Kagan's Hearings: A Spotlight for the GOP Platform

Kirk Victor had story at National Journal over the weekend on what senators are saying about Elena Kagan's hearings, full of quotes from the key Republican players. Not surprisingly, they know Kagan will sail, and Victor's question is: knowing that's the case, what's the point of the hearings?

One point is that Republicans will be able to publicly challenge Kagan on specific issues and, essentially, to make their arguments and air their platform before November. A quote from Texas Senator and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, expresses it well:
The hearings offer "a teachable moment," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was a judge on the Texas Supreme Court for seven years. He noted that judicial nominations present issues close to the heart of the Republican base -- which takes on added importance five months before midterm elections, when it is imperative to excite the true believers and get them to the polls.

"Republicans care an awful lot about [judicial nominations], because our constituents care a lot," he said. "They have learned that the will of the people can be thwarted by activist judges. And of course they want us to be on the look out for activist judges."

Cornyn contended, "It is time to talk about the limits of federal government -- one that initially was supposed to be one of enumerated powers, with all powers not delegated to the federal government reserved to the people and to the states. That is pretty much the 10th Amendment. It has pretty much become a dead letter, and I'd like to find out whether Ms. Kagan has any other thoughts. My concern is that she will likely give us a high school civics response, describing the constitutional provisions but not providing much in the way of hope that she would ever find the federal government's power circumscribed or limited in any way."