I must confess that I’ve spent relatively little time thinking about or paying attention to the Roberts confirmation process. I think that’s probably largely a function of the fact that there’s almost no suspense; unless it comes out that Roberts eats puppy dogs for breakfast, or maybe masterminded an identity-theft operation for the mob, there’s virtually no chance that he will not be confirmed as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
So what’s the point of the hearings? For Republicans, the point is simple: keep the hearings as short and sweet as possible, so that any possible puppy-eating behavior doesn’t have the chance to come to light. But what about for Democrats? Given that they have virtually no chance to stop the nomination, is there any reason for them to put more than a respectable amount of time and energy into questioning Roberts?
I can only think of one reason, though it might be an important one: to set the stage for the next nomination, the one that will replace O’Connor. If they can establish that Roberts is very conservative (if indeed he is), and make that publicly and well known, then perhaps that will help public pressure build for a more moderate replacement for O’Connor. Alternatively, if they can generate a close vote (close would be less than 55 in favor, I think), then that might send a signal that Roberts is as conservative as a successful nominee can be.
But on the other hand, will any of this really make any difference in Bush’s next nomination? Probably not. Hence my shameful lack of interest in the proceedings.