Watching the two days of quasi-questions and pseudo-answers I formed conflicting impressions of the Sotomayor confirmation hearing. First of course is the falsity of the process, in the sense that the outcome is more or less pre-ordained. The Democratic senators luxuriate in that; the Republicans try vainly to pretend that their votes matter. At the same time, one thinks, how admirable. How American. British readers, I ask you: can you imagine Britain's Law Lords put through a similar grinder? Despite the bloviating self-importance of the senators (most of them anyway) and the elaborate evasions of the nominee, the process is more than mere theater. It's a chance for the public to see the people who rule them tested, and put in danger of making fools of themselves. That's good.
The nominee was composed and impressive. She gave a convincing show of welcoming the opportunity to explain her thinking. She was more likable than I had expected as well, for what that is worth. But she got off easy, don't you think? It seemed to me she did not so much clarify the liberal-sounding speeches and remarks ("wise Latina woman" and so on) that have so preoccupied her critics as simply retract them. And both sides let her do it. In my mind, these serial disavowals kept raising the question: well, what does she actually believe?