Patt Morrison

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The U.S. Senate Confirmation Hearings -- Bob Fosse Version?

The first Supreme Court nomination hearing I remember watching was Clarence Thomas', in 1991, and it set an unenviable standard of its own when it comes to the choreography of the hearings.

Ever since, there's been a safe predictability about these hearings and the roles and rituals everyone assumes: everyone knows he or she will be on camera, and performs accordingly, whatever party's in charge.

There's always the committee chair, presiding sometimes avuncularly [or whatever the ''aunt'' version of ''avuncular'' is], trying to handle the gavel with humor and a touch of asperity. There's the designated ''bad cop'' senator, or maybe two, doing the finger-pointing and the voice-raising. There's the peacemaker senator, reaching out to the witness with the ''isn't-what-you-really-mean-to-say'' helping hand.

And then there's the nominee. As David Savage, the Los Angeles Times' longtime Supreme Court reporter, agreed today, there's almost an interchangeability to some of their statements and answers, striving for the safe and noncommittal without sounding like their remarks have been cut and pasted from the ''The Supreme Court Nominee's Safe-Not-Sorry Senate Hearing Answers Handbook.''

In sum, a measure of carefully rationed sound and fury, signifying an ultimate ''yes'' vote.

So, unless there's some big news out of the hearings on Wednesday -- a ''meltdown,'' in Senator Lindsay Graham's words -- we're moving on to other news, like how Goldman Sachs made more than $3 billion in this supposedly wretched market. And the researchers who've found a gene that they believe can predict someone's predisposition to Alzheimer's disease, five, six, even seven years before it hits.

What I always want to know with these breakthroughs is, would you want to know? When there's virtually nothing that can be done to stop or cure it -- as is the case with Alzheimer's -- would you rather not find out? Or is it better to know, and prepare as you can?

Love to read your blog insights on this one.

Happy Bastille Day!

-- Patt Morrison

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