Being the political junkie that I am, I spent a bit of yesterday evening watching C-SPAN replay yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on John Roberts' nomination to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. There were a couple things that struck me as I watched.
The first was Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont. He commented that, "If anyone needed a reminder of the racial divide that remains in our nation, no one can now doubt that we still have miles to go. I believe that the American people still want, expect and demand their government to help ensure justice and equal opportunity for all and especially for those who, through no fault of their own, were born into poverty." His comment is an obvious reference to the criticism leveled against the Bush Administration that had New Orleans been a town of rich white folks, then the problems faced in recovery efforts (i.e. the delay) would not have been an issue.
There were problems with the recovery effort. The federal government, the state government, AND the local government all had their fair share of screw ups. However, this is not a result of a racial divide; it is merely a reflection of bureaucratic incompetence. When you have many different powers attempting to get something done in unison, there will always be difficulties. Ideally, in a post-9/11 world, the synchronization of the multiple levels of government would have happened without chaos, however we've got what we've got, and we've got a ways to go.
Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts noted, "The powerful winds and floodwater of Katrina tore away the mask that has hidden from public view the many Americans who are left out and left behind. As one nation under God, we cannot continue to ignore the injustice, the inequality, and the gross disparities that exist in our society."
The thing from this comment that jumped out at me was firstly, the reference to the racial criticism of the handling of Katrina victims, but more significantly the "Christian pandering" he evoked with the phrase "one nation under God." This is a contentious issue that he is generally regarded as being on the "other" side of, so it was quite interesting to hear him say it.
Also, New York Senator Chuck Schumer commented regarding the prospect of being Chief Justice at such a young age whose term of influence can last more than a generation, "I cannot think of a more awesome responsibility; awesome not in the way my teenage daughter would use the word, but in the biblical sense of the angels trembling in the presence of God."
The use of "awesome" describing God's greatness equated to that of holding a government job for twenty some odd years? I'm sorry, but that's not even close.
While confirmation hearing are supposed to be about a candidate for a post, it seems as if its actually more about the committee members. It is about what a Senator can say or do to score points with his or her base. The sad reality of politics - its never purely about the issues, but more about the power obsessed on their journey for more.