Senate Confirmation Hearings- What Isn’t Said (but REALLY is Said)

Senate Confirmation Hearings- What Isn’t Said (but REALLY is Said)

On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Christopher A. Wray appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions regarding his nomination to become the eighth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His selection by President Donald Trump, to lead this embattled bureau, falls on the heels of James Comey’s firing in early May of this year.

There is little doubt as to his qualifications to lead the FBI, just as there was little doubt as to the qualifications of any or all of President Trump’s cabinet-level appointees, since the new president took office in January, 2017. By all accounts, Wray is a fine man, a distinguished professional and completely lacking in all of the dramatic flair and self-absorption that was the essence of Director Comey’s persona. In essence, he will prove to be the healing salve of an investigative agency that has grown far too political, given the apolitical nature of what the FBI is supposed to be. Once again, President Trump has hit a home run with this selection.

What has come to light during his confirmation hearing is the ironic nature of all such confirmation hearings in the age of Trump. Senate confirmation hearings are supposed to be designed to reveal the attributes, the strengths and, yes, the possible shortcomings of any given nominee- all in an effort to determine the suitability of such nominee, commensurate with the constitutional advice and consent function of the U.S. Senate. The irony is that, in the current administration, these hearings reveal far more about the senators asking the questions than they do the person being questioned.

While the mainstream media- the entire mainstream media- routinely refers to such hearings as “grilling,” a far more accurate depiction would be “inquisition,” something akin to the “Spanish Inquisition” farcical skits performed in the “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” television shows, broadcast on the BBC from 1969 through 1974. What is supposed to be non-partisan has become a partisan free-for-all, intent on scoring political points rather than uncovering the qualifications of a nominee.  In doing so, the political motivations and tawdry character flaws of the questioners are thus revealed in the nature of the questions being asked.

A cursory viewing of the questions asked by senators in Christopher Wray’s nomination hearing can be summed up as the questions tacitly, but not expressly, asked, based upon the three partisan factions of the committee’s members:

Democrats (all of them): “We hate Donald Trump, and we intend to seek his impeachment, hopefully with your help. Even though we have not as yet found any evidence of collusion or obstruction, will you help us get Trump by reporting back to us anything you see as evidence of our doubts as to his suitability to be president, and will you help us to destroy his family (i.e. Donald Trump, Jr.) if we cannot destroy the president, himself?”

NeverTrump Republicans (i.e. Senators Graham (R-SC), Sasse (R-NE) and Flake (R-AZ ): “We, too, hate Donald Trump. In our hatred of him, we need your help to bring him down by informing us when (not if) he asks you to do something that we would find offensive or that you will (not would) find unethical. Will you commit to come to us and tattle on the president anytime it would help us in our mission to avenge Jeb Bush by bringing Trump down?”

Remaining Republicans: “It really doesn’t matter who is president, and whether or not we supported Donald Trump’s election is beside the point. Will you commit to not referring to ‘investigations’ as ‘matters,’ will you let us know if the president or a future president has secret meetings on an airport tarmacs with the spouses of presidential candidates, and will you let us know if Bob Mueller is not getting the support he needs from the bureau?”

In other words, questions posed to fine men and women, by lessers who pretend to serve the country, but really are there to enjoy sumptuous free lunches in the Senate dining room and avoid the difficult tasks associated with legislation and serving the needs of the country which elected them in the first place.

In a word…pathetic.


-Drew Nickell, 12 July 2017

© 2017 by Drew Nickell, all rights reserved.

author of “Bending Your Ear- a Collection of Essays on the Issues of Our Times”

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