Day 2 in Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing brought new revelations about the Senate Judiciary Committee and the U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
The press corps covering the hearing was shocked to learn that despite the past year's bitter partisanship, senators on both sides of the aisle have found a sense of humor, and the nominee was quick to volley with her own comedic abilities. Especially surprising to the journalists - it was found in what has quickly become an anticlimactic, o.k. down right dull, Supreme Court nomination hearing.
First up, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham:
GRAHAM: So far, have the hearings been what you thought they would be?
LEAHY: And more.
KAGAN: I'm not sure I had -- I'm not sure I exactly pictured it so.
GRAHAM: Let's try to go back in time and say you're watching these hearings and you are critical of the way the Senate conducted these hearings.
Are we improving or going backward?
And are you doing your part?
KAGAN: I think that you've been exercising your constitutional responsibilities extremely well.
GRAHAM: So it's all those other guys that suck, not us, right?
KAGAN: I don't think I'm...
GRAHAM: And there's all those other witnesses that were too cagey. All right. Fair enough.
Recall, Kagan wrote a Law Review article in 1995 that was harshly critical of the confirmation process as “a vapid and hollow charade.” Kagan, who had just finished a brief stint on the Judiciary Committee to help shepherd the Ruth Bader Ginsberg nomination, said then that nominees should be more forthcoming.
Feeling they were on a roll, but not quite up to Martin and Lewis standards, the new comedic team of Graham and Kagan added to their new act.
Graham started an inquiry on Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, and asked Kagan where she was on that day. Kagan then tried to answer the legal question she thought Graham had asked, but the senator stopped her to say that his question was literally where she was on that day.
Here’s the exchange:
GRAHAM: Christmas Day Bomber - where were you at on Christmas Day?
KAGAN: Senator Graham, that is an undecided legal issue which - well I suppose I should ask exactly what you mean by that - I'm assuming that the question you mean is whether a person who was apprehended in the United States -
GRAHAM: No I just asked you where you were at on Christmas
KAGAN: You know, like all Jews I was probably at a Chinese restaurant. (laughter)
GRAHAM: Great answer.
It was then the Dems’ turn.
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, a former Senate Judiciary Chairman, has always made cameras in the Supreme Court a signature issue in his time in the Senate, querying every high court nominee about the issue.
Today was Elena Kagan’s turn.
SPECTER: I will put into the record what the justices have had to say. I've questioned almost everybody about this subject, and I've had the opportunity to question all of the people on the court now.
But there's a lot -- there are a lot of those who have been favorably disposed to it -- or at least have acknowledged its inevitability -- and remind them that they all appeared on television this year on C-SPAN, and most of them -- many of them have appeared over the years selling books and being in a variety of situations.
KAGAN (with a grin): It means I'd have to get my hair done more often, Senator Specter. (laughter)
Specter, usually quick to the draw, was left without a comeback.
After a long enough pause to leave everyone in the committee room wondering if the senator was still awake, he slowly retorted.
SPECTER (with a bit of a grin): Let me commend you on that last comment.
Finally, long time committee member and former chairman, Orrin Hatch, R-UT got his chance to audition for the new Senate reality show: “I’m a funny Senator, Are you?”
HATCH: Let me ask questions the way I want…We have to have a little back-and-forth every once in a while or this place would be boring as hell, I tell you. (laughter)
KAGAN: And its gets the spotlight off me, you know, so I'm -- I'm all for it. Go right ahead. (laughter)
HATCH: I can see that. And by the way, I've been informed that hell is not boring, so you can imagine what I mean by that.
KAGAN: Just hot. (laughter)
So ends Day 2 of the Elena Kagan Supreme Court nomination hearings. Is this new sense of comity comedy to continue?
Tune in tomorrow to find out.
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