The first session of judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing was a meaningless display of platitudes. Some Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, like Lindsey Graham, saw the writing on the wall: "Unless you have a complete meltdown, you are going to be confirmed," he told her. And with that said, just about everyone else in the room (Democrats included) decided to read their sincere thoughts on Hispanics, distate for foreign law, strip-searches or abortion, and other highfalutin theories of jurispridence into the record —presumably for future, more contentious confirmation hearings. Mike Madden of SALON reports:
The "opening statements" by the 19 members of the committee began at 10 a.m. sharp and dragged on—albeit interrupted by a few anti-choice kooks and a lengthy break for lunch—until 2:30 p.m. Each lawmaker used the same tired baseball metaphor, droning back and forth about whether judges are more or less like umpires, calling balls and strikes. (Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, tried to change things up by talking about quarterbacks, but it didn't take.) At various moments, senators read Sotomayor her own résumé, reminisced about previous nominees and lamented the fact that Supreme Court hearings aren't televised.
The senatorial preening sessions will continue all week, but as Graham said, will not likely change the outcome. The upside, however, is that the deliberations make a fantastic drinking game!
I took notes on the frequency with which a few key buzzwords cropped up in the hearing's first session. The accompanying chart above maps out the results. "Experience or Qualifications" was the most frequently used word, at 34 times in roughly 4 hours. A close second and third was "Race," or the euphemistic "Background," at 21 times, and "Constitution" (hooray!) at 19 times. Just missing the bronze, of course, was the dread word "empathy"—as in "Sonia Sotomayor is a deeply, deeply racist person."
For those who watched yesterday (or have paid attention to American politics for the last 8 years), it may be surprising that "Constitution" was used so frequently—mostly by Democrats—and that the tired "umpire" metaphor was only used 8 times.
At any rate, if you're inclined to keep watching the Congressional kabuki, and are in search of an easy drinking game, these 13 buzzwords (no pun intended) are not a bad place to start. In a pinch, add "precedent."
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.