Skip to content
Jonathan Bernstein

Confirmation Hearings Are Political Theater and That’s OK

Putting Supreme Court nominees on TV before a Senate panel is rarely illuminating or uplifting, but it does serve a useful purpose.

Stage right.

Stage right.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I’m here to defend the much-derided practice of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Supreme Court nominees. At least a little bit.

While we might wish these events delivered an advanced class to the nation in constitutional law, they clearly fall way short of that hope. Nor do they seem to reveal much about a nominee like U.S. Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson other than her ability to patiently endure hours of abuse from one side of the aisle and hours of fawning from the other, without showing what she really thinks of any of it. Oh, and her skill in listening to windy speeches without losing focus when a question pops out. The odd thing about it is that these are skills she may never again need to deploy in her professional career, should she be confirmed.