"It’s kind of interesting, this kabuki dance we do in these hearings here.”
— Senator Joe Biden during the 2005 confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
NEIL GORSUCH, tall and dapper in a finely cut blue Italian suit, enters the chambers of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After shaking hands with friends and colleagues, the nominee takes his seat at the witness table. A colored curtain hangs across the chamber blocking his view.
From the back of the room, the sound of woodblocks clapping. Soft and slow to start, then increasing in speed, volume, intensity. The curtain opens from left to right. Dressed in brightly colored kimonos and dramatic makeup, the members of the Committee — or at least those who are not out fundraising — sit silently and motionlessly on the stage. Each holds a long sword.
DICK DURBIN (D-IL) sits on the left side of the stage playing his Shamisen, a traditional three-string wooden instrument that sounds like the slaughter of ducks. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA) taps a small drum. The music continues like this for twenty-five minutes.
From below the stage a platform rises. On the platform: CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA).
GRASSLEY: I am Chuck Grassley. Ancient like the wind!
Dramatic additional clapping of woodblocks. Grassley poses in a position of strength, staring at the nominee with an expression of quiet dignity forged from years of destroying the weak. He holds this pose for eleven minutes, during which time the nominee pours and drinks four glasses of water and blows his nose three times. Finally, Grassley beckons the nominee to speak through a series of complex hand movements.
GORSUCH: Right. Yes. Umm, it is a pleasure to be here, Mr. Chairman. I am looking forward to talking with you and the members of this committee about my qualifications to serve as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. If I could begin with a statement regarding my judicial philosophy…
The stage begins to revolve. The members of the committee stand and twirl. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX) pantomimes the chopping of vegetables. The aged Grassley wobbles a bit on his platform, but with the help of MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI), who is known for working “across the aisle,” he regains his balance.
GORSUCH: Well, as I was saying, I believe in a so-called originalist and textualist reading of the Constitution…
AL FRANKEN (D-MN) stops twirling and rushes toward Gorsuch, sword aimed at the nominee’s jugular vein.
FRANKEN: I’ll cut your fucking throat out!
The curtain closes.
When the curtain opens, the members of the Committee are dancing to the sound of high-pitched flutes.
SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Blah, blah, blah. Blahblahblah?
LINDSAY GRAHAM (R-SC): Well, blah, blah, blahblahdeey, blah.
GORSUCH: I don’t want to answer your questions, but I don’t even understand you well enough to credibly evade them.
AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Blah, blah, blah. Blah.
The members of the committee join with their colleagues to create a true cacophony of inarticulate and pointless questioning.
GORSUCH: Perhaps if we rescheduled…
Suddenly, from behind the nominee appears a defeated figure, dressed in tattered rags, throwing back slugs of liquor from a brown bottle. The man walks through the audience towards the stage on the raised platform known as the hanamichi. A confused Gorsuch watches in silence. The committee members are clearly rattled by the man’s unexpected appearance. Durbin starts up with his Shamisen again.
GRASSLEY: Could it be? Is that?
FRANKEN: It’s Merrick Garland!
Garland pulls a small knife from his trousers and stabs himself in the stomach. He collapses on the ground.
From the side of the stage, where he has been speaking to a paper fox, PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT) unsheathes his sword.
LEAHY: I will avenge the ruin of the great Garland!
To the sound of woodblocks clapping toward a crescendo, Leahy rushes Grassley, who is unaware of his impending doom.
But at the last second, from a wire transfixed to the ceiling descends TED CRUZ (R-TX), who, complete asshole that he is, has not even bothered to don an appropriate outfit. Wearing a sweater and chinos, but wielding a pair of nunchucks, Cruz blocks Leahy’s advance. A full-on brawl now breaks out between the Republican majority and the Democratic minority, swords slashing in rhythmic and stylized battle.
GORSUCH: I don’t think courts should defer to administrative agencies.
ACTS THREE AND FOUR
Basically more of the same, with all the battles and the difficult music and such. The Senators engage in a series of dramatic poses, feints, and dodges with each other. At some point, Gorsuch figures what the hell and throws on a kimono, offering himself as a weapon to whatever side wants to hurl him against the other, none of which matters to the nominee because, well, nobody really believes the filibuster is going to mean jack shit anymore, amiright?
(the Kyu, a short and satisfying conclusion)
As the curtain opens for the last time, the nominee is back behind the witness table, and the committee members are sitting on stage. Grassley stands atop the podium, Garland’s crumpled body at his feet.
GRASSLEY: Okay, then, the vote is 11-9, so off you go, Judge Gorsuch, or should I say Justice Gorsuch?
GORSUCH: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking with you and the committee regarding my judicial philosophy.
The Democrats all shrug. Everyone stands and exits the room. The only human form remaining in the empty chamber is Garland’s lifeless corpse. The lights dim. The paper fox falls over. The world ends.