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Today's Questioning Marks a Passing of the Torch

Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, Edward M. Kennedy, Charles E. Schumer and Joseph R. Biden Jr. during the 2006 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post).

By Paul Kane
When senators begin today their questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, it will mark the first time in more than four decades that a Supreme Court nominee has not undergone a cross-examination by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Together with Vice President Biden, Kennedy has served as the liberal anchor of the Senate's Judiciary Committee for more than a generation, providing both support for Democratic nominees and heartburn for Republican selections for the highest court in the land. In the modern televised age of Supreme Court confirmation battles, Biden or Kennedy -- sometimes both -- have provided the most salient moments of every nomination, helping defeat conservative jurist Robert Bork in 1987 and then facing ridicule for their handling of the 1991 confirmation fight of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Biden has now moved on the White House, while Kennedy has stepped down from the Judiciary Committee after nearly 47 years of service there. New Democratic rules limited the number of top committees that veteran members could serve on, so Kennedy stepped aside earlier this year to focus on major legislation before the health committee he chairs. Even without that change, however, Kennedy's health (he's battling terminal brain cancer) would likely preclude his participation.

"It's sort of a changing of the guard. They were both powerful figures. Both had strong voices that could project," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Judiciary's ranking Republican. Nominated to a lower-court federal judgeship in 1986, Sessions saw his confirmation chances blow away when Kennedy and Biden accused him of being a racially insensitive federal prosecutor.

Kennedy chaired Judiciary in the late 1970s, and Biden chaired the committee from 1987 through 1994. Even without the gavel, the duo remained powerful figures behind Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the current chairman, and liberals still looked to the Kennedy-Biden leadership.

Their absence was barely acknowledged yesterday amid a litany of opening statements that seemed to lack a sense of historical heft. As historic as the Thomas hearings were, hardly anyone on today's committee has firsthand knowledge of the seminal moment in judicial politics and sexual harassment in the workplace. Just four of the 19 current committee members were in the Senate when Thomas went through that firestorm.

In place of Biden and Kennedy are a pair of newcomers: Sens. Edward Kaufman (D-Del.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.). Kaufman served as Biden's chief of staff during his days as Judiciary chairman, so he has some of the historical perspective. But, just six months into his temporary post in Biden's seat, no one would mistake Kaufman's soft-spoken nature for Biden's booming oratory.

And Franken's Minnesotan, you-betcha accent is no match for Kennedy's fiery Boston brogue. Franken, in just his fifth working day as senator, was the only lawmaker to note the vacuum on the Democratic side of the dais yesterday, more than four hours after the opening statements began.

"I have watched at least part of each and every Supreme Court confirmation hearing since they've been televised, and I would note that this is the first confirmation hearing that Senator Kennedy has not attended since 1965," Franken said.

At that moment a pair of antiabortion protesters started shouting and were ushered out, stealing some of the sentimentality of the moment.

Biden and Kennedy have had their share of mishaps over the last 30 years, drawing plenty of criticism from conservatives.

During the 2006 hearings for Justice Samuel Alito, Kennedy forced the proceedings to stop in a long-shot effort to turn up evidence that the nominee was part of a secretive alumni club at Princeton University that was engaged in insensitive behavior, a charge that was never borne out.

The day before Kennedy's alumni-club reach, Biden spent almost all his allotted time on his own thoughts, asking just one question in one 12-minute stretch.

Biden was chairman when Thomas was coasting toward confirmation until female Democrats in the House and other liberal activists seized on a leaked internal report to NPR's Nina Totenberg. The report alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed Anita Hill when he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The resulting hearings were televised nationally and in primetime, and Biden was accused of taking the allegations too lightly.

More often than not, Biden and Kennedy gave more than they got. Bork's defeat is considered the defining moment of the judicial wars of the last 30 years, leading to charges and counter-charges of who fired the first and worst shots. Kennedy's floor speech opposing Bork as an extreme conservative helped turn the nominee into a verb -- to be Bork'ed.

