Anybody who watched Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy and ranking member Jeff Sessions on Meet the Press yesterday were treated to an entirely unusual spectacle: a Democrat and a Republican talking about a hot political issue without tearing each other's heads off.
It was completely weird.
Leahy and Sessions debated the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court for minutes on end with nary a piece of spittle flying. Sessions made no insane absolutist statements about Judge Sonia Sotomayor being the literal reincarnation of Satan, and Leahy laid down no declarations about his Senate colleagues being a pack of angry racist yokels. Instead, viewers were treated to a good amount of respectful point/counterpoint, ending without neither senator demanding a duel with pistols in the green room.
While the rhetoric from both left and right-leaning special interest groups and non-elected personalities might be getting a little overheated, it's nice to see that the people with actual power in Washington are trying to behave more like adults.
Perhaps it's that, appearances aside, there's so little at stake. An incoming liberal justice (and there's some argument about how liberal she actually is) replacing an outgoing liberal justice will not alter the current balance of the court. Senate Republicans will probably not be able to pull off a filibuster even if they want to. They might as well keep their powder dry for when Obama nominates a raving leftist loon to replace Justice Kennedy.
As a result, Republicans and Democrats alike can act like they're actually interested in learning more about Judge Sotomayor's judicial philosophy during her confirmation hearings. It may not be the kind of EXPLOSIVE SHOWDOWN that gets crazy ratings on the cable news, but a little boredom isn't always such a bad thing.