Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=137721
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 8:37:11 AM CST
WASHINGTON-Now that Sonia Sotomayor has officially been confirmed as a Supreme there are a few things I want to mention about covering the nomination process.
First, I enjoyed it and may be one of the few people at the hearings who didn’t think it was like watching paint dry. One reporter came in with a crossword puzzle while another played a game on her handheld during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on whether to push the nomination to the next phase.
However, as wide-eyed and new as I am to covering Capitol Hill, I wasn’t completely immune to cynicism.
One thing that continues to baffle and befuddle is that, except for banter about baseball teams or a governmental version of improv when electricity malfunctioned, 99 percent of the public process was entirely scripted. I understand looking at notes when making a speech, but if senators are reading from scripts, can’t they just email them to each other? Or, at the very least, edit them.
The first day of the hearings, I heard just about each of the 19 senators on the committee mention all or some of the following: That Sonia Sotomayor grew up in public housing; that her father died when she was young; that she was a good high school student, excelled at Princeton and Harvard, and has a rich history of trial experience. Add, too, the comments from some senators (*Diane Feinstein*) that sounded more like a mother making a Bat Mitzvah speech than a member of Congress highlighting the achievements of a professional, and it sometimes became a bit too much, even for a rookie.
It was during, perhaps the third rendition of Sotomayor’s biography (a story, by the way, which the judge herself would offer a version when it came her time to speak) that I involuntarily attempted to make the following calculations:
• If the committee members had just emailed their versions of The Sotomayor Saga to each other instead of spending hours reading them aloud how much time would have been saved?
• If they had emailed Sotomayor’s bio or agreed one rendition per party, how much of a dent would have been made in the cost of air conditioning that room?
• How many other proceedings in that same building were equally redundant? And, if you combined those with the Judiciary Committee -- and slimmed down the over-communication overall -- would the savings in electricity be enough to qualify as a “green” initiative?
Next, not a calculation but a question: Since the proceedings were scripted, why did the closed captioning on the nearby televisions have typos? Couldn’t the typists have gotten copies of the senator’s speeches in advance for clarity’s sake?
And, lastly, the self-congratulations of the senators on their good behavior was troubling: Throughout the confirmation process senators reiterated that their conduct had been admirable, which just seems absurd. Children get patted on the head for good behavior. For adults, let alone our elected officials, it should be expected.