Confirmation hearings haven't always been so newsworthy. But times, television and twitter have changed all that.
David Ayres, who currently serves as CEO of The Ashcroft Group, helped to oversee numerous confirmation battles when he worked in government both helping to defeat nominees and get them confirmed.
"It's Washington's bloodsport," he said in an interview. "It's like the gladiator going into the arena and the public watching." His advice? "Being calm, being human, turning the other cheek, is really something that people appreciate."
Ayres often reminded nominees that the senators were coming in with their own agendas and causes and it helped to understand them. "They may have personal issues that they care about, and they are trying to set a tone for the administration, either positive or negative," he said.
In the olden days, said Paul Collins, professor of legal studies at the University of Massachusetts, the hearings were more pro forma.
"Nominees didn't really receive a lot of scrutiny from the Judiciary Committee," said Collins, the author of "Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change." "Rather, their confirmations tended to sail through the process without much difficulty."
"The hearings were perfunctory, the senators gave the president the benefit of the doubt and the only the question was 'is he qualified,' " said Tom C. Korologos, who worked as a sherpa for nominees starting in the 70s.
"Now, Congress has made them very ugly and politicized," he said.
"They have become a political spectacle where the hearing isn't about the nominee -- it's about the members of the committee asking questions and making statements. The system has gone awry and it's a shame."
Korologos remembers once when he looked a State Department employee in the eye and asked him if there was anything in his record that would embarrass the president.
"I told him he could bank on being asked about it."
He said the employee later withdrew because "I hit a nerve."
Once, he said, he assisted the hearings for Nelson A. Rockefeller to be vice president. Rockefeller asked him whether his financial disclosure statement would be made public.
Korologos was surprised when Rockefeller expressed concern about his image. Rockefeller said his friends and colleagues "are going to realize I'm not as rich as they think I am."
- Faculty News