"I miss the bombast," confessed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former Judiciary chairman and a close friend of both Kennedy and Biden. "They added a lot of spirit to the hearings."

By Post Editor  |  July 14, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Supreme Court  
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Kennedy is a brain-dead blowhard. He has been a waste of air for the past 30 years.

Posted by: kmccorma | July 14, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Right - another example of someone who finds it more important to be a conservative than an American.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | July 14, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Kennedy was always one to let his personal liberal views come before the American beliefs and values.

Posted by: nubeldorf1 | July 14, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

there is no finer example for the need for term limits the Senator Kennedy.

Posted by: loudountaxrevolt | July 14, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Obama has picked Sonia Sotomayor, a radical, for his nominee to the Supreme Court. If her own statements are not enough to convince you of her racist attitude, perhaps the fact she belongs to an anti-white extremist group known as La Raza will.

... As Obama's Supreme Court nominee comes under heavy fire for allegedly being a "racist," Judge Sonia Sotomayor is listed as a member of the National Council of La Raza, a group that's promoted driver's licenses for illegal aliens, amnesty programs, and no immigration law enforcement by local and state police....

... According to the American Bar Association, Sotomayor is a member of the NCLR, which bills itself as the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S....

... Meaning "the Race," La Raza also has connections to groups that advocate the separation of several southwestern states from the rest of America....

... La Raza was condemned in 2007 by former U.S. Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., as a radical "pro-illegal immigration lobbying organization that supports racist groups calling for the secession of the western United States as a Hispanic-only homeland." ...

... Norwood urged La Raza to renounce its support of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan -- which sees "the Race" as part of an ethnic group that one day will reclaim Aztlan, the mythical birthplace of the Aztecs. In Chicano folklore, Aztlan includes California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Texas....

Sonia Sotomayor is not fit to be a Supreme Court Judge nor is she fit to be a judge in our country PERIOD.

Obama has made a major political mistake nominating a Hispanic Supremacist as his Supreme Court nominee.

STOP the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court - Contact the members of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Posted by: AJAX2 | July 14, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy's absence is well deserved and this leftwing loon will not be missed by the electorate. Good riddance! Biden's mouth always gets in the way of sane discussion, so his absence will also go unnoticed, except for the leftwing on the Judiciary Committee.

Posted by: nmg3rln | July 14, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

With Kennedy absent, the average IQ of the rooms participants and truthfulness of what is spoken is bound to skyrocket.

Posted by: Obama_THE_Liar_in_Chief | July 14, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm not one of the Kennedy haters that spring up every time his name is mentioned, but I do seem to recall that he didn't say 1 word during the Clarence Thomas hearings. He was a man shamed into silence by his past.

Posted by: bpai_99 | July 14, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

These first comments from the right wing exemplify the lack of civility in public discourse in our nation today. Senator Edward Kennedy, known on both sides of the aisle as "The Lion of the Senate", is criticized by a bunch of "no-nothings" who are not even half the man that Senator Kennedy is.

Regardless of his political philosophy, Senator Kennedy has contributed more to this great nation of ours that some of you will even think of doing. While you hide in anonymity and repeat scurrilous trash, that senator has worked for decades to make life better for American citizens. This is a man who is highly respected by both Democratic and Republican senators.

It is reprehensible that you should even be allowed to post your nasty drivel anywhere. But with freedom of speech comes consequences. One is having to read your tripe.

Posted by: marmac5 | July 14, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy's presence is hardly missed. What would he do in this case anyway? Probably waste valuable time praising this dingbat for her "principled" stand on aborted fetuses, set asides, giveaways and assorted entitlements to losers.

Tokenism is alive and well.

Posted by: magellan1 | July 14, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Not so much passing the torch but getting rid of instituationize corruption. We need to remove the career politicians after 2-terms, term limits now.

Posted by: goziner | July 14, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

kmccorma, nubeldorf1:

You typify the mean spirited, nasty, bitter, repugnant remnants of the party of Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Malkin, and Ann Coulter.

Keep it up! You'll be a permanent minority party for the short term and hopefully eventually banned to political oblivion in the long term.

