As the rhetoric escalates over President Obama's nomination of judge Sonia Sotomayor, the confirmation process promises to reveal both the good and bad of our separation of powers. But consider that for the first 150 years of our nation's history, confirmation hearings were viewed with contempt. Or that state judges were not always elected officials.
At last summer's Aspen Ideas Festival, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Yale law professor Stephen Carter participated in a lively panel discussion: The Single Worst Thing About How We Choose Our Judges. Their verdict, to paraphrase President Lincoln when discussing the nomination of Salmon P. Chase as chief justice: We cannot ask a man what he would do as a justice; And if he should tell us we would despise him for it.