Must he sit there bland-faced and unmoving as they say what they say? Yes, of course. Judge Alito and the White House know they have to let these men talk. They don't want the senators to feel resentful or frustrated. They know each senator feels he has to play to his base. They know the senators are, by nature, like Conair 2000 hairdryers: They just love to blow, and hard. Fwwaaaaahhhhhhhhh. And they know it is good, it is helpful, to let each senator reveal himself through his own words. I think senators feel that their words, when strung together, become little bridges. I think the White House feels that their words, when strung together, become little nooses.
I wish they would be, thought they could be, honest. "You are bad because you are not a liberal, and I am a liberal so I vote against you. Feh." "Of course I think Roe v. Wade was badly thought through, and you probably admit as much yourself, enator, in your private thoughts."
But here's where the issue clears some air. Either liberals like Ted Kennedy really believe that conservatives harbor deep in their hearts an animus toward women, and blacks, and Hispanics, and everyone who is not a white male, or liberals simply enjoy, for reasons that are cynical and perhaps also psychological ("The people I fight are bad; this buttresses my belief that I, in spite of what I know about myself, am good"), suggesting that conservatives are full of narrow-minded bigotry and hatred. Maybe a Republican senator could bring this question to the floor, and ask Pat Leahy or Mr. Kennedy. The thing is, it is a mystery: Do they really think that about us, or are they just playing games and jerking everyone around?
Also: wouldn't it be nice if the senators suggesting bigotry apologized to Mrs. Alito for causing her distress? Oh, I wish they'd apologize to the country for causing it distress. Anyway, they made a mistake. Her tears presage his victory.
Let's cause some senators distress. The great thing about Joe Biden during the Alito hearings, the reason he is, to me, actually endearing, is that as he speaks, as he goes on and on and spins his long statements, hypotheticals, and free associations--as he demonstrates yet again ... that he is incapable of staying on the river of a thought, and is constantly lured down tributaries from which he can never quite work his way back--you can see him batting the little paddles of his mind against the weeds, trying desperately to return to the river but not remembering where it is, or where it was going. I love him. He's human, like a garrulous uncle after a drink.
In this, in the hearings, he is unlike Ted Kennedy in that he doesn't seem driven by some obscure malice--Uh, I, uh, cannot, uh, remembuh why I hate you, Judge Alioto, but there, uh, must be a good reason and I will, um, damn well find it. When he peers over his glasses at Judge Alito he is like an old woman who's unfortunately senile and quite sure the teapot on the stove is plotting against her. Mr. Biden is also unlike Chuck Schumer in that he doesn't ask questions with an air of, With this one I'm going to trap you and leave you flailing like a bug in a bug zapper--we're going to hear your last little crackling buzz any minute now!