, ideology be damned, he's too new to the profession."

by AntiCliche 2005-09-12 10:54AM | 0 recs
there is no requirement that a nominee for Chief Justice be a judge.  Earl Warren was nominated to be CJ without any judicial experience (and he was not the only one)
by safford 2005-09-12 10:57AM | 0 recs
Re: SCOTUS Chief
True but it is a good frame.  That can be responded to the fact that times are completely different than in Warrens time... or the person who made the comment on experience should respond, "I would not have voted for Warren either if I was presented with him in that time period.  Just because it happened before doesn't make it right."
by yitbos96bb 2005-09-12 11:03AM | 0 recs
Feingold Is Pitch-Perfect!
Oh my God!  It actually sounds like the Democrats have a semblance of a plan!  Leahy, Kennedy and Biden raised the issues of a moral vision of expanding inclusion and government that actively promotes the common good.

Then Feingold steps up and spikes the ball--saying, "You can't avoid answering these questions behind the cloak of 'dignity.'"  

He utterly pierced the GOP attempt to construct a cloak of invisibility around Roberts.  And he did so masterfully, particularly when he pointed out that Supreme Court justices don't recuse themselves on cases just because they've ruled on similar cases in the past, and therefore their views are known in advance.

Democrats with a plan!  Who'da thunk it?  Will wonders never cease!

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-09-12 10:06AM | 0 recs
I doubt it
My guess is he stalls and when the vote for confirmation is held he gets at least 70 Senators to vote for him.
by THE MODERATE 2005-09-12 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Feingold Is Pitch-Perfect!
I was only able to catch Kohl, Feinstein, and Feingold, but here's what I thought...

Kohl: Non-descript except that he, along with all the other Dems, keep insisting Roberts answer important questions. Good to hear.
Feinstein: Too long and long-winded a speech but she hammered home the point of abortion and religious abuses.
Feingold: Maybe nothing spectacular, but I was happy to hear him say that asking tough questions do not constitute an undignified confirmation and "this is not a coronation this is a confirmation."

Yes, the Democrats are showing more spine than I thought they would. Roberts is going to win this pretty easily, but we have to show that we arent sanctioning this conservatism and when the next nominee is up (which will be soon), if he or she is any more conservative than O'Connor was, we will fight like hell.

by AC4508 2005-09-12 01:10PM | 0 recs
cspan 3 feed help
c-span online is fuxored.

I need the link to the external RP feed and the side bar is not rendering (I've got an error in the HTML there)... if anyone knows the direct link to c-span3 from real player, that'd be great.

by pyrrho 2005-09-12 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: cspan 3 feed help
found a direct link, here:

whoo hoo.

I love the internet and it's ability to route around damage.

by pyrrho 2005-09-12 11:04AM | 0 recs
Excuse me....?
Ideology needs to be a determining factor in judicial confirmations because, let's face it, ideology plays a role in how judges rule. As Schumer just said, certainly both Ginsbewrg and Scalia think they are fair, yet they rule differently case after case after case. Ideology is the reason. We all know that, and thus we must consider it when confirming a judge, just as President's consider it when selecting a judge. Ideology is perhaps the number one determining factor in determining how a judge will rule, and thus it is absolutely necessary for Roberts to answer every qeustion, so we can develop a clear picture of his ideology.

You must be joking...?

by Parker 2005-09-12 11:11AM | 0 recs
I dunno, y'all
Why are you so stressed/freaked/obsessed by this nomination? Call me crazy, but aren't we setting our beloved President up for yet another approval-rating-bump by fighting this guy like hell, showing all of our most interest-group-from-Hell sides, and then getting beat by, oh, about 20 votes?

I mean, yeah, he's pretty bad. But come on, why the pages-long front page thread?

by ColoDem 2005-09-12 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: I dunno, y'all
It's the educational benefit of understanding how the confirmation process works and what the Senators think about Roberts as well as Constitutional theory.

For some people this hearing could be the difference between voting for a candidate or voting against them.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-12 11:49AM | 0 recs
I have no idea
Why some people do what they do, my guess is they would rather stay mad then win elections, which is why, in my opinion the party is having trouble winning, Roberts, baring a Bork like performance is the next Chief Justice, it time to go on to the next fight this one is over.
by THE MODERATE 2005-09-12 11:54AM | 0 recs
The next fight
gets harder to win every time you throw in the towel.

The Dems have lost election after election by trying to play nice with the Reeps. What exactly did the Dems offer serious opposition to between 2001 and January?

by catastrophile 2005-09-12 01:41PM | 0 recs
Defeatist Bilge
You make me want to spit.

It is precisely your attitude that has kept the GOP in the ascendancy for 25 years.

Give up and quit.

Assume that taking a stand that may lose is always a  road to more defeats.

This is precisely why Americans think our party stands for nothing. Democrats look at a tough challenge, decide it's impossible, rationalize that surrender will conserve non-existent political capital for a later battle that will never be fought, and give up.

Rinse and repeat.

