I haven't had time to check out the paper about confirmation hearings by Lori Ringhand and Paul Collins that's getting plenty of attention this morning. What I can say is that the questions are generally (but not always) substantive; the answers are often not; and it's unlikely that any of it changes any votes in the Senate. But that doesn't make the process useless. Lots of stuff in democracies is about putting things on the record, and about forcing our elected and appointed leaders to explain themselves. In general, our political culture doesn't do well with pre-ordained outcomes. We tend to, on the one hand, look for the Perry Mason moment when one side concedes that the other is correct; on the other hand, we want everyone to make up their own minds based only on the arguments they hear today, without any long-term commitment to groups or ideologies interfering with our pure exercise of unattached reason. Since both of those things are far more myth than reality, people get frustrated with things such as judicial nomination hearings, Congressional floor debate, and for that matter candidate debates, even though (in my view) each of those fulfill very important and useful purposes.
Now, all that said, the opening statements are almost always disasters, and I'd be happy if we could dispense with them and jump straight to the questions...or, better, get each side to pick their two best and limit opening statements to just four Senators.
I'll have the TV on and I'll probably be tweeting on and off throughout the hearings, if I hear anything worth reacting to. As usual, my live-tweeting is far more like theater review than it is careful analysis...the smart money seems to be on Al Franken to be the star player for the Dems, but again the format it pretty unwieldy for anyone to make much of a positive impression. It's a lot easier to look like a doofus, and more to tweet about, too -- so we'll see who achieves that.