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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nebbish

Thus was the judgement passed by a Fox News analyst, who it should be noted, is on the Democratic side of the political aisle, on Judge Alito's performance on Tuesday during the first part of a truly marathon 7 hour-round of questioning.

Nebbish, for those who may not be aware, is a very handy Yiddish word, whose definition is as follows:

neb·bish ( nĕb ' ĭsh ) n. A person regarded as weak-willed or timid. [Yiddish nebekh , poor, unfortunate, of Slavic origin]

In truth, that is not doing the brilliance of Judge Alito's performance justice, as it fell to Brit Hume's later commentary to be much closer to the mark.

"There is something about Judge Alito which is disarming."

Yes, there is.

It has to do with a poker-face, and perhaps the most earnest demeanour I have ever seen in a public figure, for a long time.

It may well be that he was coached very carefully by a cadre of presidential aides, especially conscious of the fantastic John Roberts' hearings, which is commonly held today to have raised the bar for the performance of a SCOTUS would-be justice.

But whereas John Roberts dazzled and charmed, with his folksy baseball references, immaculate presentation without notes, and inside-out knowledge of the SCOTUS clearly visible to even partisan opponents, Judge Alito's trajectory so far has been different.

Roberts evaded questions by citing his inability to concretely define his personal beliefs in the most important issues of the day. Having little paper-trail as a judge, and no damaging personal background, his Hearings in substantive matters were very vanilla.

He evaded being pinned down repeatedly, but each time carefully responding to questions, which is a sleight-of-hand which needs to be seen to be believed.

In a sense, Judge Alito has taken that attitude, and improved on it, by CAREFULLY, METHODICALLY, and with great PRECISION answering legal framework questions in their most boring totality.

(Boring to us, the non-lawyers in the audience, it must be said)

This gives the impression that the Senators are pontificating and posing (which they are), whilst he is merely trying to reconstruct his reasoning on his 15 years of 3rd Court of Appeals rulings, helped along by his encyclopaedic knowledge of cases long since over.

For those of us who fully expected the Democrats to come out with guns-blazing, in a hearings version of the O-K Corral, their collective performance has been extraordinarily disappointing.

It is a very telling statement that the most challenging questions posed to Judge Alito on Tuesday, were by Senator Linsdey Graham, the REPUBLICAN senator from South Carolina, who went on the offensive to defend Judge Alito, if you can understand that.

Simply put, by asking him pressing questions on the topics of the day, such as executive privilege, detainees, and abortion, he was able to throw softballs to Judge Alito, in a hardball manner.

Had you not known that Senator Graham is a Republican, the mere bystander would've thought that surely here was an antagonistic cross-examination of the judge's views.

Only Senator Kennedy came closest to promising what the Democrats were said to be spoiling for -- a fight.

He negatively and sourly questioned the Judge, but with a lot of preambles about how "concerned" he was with his nomination, thus injecting himself and his views more than trying to ascertain what Judge Alito's were.

His fellow Irish-American colleague from Delaware, Senator Joe Biden, continued what can only be called a chummy, and at times overly-oily behaviour, carried over from the Roberts' Hearings.

Frankly, his grins, his moues, his fake heartiness are so distracting, as to make one embarrassed for him.

(A case in point is his hypothetical allusion to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, when he was asking the judge to consider her as an applicant to a job, which without Affirmative Action protecting her, she might be turned down because of the interviewer's personal animous towards her looks. Biden basically called is colleague a dog..."FOR THE RECORD", he had to hurriedly mention, to the smothered giggles of the audience who were incredulous at this display of Andrew Dice Clay "too-cool for you"-ness)



If you could describe the Democratic performance on the Senate Judiciary committee, by one word, it would be toothless.

They even had the worst luck, because the pre-Hearings lead critic of Judge Alito's nomination, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who went so far as to provide the press with an advance copy on his line of questioning, unfortunately saw his presentation preempted by the news networks.