You're the classic Dem--too afraid of losing to ever win anything.

The Democratic Party will never win until it learns to start being willing to lose for its principles.

by Thresholder 2005-09-12 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Defeatist Bilge
The GOP has been on the ascendancy since 1968 and it was a result of the disaster of a converntion in which that group of trouble makers made a specticle of themselves and cost the party the election and we have not recovered since.  I would like to think that if that group had kept its mouth shut and got behind President Johnson alot of this would not happened so no, I am not going to get behind the latest group of trouble makers unless one its an issue I really feel strong about, which stoping Roberts is not it, and its one I think we can win and stopping Roberts it not it, so myself and those in the party like me, and there must be others becasue if I was it you people would not have much to compain about, give you this message you are on your own on this one, knock yourself out.
by THE MODERATE 2005-09-12 06:09PM | 0 recs
Re: I have no idea
There is a time to go for it and there is a time to drop back and punt.

With Roberts, we are probably going to have to drop back and punt. Roberts almost certainly has the votes to be confirmed. I doubt we could even filibuster. I don't think he would break the gang of fourteen up. Let's face it, Bush could do far worse. I don't think he's even as conservative as the man he is replacing, William Rehnquist.

However, Democrats can vote no. The Senate judiciary committee has a duty to question Judge Roberts and Senators have a duty to oppose him if they believe he will not uphold the constitution. 40+ 'No' votes would be a shot across the bow to the White House that they are not to go any farther to the right with O'Connor's replacement.

by wayward 2005-09-12 05:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I dunno, y'all
when and on what issues do you think we should fight the president, if at all?  what is your master strategy for taking back this country?

opposing roberts has several tactical advantages in addition to showing our constitutents that we actually have some spine and are willing to fight for the issues we claim to represent.  i have read elsewhere (i can't remember where anymore) that the roberts nomination will be a test run for the next SCOTUS nominee.  if roberts, who is perceived to have no real skeletons in his closet and no clearly stated ideology, only squeaks by with a few extra votes, bush will probably be precluded from nominating someone even more radical the next time.  so yeah, every fight counts.

by rfahey22 2005-09-12 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: I dunno, y'all
Republicans control all levels of government.  Why do we fight them on anything?
by Skaje 2005-09-12 07:45PM | 0 recs
John Roberts
To those who denounce John Roberts as unqualified because he has only served as a judge for two years, I would disagree.  Historically, many justices and even chief justices had little to no judicial experience.  Many had been openly political prior to their appointments.  As recently as the Clinton administration, Mario Cuomo's name was floated (often by Cuomo) as a potential nominee.  And I would not have had a problem with a Cuomo appointment.

While a certain amount of familiarity with the judicial process seems to be a good thing, increasingly I hear complaints that repeatedly selecting experienced Circuit Court judges results in a Supreme Court that is detached from the "real world".  I think that is a valid criticism.  In many cases it has been many, many years since a justice has been in a trial court, as a judge or an advocate.

by space 2005-09-12 11:56AM | 0 recs
Yeah, let's fight
bush the NEXT TIME!!!

Coz, as I recall, that's what the "y'alls" of the world that claim the left as their home said during the Appeal Court battles, when the biggest and baddest fight was for the CJ position, which we all knew was coming up with the impending dyin of Rehnquist.

And now what, you want to wait for some other next one?  Is there some court we don't know about more bigger than the Supreme COurt?  The Double Super Duper Supreme Court?

And where's the proof that roberts is brilliant?  Just coz people say he is?  Because Diane "I have his Picture on my Website" Feinstein says so?  Because some freeper scum say so?  Ass Rocket or that InstnatStupid guy does?

Here's my summation:

bush appointed roberts.  He's a political hack.

bush has no business appointing anybody to anything, least of all a lifetime appointment.

When the election rolls round in '06, people will look at whether Democrats OPPOSED people like roberts, and brown before him, and bolton, and at what point after bush had demonstrated his unfitness for office yet again did they begin to oppose.

This really shouldn't be so difficult, but like biden does, if you think the guy sucks, for whatever reason, and believe me, roberts sucks behind that Stepford Facade, a vote for him only undermines your earlier resistence.  Why'd you vote for him if you were opposed to him?

Kinda like, "I was opposed to it before I voted for it" from Kerry.

by DuckmanGR 2005-09-12 12:30PM | 0 recs
What if Roberts is a great jurist?
I'll be honest.  I'm a little disturbed by all the knee-jerk anti-Roberts attitude.

As far as I can tell, Roberts might turn out to be another Souter (my personal favorite justice).  By all accounts he is a total law geek.  That raises additional questions as to whether he has a grasp of the real world but I have a hard time seeing him trash his reputation in the service of George Bush or any other GOP politician.

Now, he may very well be conservative.  But a conservative justice is a far different beast from a conservative politiican.  One need only look at the Terry Schiavo situation to remember how quickly politicans will toss aside principles to achieve a political outcome.  Judges have far less malleable principles.

