08/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Running the Gauntlet

Running the gauntlet is a form of physical punishment wherein a man is compelled to run between two rows -- a gauntlet -- of soldiers who strike him as he passes.

What a great idea for our modern society to re-create. Of course we needed to change it a bit, but what the hell.

We are a handful of centuries removed from that ancient practice and we have managed to recreate the process in the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. They have the opportunity of having a nominee for the Supreme Court and verbally "strike" that person during their hearings. A person must want to have the appointment very badly to accept the "purportedly" honest questions from the committee members. They know that the event is being televised and most of them appear to relish their "Perry Mason" moment in order to show off on television. How very, very sad.

I have unfortunately seen snippets of the Sotomayor Senate hearings and have read news accounts of them. As an American, I think I understood "the offensive game" that was being played by most members of both parties.

Is this Byzantine process one that we as Americans be proud? Would these Senators be showing off were it not for the hearings being Televised, and excerpted for the Network news and shown on television stations in the senators home state? I doubt it.

Were they all interested in Judge Sotomayor's positions they could have gone through the only thing that really mattered, her past gazillion written opinions. That obviously would not do as it would deny them all the opportunity to be charming, or vicious, interested or petty, or whatever they believed that they were doing in their own self interest.

What in heavens name do they expect to determine about a judicial nominee? To me, they just make fools of themselves when they ask the smartest, or the most insipid, or the most hostile questions. The answers that they get have no relevancy whatsoever to the suitability of anyone to serve on the court.

Here a few of my nominees for the "most moronic" questions that I have come across while realizing that there are undoubtedly many that are worse.

Sen. Lindsey Graham showed once again his true colors when he asked Judge Sotomayor: "When you look at the evaluation of the judges on the second circuit you stand out like a sore thumb in terms of your temperament."

Was this a question? I think not. He went on to call Judge Sotomayor a "bully." How very brave of him. She is a highly respected Judge and how dare he say what he did knowing that she is unable to tell him "Lindsey, why don't you just go piss off."

"I do ask tough questions at oral argument," she responded, before Graham cut her off. "Are you the only one who asks questions at oral argument?" he asked.

"No," Sotomayor replied. "Not at all."

A serious Senator asking a serious question would not ask a question like that.

Senator Graham, who often stated that he liked Sotomayor personally and could end up voting for her confirmation, became even "stupider" and asked "Do you think you have a temperament problem?"

Surely psychotherapist Graham is in a position of making a determination in that regard and of course he expected that she would perhaps answer in the affirmative.

"No sir," Sotomayor replied. "I can only talk about what I know about the relationship with the judges of my court and the lawyers who appear regularly before our circuit. And I believe my reputation is such that I ask the tough question but I do it evenly to both sides."

I will now resist the temptation to move to the questions of that great American Legislator Senator Jeff Sessions.

Sessions managed to make this about his own out-of-touch views on race, as well as dragging his party into an abyss of a losing battle.

All of this is a confusing to me as an American as the process of "gauntlet running" might have been to me had I been around centuries ago.

I have observed the system for a long time and the "meaning" of dramas like these hearings escapes me.

I cannot stop thinking that our system allows this incredible charade to determine the qualifications of a known entity with years of a written record, how great it would be to see these pillars of integrity asking questions of Sarah Palin.

I would like to understand this process.

And only after that can a reasonable person describing the process say: Let the games begin.

Shame on the process, Shame on the Senate.