As a warning just in time for next week’s hearing, humorist Dave Barry’s month-by-month summary of 2005 included these items:
[January:] In other government news, President Bush’s nominee to be attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, undergoes a grueling Senate hearing in which Democrats probe him repeatedly about his views on torture. At one point, the Democrats threaten that, if Gonzales does not give them the information they want, they will force him to listen, without ear protection, to a question from Sen. Joe Biden. “No!” screams Gonzales. “Anything but that!”
[May:] The Senate reaches an agreement ending a stalemate over the confirmation of Bush-appointed judges, thus avoiding the so-called “nuclear option,” under which Sen. Joe Biden would be allowed to ask a question, thereby shutting the federal government down for months.
[June and July:] The Supreme Court, in a Solomonic ruling on a display of the Ten Commandments at the Texas Capitol, allows the display to remain, but orders the state to correct all 137 spelling errors. The Supreme Court remains in the news in . . . JULY . . . when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces her retirement, setting off a heated debate between right-wing groups, who think the president should appoint a conservative to replace her, and left-wing groups, who think the president should drop dead. Eventually Bush nominates a man going by the moniker of “John Roberts,” who, in the tradition of recent Supreme Court nominees, refuses to reveal anything about himself and wears a Zorro-style mask to protect his secret identity. In response, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Joe Biden, vow to, quote, “get on television a lot.”
[September:] In non-hurricane news, the Senate confirms the Supreme Court nominee known as “John Roberts” after the Judiciary Committee spends several fruitless days trying to trick him into expressing an opinion by asking trap questions such as, “Can you tell us the capital of Vermont and your views on abortion?” The only moment of drama comes when Sen. Joe Biden launches into his opening remarks, thus causing several committee members, who forgot to insert earplugs, to lapse into comas.