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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 17, 2010 / 4 Sivan 5770

Not another ‘hollow charade’

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | University of Chicago law professor Elena Kagan was right to complain, in her now-famous 1995 book review, that ever since the failed nomination of Robert Bork, Supreme Court confirmation hearings have been reduced to "a vapid and hollow charade, in which repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints." She was correct when she insisted upon "the essential rightness -- the legitimacy and the desirability -- of exploring a Supreme Court nominee's set of constitutional views and commitments" and lamented that "the problem is not that senators engage in substantive discussion with Supreme Court nominees; the problem is that they do not."

Above all Kagan was on the mark when -- in describing the content-free confirmation hearings of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- she wrote that both nominees knew that "the safest and surest route to the prize lay in alternating platitudinous statement and judicious silence," and commented: "Who would have done anything different, in the absence of pressure from members of Congress?"

Alas, what Professor Kagan endorsed so forthrightly 15 years ago, Supreme Court nominee Kagan disavows today. Gone is her appetite for "substantive discussion with Supreme Court nominees" -- vanished, it seems, when President Obama named her solicitor general, and it became clear that she herself would be on the administration's shortlist of potential nominees to fill any Supreme Court vacancy.

"I'm not sure that, sitting here today, I would agree with that statement," she told Senator Orrin Hatch, when he asked about her 1995 call for probing nominees' views on controversial judicial subjects. "I wrote that when I was in the position of sitting where the staff is now sitting and feeling a little bit frustrated that I really wasn't understanding completely what the judicial nominee in front of me meant and what she thought."

Is that it, then? Is there nothing to do but resign ourselves to yet another "vapid and hollow charade" of a Supreme Court confirmation? Must we prepare once again to endure the long-winded pomposities of the Judiciary Committee hearing room -- the harrumphing about "stare decisis" -- the posing of questions to which senators expect no meaningful answers -- the bobbing and weaving by the nominee, who piously declines to give her opinion on the most salient legal issues of the day?

Enough already. The Constitution conditions the confirmation of Supreme Court justices on the Senate's "advice and consent" for a reason, and it isn't so that senators can preen on TV. The moment Kagan dons that black robe, she will become one of the most influential people in the United States. Long after most of the senators who vote on her nomination leave office, she is likely to still be putting her stamp on every area of American law and life -- from capital punishment to campaign finance, intellectual property to immigration. She will be invested with sweeping power for the rest of her life, and will effectively answer to no one in exercising that power. To cloak her with such authority without finding out what she would do with it is egregiously irresponsible. It ought to be unthinkable.

Kagan was right in 1995, and not just about "the legitimacy and the desirability" of investigating a high court nominee's substantive views on legal and political controversies. She was right as well when she observed that only "pressure from members of Congress" can keep nominees from spouting platitudes and ducking tough questions. It's time -- long past time -- for Congress to apply that pressure.

The framers of the Constitution expected senators to do more than rubber-stamp presidential nominations. The fact that Ginsburg and Breyer were waved onto the court without being grilled on their views was not a good reason to do the same for John Roberts and Sam Alito. Nor should Sonia Sotomayor have been allowed to avoid serious scrutiny of her judicial philosophy and beliefs.

Kagan's nomination is an opportunity to correct course -- a chance for the Senate to resume its constitutional function as a check and balance on the judiciary. Senators should let it be known that they will no longer confirm any Supreme Court nominee who refuses to give substantive answers to relevant questions. There is no divine right to a seat on the highest court in the land. Too much is at stake for yet another vapid and hollow charade. If anyone knows that, it's Elena Kagan.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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