If nothing else, the recently concluded Senate confirmation hearings of judge John Roberts proved two things. 1) Roberts is perhaps the most qualified nominee for the Supreme Court in its history and 2) liberals are at their most entertaining when they are frustrated.
For the most part, the hearings consisted of Senators preening for the cameras (and the activists watching back home) and asking questions they knew Roberts, or any other judicial nominee, wouldn't, couldn't or shouldn't answer. For them, this was their occasional "fifteen minutes" with guaranteed TV exposure.
The old Senate liberal war-horse, Ted Kennedy was fairly lackluster compared to his performance in the 1986 Robert Bork hearings. In fact, he was so "into" these hearings that he left his seat a good part of the time to go on camera with various news networks to give "analysis". Sort of like a confirmation hearing "play-by-play", with Teddy giving the liberal color commentary.
On the other hand, Senator Chuck Schumer couldn't wait to take the stage. So much so that in his opening statement, Schumer referred to himself forty-nine times.
Throughout his questioning Schumer claimed that he only wanted to know if Roberts was a "mainstream conservative" instead of an "ideologue", insincerely implying that there was a chance he might vote to confirm him. The record shows differently. This is the same Schumer who has opposed every contested Bush nominee to the federal bench and who held confirmation hearing "practice sessions", using a Harvard lawyer to play the part of Judge Roberts and submit to his inquisition rehearsal.
Since joining the committee, Schumer has been on a mission to re-define the standards for judicial confirmations by attempting to force nominees to endorse a broad menu of policy positions, all liberal of course. In other words, further politicize the judiciary.
In a way, Schumer did a favor for every judge who will follow in the future, as Roberts didn't fall for the trap and, as a result, has further established precedent for not taking such positions as a prequalification for confirmation.
Senator Joe Biden, after having rambled constantly and interrupted Roberts repeatedly, (to the point of being called down by the chairman twice), then had the gall to accuse Roberts of trying to "filibuster". And yes, he actually said it with a straight face. For the record, according to Judiciary Committee transcripts, during her confirmation hearings Justice Ginsburg answered two-hundred and sixteen questions. Roberts answered five-hundred and ten.
Biden went on to accuse Roberts of "misleading" the Committee with his answers, (the politically polite way of calling someone a liar). This is the same Biden who, after the hearings were over told Roberts he was "one of the best witnesses to come before this committee."
Then we had Senator Arlen Specter (a Republican no less), the moderate but supposedly chastened committee chairman attempting to pin Roberts down on Roe vs. Wade, and in the process create a whole new variety of stare decisis. In probing Roberts, Specter asked if he felt that Roe was a "super-duper precedent". This as opposed to your average, ordinary run-of-the-mill precedent. What about "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious precedents"? Clearly, we need to invent a whole new lexicon here.
The type of questions senate liberals persisted in were the same type of questions that Senator Biden told Justice Ginsburg that she shouldn't answer over ten years ago. The type of questions that sought to ascertain Roberts' positions on issues of policy in such a way that, if answered at all would have left him open to the charge of pre-judging various cases and if answered the way the liberals wanted, would have committed him to being a judicial activist in the true sense of the term.
Lately, liberals have attempted to re-define the phrase "judicial activism" to mean anything that overturns an act of Congress, a Supreme Court precedent (read: Roe vs. Wade), any newly discovered constitutional "right", big-government, or pretty much just liberalism in general.
The liberal attempt to redefine judicial activism has come as a political necessity in the face of conservatives' successful demonization of liberal judicial activists and their efforts to reinterpret the Constitution and impose policy outcomes as opposed to ruling on the law and staying within the boundaries established by an original understanding of the Constitution.
The problem is that liberals can't be consistent in their philosophy and must twist themselves into indefensible contortions to avoid saying what they really want, which is for judges to defend liberal precedents and reinterpret the Constitution where needed to reach the outcomes they desire.
The problem with liberals trying to peg Roberts as an "activist" (other than it being ludicrous to begin with) was three-fold: 1) they had no ammunition to substantiate the charge, 2) Roberts refused to supply them with any and 3) it's just not true.
This left the liberals on the committee quite frustrated, and there are few things as entertaining as a frustrated liberal.
Now we approach the effort to fill the next vacancy, that being the O'Connor seat and roundly understood to be a "swing" seat. If you thought these guys were entertaining during a hearing to replace one conservative with another, just wait until they're faced with the possibility of a conservative replacing a moderate. Hold on to your funny-bone.