In a few minutes, the Alito hearing will begin with a whimper—a stultifying three hours of opening statements by Committee members (10 minutes for each of the 18 senators). Professions of openmindedness aside, it is a long shot that any Democrat on the Committee will vote for Alito’s nomination. Their opening statements will signal how vitriolic they intend to be as well as the lines of attack each will explore in questioning Alito.
At 3:45 or so, Alito will be introduced by two politicians from his home state of New Jersey, Senator Frank Lautenberg and former governor Christine Todd Whitman. Lautenberg, a liberal Democrat, voted against Roberts and will almost surely vote against Alito, so his remarks will not extend beyond the necessary courtesies. Whitman, a liberal Republican and President Bush’s former EPA head, should help neutralize the left-wing environmentalist rhetoric against Alito.
Finally, around 4:00, Judge Alito will be sworn in and will offer his opening statement. After more than two months of etiquette-demanded silence—or, worse, Democratic senators’ accounts of what Alito supposedly told them—this will be Alito’s first real opportunity since the announcement of his nomination to present himself to the American people.