Now go away. You are disgusting beyond the description of any words.

Posted by: montana123 | July 14, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor is exactly who we need to the job and if anyone has watched the questioners/doubters/ploys...they are really appearing foolish and innane..They border on laughable. She is one classy lady and will do a supreme job!

Posted by: Mamanomia | July 14, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy has been vicious in his questioning of Republican nominees for the Supreme Court and justly credited for breaking the etiquette of these hearings when he launched a vicious attack on Roberts. That isn't the type of credit a career politician should be proud of.

I hope that Sotomayor is up to the job and can judge things fairly for ALL Americans. However, the fact that Obama is pushing Latinos first and foremost for future votes, being his choice calls in to doubt that she won't lean towards rulings based on her minority experience, not necessarily the law.

Look at Ginsburg. Her ACLU association has made her dangerous. Any judge, and the liberal Supreme Court judges are going along with her, that believes not only the Constitution should be considered, but the rule of law of foreign nations as reasons for their decisions is about as unAmerican as it gets.

I hope that Sotomayor has the wisdom she professes to have in regards to the rights of All people. But, then again, although I didn't vote for Obama, I did hope that he would represent all Americans and my judgment of him was off base. So far, all I can say is that my decision not to vote for him was the right one for me.

Posted by: tinyt55 | July 14, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Article should be titled "The Passing of the Bottle"

Posted by: wburn42167 | July 14, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Sen Kennedy has two important anniversaries to observe within the next week: the 10th anniversary of JFK Jr's death and the 40th of Chappaquiddick. Three innocent young women gone due to arrogance.

Posted by: wagtdn | July 14, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

If Ted ( the Spanish exam cheater, car splasher, Jimmy Carter challenger and Bork revenger ) were there, he wouldn't be questioning her anyway, just heaping on praise. So... no difference.

Posted by: clankie | July 14, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

So we have a different bunch of old men.

Posted by: robinhood2 | July 14, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that the best Kennedys had the shortest lives.

Too bad for America.

Posted by: battleground51 | July 14, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Nuclear energy and military duty in Iraq are much safer than Ted Kennedy's car.

Posted by: middlejm1 | July 14, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy and Bryd should step down ASAP and let their Democratic gov's replace them so the senate may move forward with its business at hand.

Posted by: crrobin | July 14, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

When senators begin today their questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, it will mark the first time in more than four decades that a Supreme Court nominee has not undergone a cross-examination by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy while he has not been drunk. "Hell, I can drive a car with one hand on a bottle of Jack and the other one with my hand up some babe's skirt....BURP" Sloshed the old liberal drunkard. The senator was last seen staggering down the stairs of the capital yelling: "Where is my car? Gimme the keys, I'll show ya how to float it on the relection pond."

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | July 14, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

All I have read is a bunch of idiotic comments. Washington Post should shut down this site and let you morons vent somewhere else; perhaps a mental institution.

Posted by: happyone2 | July 14, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

ALL public servants (because thats what they are supposed to be) should have term limits. Ben Franklin insisted that service to your country not be a full time job or career - but that's what it has become, "the family business". The power of those entrenched as the "political elite" in Washington is out of control. That is why instituting term limits on ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS is the only way to limit the damage that can be caused by those who lack the character to assume such a role. Many members of Congress have served long than kings and dictators with lifetime appointments. Our founding fathers didn't want ANY politician's job to ever be safe or secure; they wanted our representatives to fear the people.

Posted by: amr2 | July 14, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Justice has finally been done.

For the first time in 4 decades an unconvited murderer (manslaughter) is not allowed to sit in judgement and alter the course of American justice.

Somewhere Mary Jo applauds...

Posted by: krankyman | July 14, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Well Whoop-dee-freakin-doo.

So the swimmer of Chapaquitic fame will not be asking questions of a supreme court nominee. How about the swimmer answer some questions of his own, instead of taking his secrets to the grave.

This here has been the prime example of consolidated power in America.