As far as I can tell the strategy of Schumer, etc. is the correct one: Be skeptical.  Put him on the record.  But be prepared to vote him.  And I say that as someone who is generally disgusted with the cowardice and accomodation of the Dems.

by space 2005-09-12 03:04PM | 0 recs
You don't get it.
"Roberts might turn out to be another Souter"

Does it strike you as a good sign that of all the available descriptions of Johnny Rob, the most favorable one you could offer is that he's a wild card? That's a bad sign.

"Now, he may very well be conservative.  But a conservative justice is a far different beast from a conservative politiican."

Johnny Rob is not conservative. He is a career Reep partisan. His job has been to promote the agenda of the Reep political establishment. We have no reason to expect that this will end once he's at the helm of the Supreme Clown Posse.

by catastrophile 2005-09-12 03:12PM | 0 recs
Re: You don't get it.
Agreed.  I know that.  So is Ken Starr.  I hate that guy with all the hate that hate can hate with.  If he got run over by a bus tomorrow I'd crack a bottle of bubbly.  But if he was on the Supreme Court it wouldn't be nearly the disaster that some would fear.

I think there is something else to bear in mind.  The Supreme Court is not nearly as partisan as lay people think.  Most cases don't break down along liberal/conservative lines.  Also, because judges are far more principled than politicians, judges may rule contrary to how lay people would predict.

Take the recent Kelo decision.  The lay person might expect the conservative justices to permit a broad eminent domain power by the state because it would favor (Republican) developers.  The lay person might expect the liberal justices to construe the power narrowly to protect the less powerful homeowners.  But both assumptions would be wrong.

I'll go so far as to say that I was surprised by the Bush v. Gore decision because I truly did not expect Scalia to cast aside an entire career of consistently consevative jurisprudence for a moment of partisan powergrabbing.

Do I think that Roberts would be even more likely to favor the Bushies and the Cheneys if necessary?  Yes.  But you can decades for a Bush v. Gore case to come along.  In the meantime I expect that Roberts would probably be making rulings that I largely agree with.

My biggest fear about Roberts is not that he would strike down Roe but that he would reverse Lawrence v. Texas, weaken the separation of church and state, and limit the constitutionality of public policy-based restrictions on corporate behavior.

by space 2005-09-12 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: You don't get it.
I think one thing we should all remember here, is that George W. Bush has every right to nominate a conservative like Roberts. He won the election. To some extent, to the victor go the spoils. Having your Democratic Senators take a principled stand and vote "no" is one thing, but crying about this guy and chastizing Dems for throwing in the towel is another. Everyone knows that its the President's job to appoint judges, and everyone knows that Bush is a  conservative. And with the nomination of Roberts, its not even as if he is moving the court further to the right than it was under Rehnquist. If you want liberal judges, then you gotta win Presidential elections, plain and simple.
by AC4508 2005-09-12 04:03PM | 0 recs
cases like Bush v. Gore may be rare, but they can ripple for decades, as we're discovering. Beyond that, your last paragraph mirrors my own concerns.

I honestly don't know whether he'd overturn Roe, because I think the Reep agenda is better-served by having that as an issue. However, I do know that Johnny Rob ran cover for illegal foreign interventionism, helped craft legal arguments for Bush v. Gore, and has come down on the corporatist side, which means that he's going to be coming down on the wrong side of lots and lots of more common decisions which shape our environment and culture, not to mention the impact a good Reep footsoldier will have on the courts in the administrative role of the CJ.

A Roberts Court will, in all likelihood, simply be another organ of the Reep imperial junta.

by catastrophile 2005-09-12 04:16PM | 0 recs
Re: You don't get it.
I doubt Roberts would strike down Lawrence. He did pro-bono work on a gay rights case. Nor is he a dominionist crusader. On the social issues he seems like another Anthony Kennedy.

I do worry about how pro-corporate he is. (But what else would you expect from a Bush appointee?)

As for abortion, whether Roe is overturned or not, we are headed for safe, legal, but (possibly) restricted. This is the view of Anthony Kennedy, the new swing vote on the court, and I would suspect the likely result in most states if Roe was overturned.

by wayward 2005-09-12 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: What if Roberts is a great jurist?
He's not another Souter.
He's not another Scalia either.

He looks most like another Anthony Kennedy to me.

by wayward 2005-09-12 05:59PM | 0 recs
Was anyone else struck by just how totally vacuous Roberts' opening statement was?  Other than an occasional code-word, was there any content?  Even the Senators with their talking points seemed to be saying more.

"Umpire" indeed.  Thanks, Judge.  That helps me understand your judicial philosophy... if I needed someone for my kids' little league game.

I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.  In a way, I hope so.  The more Roberts refuses to answer, the more latitude Democrats will feel to vote against him on that basis alone.  (Since I can't see him slipping up and saying anything to seriously hurt himself, I imagine the best way to "no" votes is a perception of stonewalling.)

by arenwin 2005-09-12 03:45PM | 0 recs


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