Setting: Inner Sanctum of Senate Chambers. The Hearing has just convened.
Characters: The usual gaggle of senators and their hangers-on; Judge Alito and his wife; no photographers, no recording devices. Microphones are decorative only.
Senator Specter (banging gavel): This hearing is now convened!
Senator Kennedy (awaking; startled): What? What’s happening?
Specter (to Alito): Your Honor, on your honor, are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?
Judge (blanching): No. Unequivocally. No!
(Senator Graham marks an “X” on his list.)
Senator Graham: Your Honorableness, Did you take an active role, or even a not-so-active role, in the attacks on the United States on September 11th?
Judge: In all candor, I did not.
Graham (to others): I believe we can consider that a “No.”
(Murmured assent, as Graham marks another “X” on his list. Soft weeping in the background from Mrs. Alito.)
Specter: Judge Alito, I would like you to consider your next answer very carefully now.
Judge: Yes, sir.
Kennedy (awaking; to Alito): Was that your answer?
Judge (confused): I don’t know … What was the question?
Kennedy: Ah, we ask the questions hea …
Specter (through gritted teeth): If my esteemed colleague would permit me to continue.
(Kennedy nods; then nods off.)
Specter: Judge Alito, are you one of the 100 alleged siblings or 24 alleged children of Osama bin Laden?
Judge: I think I can make an unqualified response to that. Even the most scrupulous perusal of my genealogy reveals no deoxyribonucleic acidic linkages to the bin Ladens.
Specter: Ah, yes, ah … (Pause) And, ah, what exactly is that?
Judge: No DNA linkages --
Kennedy (awaking): What’s that about the NSA?
Judge: -- between the bin Ladens and the Aliotos.
Graham: I believe we can consider that another “No.” (Marks his paper.)
Kennedy: Did he say something about the NSA?
(Mrs. Alito blows her nose softly in background.)
Senator Leahy: I’ve got to ask you a difficult question now, Judge.
Judge (gripping the table’s edge; steeling himself). Yes.
(Graham makes a “check” mark on his list.)
Leahy: I have to ask this, you understand. To set the record straight … Have you ever had an abortion?
Mrs. Alito: Oh!
Judge: I believe I can answer that with an unqualified no.
Specter: Er, I think we can, I think we can put that line of questioning to rest now.
(Murmured assent. Kennedy mumbles something in his sleep. He is elbowed by one of his aides.)
Kennedy (confused; drowsy): Time to eat?
Leahy (to Specter): I believe Senator Kennedy would like to continue along that line.
Specter (to Kennedy): Would you like to continue along that line?
(Kennedy turns to his aide who fills him in.)
Kennedy (ebulliently): Ah, yes, I, ah, certainly would. (Pause, as he shuffles some papers.) I certainly would, ah, like to continue along that line. (Moves his glasses to the edge of his nose; peers over to Alito--) Your Honorabilis, it’s important we should know this, this, ah, that is, ah, how you would rule on this in the event of, ah, and so forth … So, I’d like to ask you now, If, in the future you say, ah, say you should suddenly become, ah, a, ah, a transsexual, and you, ah, you know, you, ah, go all the way, you, ah, do the clipping and the nipping and, ah, you, ah, ah, get knocked up, so to speak, would you, ah, would you or would you not then consider having an abortion?
Mrs. Alito: Oh my God! (She cries louder.)
Judge (maintaining composure): It is impossible to determine the multiplicity of possible court cases upon which I would be required to render an opinion.
Kennedy: So, then, you would not have an abortion?
Judge: I cannot render an opinion upon such a contingency … In the event that …
Kennedy: So, you would recuse yourself?
Judge: It is impossible to say …
Graham: Senator Kennedy!
Specter: If my esteemed colleague would kindly refrain from this line of questioning ...
Judge (continuing): In light of the principle of Sartor Resartus, I would be obligated to consider the question of recusal if such question actually impinged upon my obligations under the Constitution.
Graham: I think we can call that a “No.” (Makes another “X” on his list.)
Judge (continuing): On the other hand, under Sartor Resartus, it is incumbent upon recumbent judges to officiate as to the question of “originalism” as delimited by the Constitution.
Kennedy: What does a novel by Thomas Carlyle have to do with, ah, any of this?
Specter: Yes, well, I think we can get on with …
Judge (no longer able to constrain himself): My grandparents were immigrants! My family was poor! We ate gnocchi and marinara sauce three times a week!