See, he went on shortly after 6 PM EST, just when the Lehrer News Hour started, the news networks cut to their other reguarly-scheduled programming, which meant that only C-SPAN carried Schumer's tougher questioning live.

By that time, it was a question of too little, too late.

Why do the Democrats (or the opponents of any different political stripe) normally go after a candidate, nominee, or appointee in this fashion?

Because American politics has devolved into the gotcha moment.

That single, solitary slip of the tongue by one sitting in the public hot seat, which you can then use to hammer home the case against the person in ads, and in 20-second soundbites on TV.

And this is why they are failing.

This is not a Gotcha! type of person, any more than Roberts was.

One did so with evasive charm. The other, with dogged erudition.

If the Democratic Senators on that panel continue this meek (dare I say, nebbish) display, Judge Alito will not only be confirmed, it's quite possible he'll be considered less the conservative he was at the start of the Hearings, because doctrinally, the Democrats haven't laid a glove on him.

Still a ways to go, you might say. And that's right.

But one thing is for sure -- you have to know when to pick your fights.

And this dog of portraying Alito as some kind of extremist, activist judge, by getting him riled enough to counterpunch, just won't hunt.

There's ice-water in those Jersey veins.

P.S.: Is it just me, or did you too have a weird day-dream today that it was Harriet Miers who was being questioned at length, and all she could say is, "uh, can you repeat the question?".

Seriously, that nomination was so off the deep end of bizarreness, in retrospect, that it seems to have been a diversionary tactic by the President's advisors, all along. She would've been roasted alive.

NOON WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Round 2 has seen one interesting populist development: two different references to Fox News by the panelists.

One, a reference to lead Fox News anchor Brit Hume, the other, the more important one, about Judge Andrew Napolitano, who mentioned and thus clarified yesterday, the purpose and history of CAP (Concerned Alumni of Princeton).

The Judge was not only a board member of CAP, but he was a founding member. Senator Coburn referred to him by name in his opening statement, to show that the characterisation yesterday of CAP being some kind of anti-minority organisation was false. It was formed to bring back the military training organisation, ROTC, which had been banned from Princeton during the tumultuous Vietnam years.

To the fact that CAP was anti-minority, he points to fellow Fox News analyst, Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D'Souza, both of whom wrote for this organisation.

He also clarified that CAP was not an attendance organisation, with members who met each other regularly, etc. but merely a subscription entity of likeminded people. They had a newsletter or magazine which they published, and that's what you bought per year, as a form of fee.

Their fight to bring back the ROTC in Princeton was susccesful.

Back to the Hearings now, after their brief recess.

I realise this always happens, but the Republican form of counterattack, which is succesfful so far, is to take the Democratic hard-line questions, and bring up the matter again, by poking holes in their arguments, allowing Judge Alito a chance to respond perhaps in a way which makes him look better (but which would be called leading questions in a court of law interrogation).

Senator Orrin Hatch is doing just that at the time of writing, after the tough line of questioning of Senator Patrick Leahy.

15 Comments:

  • Nebbish is a good word. But so is Putz! As in, "Senator Schumer, stop acting like such a Putz, you petseleh!"

    Heheheee!

    We Protestants need to learn some Yiddish! :D

    By Anonymous benning, at Wed Jan 11, 08:12:00 am GMT-5  

  • Still a ways to go, you might say. And that's right.

    Yes, that's true. But typically, you bring your "A" game on the first day. If that was the Dem's "A" game, they need better players.

    By Anonymous I R A Darth Aggie, at Wed Jan 11, 08:29:00 am GMT-5  

  • "There is something about Judge Alito which is disarming."

    Agree 100% with above quote; his brilliance will prevail and he will be confirmed. Alito is not nebbish, but Schumer and Kennedy are schmucks!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Wed Jan 11, 08:46:00 am GMT-5  

  • If there's anyone who needs a guest spot in a David Lynch film, it's Harriet Meirs! (as Kyle McLachlan's mom, say!) It would do more for her reputation that being nominated to the Supreme Court!