Posted by: alutz08 | July 14, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

All this shows is that these parasites are around way too long. We should have, we need, term limits. What complete arrogance these twits have to think they are the only ones who can do the job.

The founding fathers must be spinning in their graves.

Posted by: bandmom22 | July 14, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

so much for the kennedys and their attempt to acheive royalty. never charged,never indicted.what a wonderful bunch

Posted by: pofinpa | July 14, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

His absence leaves a hole in the committee that is impossible to fill: there is no other senator his equal at lying, womanizing, boozing, and cowardice.

Posted by: WylieD | July 14, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of his political philosophy, Senator Kennedy has contributed more to this great nation of ours that some of you will even think of doing.------------------

Yep he has drowned more girls and booze than I would ever think of doing. How could one not look up to this "great man".

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | July 14, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy is one day closer to burning in hell.

Posted by: cschotta1 | July 14, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

And perhaps after four decades we will be one day closer to no longer hearing about Camelot. "Passing the Torch" indeed. I thought he passed one to Obama. He didn't pass the torch to Jimmy Carter. He no longer carried one for Joan. Others just simply got extinguished by water. Oh, maybe he has a storeroom of torches to pass. Too bad Caroline dropped her torch. or maybe couldn't get it lit. I dunno.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | July 14, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

One of the posters said Sen. Kennedy let his personal liberal views come before American beliefs and values. That is not possible, because they are one and the same. Sen. Kennedy's liberal views, which I share, are truly those of American beliefs and values. His persence at Supreme Court confirmation hearings for the past 40 years have prevented our country from moving too far to the right. Hopefully now that the pendulum is moving in the other direction, the Supreme Court will be safe for another 40 years. Sen. Kennedy's service to our country has been exemplary.

Posted by: tedb1 | July 14, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I never thought Sen. Kennedy being anything more than a misguided fool.

Posted by: yokosuka1985 | July 14, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

One of the posters said Sen. Kennedy let his personal liberal views come before American beliefs and values. That is not possible, because they are one and the same. Sen. Kennedy's liberal views, which I share, are truly those of American beliefs and values.

Posted by: tedb1 | July 14, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

So sucking the brains out of a living fetus are trulyl American beliefs and values? Destroying the black family for political reasons are American beliefs and values? Why then do democrats run as conservatives come election time? Liberalism is a gutless decision that always fails in the end. Look at every American city run by liberals and what do you have? It aint PROSPERITY!!

LIBERALISM....A true mental disorder!

Posted by: cschotta1 | July 14, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I was a JFK and RFK fan. But Edward Kennedy, if he were a Republican, with the past that he has, would NEVER be in the Senate. Kennedy's behavior in the Alito hearing was apallling, whether Alito was qualified or not. He grilled Alito over some group he may or maynot have ever belonged to. Kennedy had NO evidence, no registration, no proff of actiivity that he had been a member. Yet Kennedy went on grilling him on something he had not done. The state of Massuchusetts should have full representation. With that I wish Kennedy the best health he can have.

Posted by: gsms69 | July 14, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Chappaquiddick made Kennedy unable to comment on anyone's ethics and morals over a long period of time. His liberalism is all about keeping poor people poor and dependent on the government. I have no respect for the man whatsoever. Unfortunately, the voters of Massachusetts are constitutionally powered to send him to the Senate.

Posted by: hz9604 | July 14, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

It looks like the 'LUNATIC FRINGE', of the Right Wing-nuts, jumped all over this article about Senator Kennedy.

All those 'GOD' Fearing spokespersons for the almighty, are really showing their 'TRUE', colors with some of their comments.

Posted by: austininc4 | July 14, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Alito '72 joined conservative alumni group
Concerned Alumni of Princeton known to be anti-coeducation
By Chanakya Sethi
Senior Writer

Published: Friday, November 18th, 2005

Near the end of his "Personal Qualifications Statement" for a high-level job in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, Alito wrote that he was "a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a conservative alumni group."

Interviews with several alumni who were students in the 1970s paint a picture of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) as a far-right organization funded by conservative alumni committed to turning back the clock on coeducation at the University.

