Saturday, January 14, 2006

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And the dumbest thing said by a Senator is.....

The hardworking staff here at would like to thank the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for their performance this past week. They provided a lot of grist for contest-entrants and commentators alike.

It's telling that the week ended with numerous pieces on how to improve the confirmation process -- even though Alito proved relatively forthcoming in his answers. Dahlia Lithwick reminds Democratic Senators that members of the Federalist Society are not teeming with hate and rage; T.A. Frank suggested at TNR Online that the way to rescue the dignity of the hearings is to remove television from the equation.

My one good government suggestion -- give both the majority and minority counsel for the Judiciary Committee an hour or two to question the nominee. That'll never happen, of course, but it might actually generate some useful back-and-forth.

Now, on to the contest -- on Monday, readers were encouraged to submit "the single dumbest thing a Senator says during the hearings." A lot of very worthy entrants were submitted. In the end however, there can be only one.

And the Senator who said the dumbest thing is.....

Congratulations to Senator Diane Feinstein of California for this exchange with Alito:

FEINSTEIN: So if I understand this, you essentially said that you wanted to follow precedent, newly established law in this area. And you left a little hedge that if Congress made findings in that law, then that might be a different situation.

If Congress did make findings, would you have agreed that that statute would been constitutional?

ALITO: What I said in the opinion and what I will reiterate this afternoon is that it would have been a very different case for me. I don't think I can express an opinion on how I would have decided a hypothetical case.

FEINSTEIN: It's not hypothetical. I'm just asking you, if there were findings as you said, you might have sustained the law.

ALITO: And I reiterate that...

FEINSTEIN: And I'm just asking you would you have sustained the law...

ALITO: I don't think that I can give you a definitive answer to the question because that involves a case that's different from the case that came before me.

Feinstein had some tough competition -- The Kennedy/Specter exchange over mail delivery, Tom Coburn's auto accident metaphor, anything that came out of Chuck Schumer's mouth, and what I can only figure was Joe Biden's attempt to win a bet in which he could use the word "Princeton" in every sentence he used for an hour. And I confess I might be biased in favor of Feinstein because of her runner-up status during the Roberts confirmation. Let me stress that dumber things might have been said this week -- but the folks here at could only judge the submissions we received.

In the end, Feinstein's ability to deny the existence of a hypothetical in her question about... a hypothetical was what swayed the judges. To be fair, Feinstein was talking about a counterfactual, but I think it's safe to say that counterfactuals were included in Altio's definition of hypotheticals.

Congratulations to Millers Time for being the first to submit the winning entry! [What's his prize?--ed. What all bloggers desire -- links and attention! Plus, you gotta check out this other post of his -- it's the funniest blonde joke I've ever seen.

posted by Dan on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM


Am I the only one out here who wasn't amused by the "funniest blonde joke"? BO-ring.

posted by: Sissy Willis on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

I am honored... Thanks for the links.

posted by: Miller's Time on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

God you overlooked Lindsay Grahams stated hope that scalito would beleive the R's when they claimed never to have heard of Abramoff.
Or basically any thing from graham.

posted by: Ken on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

I like the idea of allowing the counsels to question the nominee. Questioning by counsels is done at investigative hearings; why not at confirmation hearings?

Another improvement, I think, would be to have the panels with law professors appear before the nominee, as a means of setting the agenda as seen in the legal professoriate.

Yet another idea: Just get rid of the direct questioning of the nominee altogether. It really is a relatively recent innovation, and perhpas not a necessary one.

But the best thing we could do to improve the confirmation process is to require a 2/3 vote on the Senate floor to confirm.

posted by: Matthew Shugart on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

The Alito hearings reminded me of a job search website commercial. Alito was the man among the monkeys.


posted by: chsw on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

I must thank you again...

My blog averages 40-50 hits on a good day.

I have had almost 600 hits today...


posted by: Miller's Time on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

As a Californian I am honored that you think so lightly on the merits of Sen. Feinstein's intellect, but it would have been a real contestif the other differently-abled California senator was also on the Judiciary Committee. That would have been an interesting race to the bottom of the IQ cgart.

posted by: Pat Patterson on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

Senator Feinstein deserves a lot of credit for behaving a thoroughly professional manner, even if her questions could hav been better. She was one of the few, if not the only, Senator to sit through the testimony given by Alito's fellow judges.

posted by: ROA on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

Senator Feinstein hs been distracted by the burden of drafting the Bill of Censure for President Clinton. She volunteered for the task to dissuade those seeking Impeachment. The task has consumed her every moment for many years. The burden is clearly weighing her down. (I live in Lantos-Land and never miss the opportunity to vote against her)

posted by: andy johnson on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

God you overlooked Lindsay Grahams stated hope that scalito would beleive the R's when they claimed never to have heard of Abramoff. I don't think it's fair to count jokes made on purpose.

posted by: Charles Martin on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

Feinstein is a mental giant compared with the other senator from LaLa land, Barbara Boxer.
Anyway, I don't think she can compare for stupidity and downright oafishness to Kennedy. He stand alone.

posted by: miriam on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

I think the Kennedy/Specter exchange was particularly funny...petulant antics to derail the hearings and get some more primetime air...

...niice Teddie...

posted by: Orbit Rain on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

I waas conversing with an ex-gf who practices/lives in the SF area.She told me one of the benefits of being a citizen is the absolute certainty one is more intelligent than both US senators.As you can imagine I was downcast by this.But, then I realized ,I live in Michigan.I caan't wait to tell her I'm a member of the club.

posted by: corwin on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

nothing beats the congressman in my town. not to mention the wonderful guys at capital hill and the rules they like to practice on their doctors.


posted by: Internal Medicine Doctor on 01.14.06 at 10:44 AM [permalink]

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