8:22 Central Time: I'm setting up the post. The hearings start at the top of the hour. You can watch on-line at C-SPAN. I'll be watching, with a DVR assist to get quotes right, and I'll also be doing some radio commentary, at the breaks, on Minnesota Public Radio.
8:48: After reading some of the comments here, I want to say that, of course, I think that Sotomayor will be confirmed. So that won't be the focus of my commentary. There are plenty of genuinely relevant, important things to observe. You'll see!
9:02: The Senators all get to make — which means read — 10 minute statements. Patrick Leahy, is now reading Sotomayor's biography to us. Leahy has a raspy, annoying voice, and he stumbles over words, saying, for example, "pie partisan."
9:11: Leahy acts like it's a special problem that Sotomayor was attacked before Obama picked her. But that's the very best time to make the argument about possible nominees. It might influence the selection. Once the selection is made, it is extremely difficult to defeat it.
9:14: Senator Sessions stresses impartiality and adherence to the law. "Our legal system is based on a firm belief in an ordered universe, an objective truth... Down the other path lies a Brave New World where words have no true meaning.... In this world, a judge is free to push his or her political or social agenda." "An ordered universe" comes close to grounding law in religion, but doesn't quite go there. Atheists can believe in "objective truth" too. Sessions is making a nice and clear statement of what really should be the GOP theme in these hearings. Law is not ideology or politics, and relativism undermines the rule of law.
9:36: Orrin Hatch reminds us of what Obama, as a Senator, said against Janice Rogers Brown. Turnabout is fair play. [Here's the text of Senator Obama's anti-Brown speech.]
9:49: Dianne Feinstein does not think judges are merely umpires (as John Roberts notably asserted at his confirmation hearings). Personal background informs decisionmaking — properly and inevitably.
10:00: Russ Feingold wants us to be wary of the term "judicial activism." It really is used to say, essentially, a decision I don't like.
10:22: Chuck Schumer is carrying a lot of weight, making the argument that the Republicans obviously are planning to demand that Sotomayor make for herself. He's laying out details that show Sotomayor has been impartial, that the outcomes in her cases do not reveal favoritism to certain times of litigants and antipathy toward others. She really has been an umpire, unlike Chief Justice Roberts who said he was an umpire, but check out the outcomes in his cases.
10:26: Lindsey Graham says that no Republican President would have picked her. Miguel Estrada would be the choice if the idea were to pick the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. But this isn't about ethnicity. It's about liberal and conservative, he says. He tells her outright, she'll be confirmed. That is, "unless you have a complete meltdown" — which she won't.
12:11: They're on lunch break now. I did 10 minutes of analysis of Minnesota Public Radio. And there were a few more Senators doing their opening speeches that I haven't said anything about. It's getting a little repetitive. Kind of a drag to have to go after so many others, but nothing is forcing the Senators to have this terribly clunky approach to opening the hearings. On the up side, it will be interesting to hear a little speech from Senator Al Franken. My guess is that — in an effort to establish his senatorial gravitas — he will be terribly boring.
1:20: Specter said a lot of pretty substantive things, but, sorry, I was bored. And now: It's Al Franken!!!! Ha ha ha! I'm laughing, because he's a comedian, but he's not saying anything funny.
1:31: A heckler! Hey, Franken is a comedian! He should have some snappy comebacks!
1:33: "Judge Soh-toh-my-AIR."
1:34: Franken keeps talking about himself. I just took the oath of office... I may not be a lawyer... blah blah blah.
1:35: Man, Franken has quickly adapted to the Senate. He's doing pompous and leaden as if he'd been lumbering along senatorially for decades.
1:41: Chuck Schumer is now sitting at the table next to Sotomayor. He's being the Senator from New York, introducing the nominee from New York.
2:06: Sotomayor stood to take the oath, saying "I. do." in a way that tracked the odd cadence used by Senator Leahy. in administering it. She then gave a plain and straightforward statement about her simple judicial philosophy: following the law as written. She presented empathy and her personal background something that might enhance her understanding of the facts. In the end, the only task is to say what the law is and apply the law to the facts. There's nothing for the conservatives to attack in that (unless they say they don't believe her, which isn't nice). She said what they say they wanted to hear. And this — not any complicated explanations about how empathy is a component of interpretation — is really the easiest and best way to appeal to Americans. Good job.