Posted by: hads | July 14, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Did you see Barack Obama at that rally surrounded by all those Kennedys? Man, I couldn't tell if he was running for president or bartender.

Posted by: hunter340 | July 14, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Ted Kennedy - what a joke. His time has come and gone. After Mary Jo he should have gone to jail, but, NO! Daddy paid off and he went back as if nothing had happened. What an excuse for a man!

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | July 14, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

These hearings have been drained of a lot of their color as we no longer have the calming throaty purr of the "Lion of the Senate" circulating around this hearing room.
He's busy getting ready to level his final roar over on the health care debate.
No one who reads these personally disgusting remarks today, both here and on the articles about the Sotomayor hearings, could even remotely compare the comments made over the past years to the low-life contemptable personal remarks now being leveled against the members of the adminstration and their counterparts in Congress.
The minority GOP supporters and their party both need to be placed on suicide watch.
The failure of their mental health is beyond hope.
To describe their mental status as "barbaric" would be too, too kind.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | July 14, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

When I read the sympathetic "passing of the torch" remark the Kennedy-lovers just had to put in.....I confess my mental image was of Teddy passing a torch to a new member of the "Borking" lynch mob he helped institutionalize.

Kennedy proved that smear tactics and character assassination DO WORK for Democrats more often than not. Provided the justification and rationale to his tactics that since liberal issues like the right to abortion are so important, the ends always justifies the means.

His role in filibustering Estrada then his fumbling attempts to tar Roberts and Alito exposed him as the disgrace he is. Unfit for office but for the magic of his name and the preference in Massachusetts for dynastic rule.

One almost senses that the media is now writing these pieces with an eye to folding them into the lauditory, greater than Michael Jackson tribute in death they have planned for The Great Man of Camelot.
Excuse me if I pass on that, just as I passed on the idea I should be so grateful and worshipful to the life of the Great Man of "Thriller" fame.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | July 14, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

"Borking" joins "something-Gate" as a permanent part of our national language.

Posted by: hipshot | July 14, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Senator Kennedy was always a more interesting interlocutor than Senators Biden (see or ,Leahy or Schumer.

If a person could throw their electrolytes out of balance by suffering diarrhea of the mouth, Biden and Schumer would be long dead having suffered fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

Senator Kennedy has always stood for something deeper than the pleasure of hearing himself speak, perhaps because his choice to remain in public life was a risky one.

God bless him.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | July 14, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

How comical to read posts about "The Right Wing" and "Republicans" from the same classless trash that have been hurling insults for years. The best thing that could happen to America is the disappearance of this "Senator" and his embarassing, money grubbing, imperialist family that has done so much damage to the United States and it's image. His absence is a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: ftbindc | July 14, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

ftbindc wrote, "The best thing that could happen to America is the disappearance of this "Senator" and his embarassing, money grubbing, imperialist family that has done so much damage to the United States and it's image. His absence is a breath of fresh air."

There were 4 brothers. I guess that for you, this wasn't enough: 1 brother died flying ammunition during WWII. One brother, elected president, was killed by a communist sympathizer. One brother was killed by a Palestinian militant. The fourth and last brother, who remained in public life after seeing two of his brothers lose their lives to assassins, has cancer.

You Republicans are a neighborly bunch, eh?

Posted by: douglaslbarber | July 14, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

kennedy really should have the healthcare he proposes for the rest of would serve him right,and he would be doing the nation a favor by taking a dirt nap.
waxman is another example of the stupidity of the people. pelosi,boxer,and others they keep sending back from california make me feel less sorry for that state. the illegals are costing them billions,and they are not getting i o u s from the state. the american workers are. soon the administration will have the entire country in the same shape.
i do not blame anyone who voted for obama,i feel they really thought he would be a good change,except the fools who voted for him cause he is half black,but to see where he is taking the country and hurting the future of our children,and still support him is unamerican to say the least.hyp[nobamatized]is the proper word,and i wonder about traitor,now there is a word.

Posted by: silusdogood | July 15, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

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