Lovemaking and politics are perhaps best done behind closed doors. The former may be obvious, the latter far less so. Indeed, the trend has been to ever-greater openness in government, a trend that arguably improves public access but also comes at some significant cost. Under the spotlight, politicians increasingly play for the camera, hardening their positions and becoming less willing to compromise. And proof of that was on display (or not, as it turns out) last week when the US Senate met in a rare, secretive session for what turned out to be something akin to group therapy. The result may just herald a new day in the nation’s politics.
At issue was a process that is arcane: confirmation of presidential appointees. The president proposes and the Senate confirms — that’s the rule from the Constitution — and that power used to be exercised modestly. Not lately, however. Republican senators have taken to opposing nominees for reasons unrelated to their basic qualifications, largely, it seems, to torment and undercut the president.