    The Mishegoss from Michigan,
    Ron

    By Blogger Ron, at Wed Jan 11, 09:49:00 am GMT-5  

  • Biden hails from Delaware.

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Wed Jan 11, 10:49:00 am GMT-5  

  • Benning's right about learning Yiddish.

    I'm a shickza, but this stuff has me totally meshugana.

    Alito's a mensch.

    [cut me some slack on the spelling errors, of which there are surely some.]

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Wed Jan 11, 10:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • Vic, I'm afraid the Miers nod was dead serious. Shocking what it reveals about Bush, isn't it?

    By Blogger JSU, at Wed Jan 11, 02:03:00 pm GMT-5  

  • In my neighborhood, when I was a little one, the adult women would use the word nebbish and nebby to distinguish one who couldn't mind their own business. Often it meant one another when one might not be present.
    It's curious how I can read such a great post and only be able to comment on that.

    By Blogger Paul, at Wed Jan 11, 02:49:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Nebbish is a good word. But so is Putz! As in, "Senator Schumer, stop acting like such a Putz, you petseleh!"

    Heheheee!

    We Protestants need to learn some Yiddish! :D


    Speak for yourself, bubbeleh!

    I can kvetch with all the goys.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 11, 03:12:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Yes, that's true. But typically, you bring your "A" game on the first day. If that was the Dem's "A" game, they need better players.

    The best they've come up so far on Wednesday, has been the instantly classic dust-up between Arlen Specter (who runs a tight ship!), and the original blow-hard, Senator Ted Kennedy.

    They looked like two biddies arguing about a bit of purple yarn.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 11, 03:13:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Agree 100% with above quote; his brilliance will prevail and he will be confirmed. Alito is not nebbish, but Schumer and Kennedy are schmucks!

    Oy, vat a schande for the Democrats!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 11, 03:14:00 pm GMT-5  

  • If there's anyone who needs a guest spot in a David Lynch film, it's Harriet Meirs! (as Kyle McLachlan's mom, say!) It would do more for her reputation that being nominated to the Supreme Court!

    No way.

    Only a writer like yourself, Ron, could reference Harriet Miers and Kyle McLachlan (I still love him from Dune, which otherwise sucked) in the same sentence!

    Brill.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 11, 03:16:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Biden hails from Delaware.

    Thanks, Ruth Anne. I've changed it in the post already. :)

    (And of course, you'd know that especially, doh)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 11, 03:17:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Benning's right about learning Yiddish.

    I'm a shickza, but this stuff has me totally meshugana.


    BTW, if you like Yiddish like I love it, you can cast a gander at my Night Table sidebar for a really good book on the topic.

    With my love of vaudeville and Old Time Radio (where the patter is so Yiddish-inflected), and my German, I really love using Yiddish words in daily life.

    I'll schlepp to the library for more books.

    Alito's a mensch.

    Truly. He's just so SOLID.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 11, 03:19:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Vic, I'm afraid the Miers nod was dead serious. Shocking what it reveals about Bush, isn't it?

    There has to a glitch with these comments!

    This shows up, for me, in the "Post Comment on: Sundries" section, but not when you click on the post, with comments under it.

    To answer JSU belatedly...

    It is shocking. Troubling. Disappointing. And makes me wary of him in future.

    OTOH, you've seen the remarkable two candidates REALLY put forth by the President and advisors for the SCOTUS.

    They combine something which is almost impossible to do today:

    Great intelligence.
    Great substance.
    Great background.

    And no significant skeletons in the closet.

    They're, dare I say it, squeaky clean.

    Comically, I had a Chilean friend of mine, who is anti-Bush, tell me that both Roberts and Alito are "boring".

    He suggested that the SCOTUS would be better served with more vibrant personalities.

    "Do we really want such boring altar boys as Justices?"

    Yeah, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is such a keg party-gal.

    Come on.

    With people who are predisposed to hate everything about B43, you can't win.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Jan 12, 12:29:00 pm GMT-5  

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