(Mrs. Alito crying loudly in background now. Blows her nose loudly.)
Graham (earnestly): Mr. Alito, are you a good man?
Judge: Yes. I --
Graham (very earnestly): Of course you are! (To Kennedy and Leahy --) I must say, I am ashamed, I am ashamed by the conduct of my colleagues!
(Mrs. Alito runs out of the room, her high heels clicking plaintively up the aisle.)
Graham (continuing; to Kennedy and Leahy--) Are you happy now?
(Kennedy shakes his head. Leahy sighs heavily.)
Graham: I want to apologize. I want to apologize to you, Judge. And to your family. How dare we question you? How dare we presume to doubt your --
Kennedy: Yes, well that’s all very apropos and all, but, ah, I want to ask about this hea, ah, this hea, application, this, ah, job application, in which you cite your membership in this, ah, this, ah, group at Princeton which seems to, ah, be against the increasing enrollment of blacks and, ah, women at Princeton. I mean, ah, of all the things you could have cited, why, ah, why that?
Judge: I was 35 when I wrote that application. My views have changed.
Kennedy: Ah, and that’s what I’m trying to determine hea… At what point, ah, would you say they, ah, changed?
Judge: It is impossible to say at what precise point it was. I was reading something by Stephen King and I had an insight.
Kennedy (incredulous): Stephen King gave you an insight?
Judge: That is how I remember it …
Kennedy: And, ah, and where did this take place?
Judge: I don’t know if I am at liberty to divulge --
Kennedy: You are under oath, Sir!
Judge: It was in a restroom on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Kennedy: Oh, ah, I see. And, ah, and, ah …
Specter: Senator. Kennedy!
Kennedy: Yes, ah, just a moment! (To judge -- ) And, ah, you feel you should not, ah, be held, ah, responsible for your ideas from so long ago. People change?
Judge: That is generally recognized … yes …
Kennedy: And, ah, it is possible that other people, ah, other people can change also?
Judge: I … ah … yes … I … It is not really in my purview to…
Kennedy: But, it is, ah, possible?
Specter (his hand over the decorative mic): Mr. Kennedy, where is this going?
Kennedy: I am trying to make a point hea. If you will kindly forbear--
Specter: I am forbearing, Sir!
Kennedy: Just, ah, just a little then --
Specter: Yes, well …
Kennedy: We are executing people for crimes they committed as teenagers, decades before.
Specter: Yes, well, what has that to do with a purple cow?
Leahy: I think I understand where the Senator is going with this. I --
Specter: Yes, well, let’s get on with it.
Kennedy: Yes, well, then, you see, (to Judge --) I was just, ah, wondering, ah, Is it possible that Stephen King will give you another insight? Is it possible, ah, that you will have an insight about abortion, thanks to Mr. King? In that case, ah, if you should become a transsexual sometime in the future, and, ah, you get, ah, knocked up, so to speak, is it possible you would then want to have an abortion?
(Mrs. Alito enters chamber with Dick Cheney.)
Cheney (angry; face flushed red, clenching his teeth, his hand over his heart; rushing towards podium; snarling--): This is an outrage!
Leahy: But, but --
(Cheney stands by Alito’s side. Pounds the table. Water pitcher and glasses spill over.)
Cheney: This charade must end!
Leahy: This is a Senate hearing. The Executive Branch has no authority here. This, this --
Cheney: This country is under attack! We are at war! Wrap it up!
Graham (calmly, to Alito): Thank you very much, Your Honor. I don’t know when I’ve had a more enlightening experience and --
Leahy: But, but --
Specter: I think we can bring this hearing to a conclusion then. This hearing is adjourned.
Leahy: But, but --
Kennedy (to aide) Is it over?
Graham (to Specter): I think it went very well.
Kennedy: Is it time to eat?
(Judge Alito and Mrs. Alito embrace and kiss wildly. Suddenly, strains of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” flood the chamber as a golden light falls over all.)
Gary Steven Corseri’s articles, poetry, fiction and dramas have appeared at DissidentVoice, CounterPunch, CommonDreams, The New York Times, PBS -- Atlanta, Villlage Voice and elsewhere. His books include: A Fine Excess; Holy Grail, Holy Grail; and Manifestations (edited). He can be reached at: email@example.com
Other Articles and Poems by Gary Corseri
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