High court nominees face feast or famine -- State Journal editorial from 25 years ago

July 21, 2018

This State Journal editorial ran on July 22, 1993:

The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been called a “lovefest” because liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike seem to have warmed to the 60-year-old federal judge. Maybe the panel’s questions of Ginsburg ought to get a bit tougher, but better a lovefest than a witch hunt, which is what some recent nominees have confronted in the Senate.

Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas went through the wringer during their hearings, with Bork failing to win a seat on the nation’s highest court, and Thomas narrowly winning confirmation. No one disputed that Bork was a man of high intellect, experience or character, but he was savaged for ideological reasons. There were much more serious questions about the qualifications of Thomas, but senators brushed those aside in favor of a more sordid examination of sexual harassment allegations.

Somewhere in between a lovefest and a witch hunt is where Senate confirmation hearings ought to fall. Dispense with the saccharine speeches made by committee members (including Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl), but also spare us mean-spirited attempts to ruin a nominee’s reputation to the point that he or she may never recover. Neither extreme serves the public very well.

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