Yesterday I went to see some of the Alito hearings. Democracy in action. I came away with a taste for the circus it really is.
In the Hart building, next to Union Station, we are walked under escort to the public gallery in the room where the hearings are held.
The place is at the same time intimidating and quite disappointing. It is a small hall compared to what I had envisioned but the ambience is quite formal and deferent.
The press tables are almost all empty (Alito himself has finished to testify so most of the press is gone). One journalist is clearly getting bored. He is quite young, with wavy hair and a suit in which he seems uncomfortable. A large yawn, his mouth open and no attempt to cover it. His laptop is open in front of him and after another large yawn, he starts cruising the net. I can see the "Google" screen and what seems to be a sport page right after. Another yawn. A young woman strolls by and he becomes animated. Because of the hearing, they can't talk, at least not loudly and he proceeds to tell her what seems to be a funny story because his face is laughing in anticipation of the punch line. I can see him mouthing "Oh My God!" as their discussion ends. She leaves and he gets back to yawning. Several seats away a woman is reading the "Style" section of the Washington Post. The most impressive, though, is the clear power emanating from the senators. They are seating in leather chairs, while everybody else is seating on small, simple chairs. They are looking down at the witness table and their every whim is answered by their staffers sited behind them. One senator turns his head half an inch. This is enough to get a young man lean toward him immediately. The senator first covers the microphone that is right next to him before whispering to the young man that is now kneeling right behind him. I can see he is taking orders, nodding his head slightly as the senator is speaking.
At the end of the day, I see two staffers, bent under the weight of the heavy files they are carrying, walking in the wake of the senator's stride. He is really striking. Tall with magnificent white hair, he is walking erect, his head high, scanning the room at the same time. All in him say poise and power.