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July 11, 2006

Jim Haynes' Hearing: Not a Pretty Sight

July 11, 2006 | By | No Comments

I was dropping the Little Woman off at Nordstroms and decided to spend a few hours in Your Nation’s Capital.

Watching a lawyer get beat up.

By some other lawyers. You’d think someone would be getting sued. But not in this venue — the Dirkson Senate Office Building, Room 226. This is the Judiciary Committee where Jim Haynes gave testimony to testy senators.

Today’s hearing was confrontational. The blood sport in DC.

Along with protesters. I stood next to a middle-aged fat-guy hippie with a TORTURE t-shirt. Very stylish.

I wander in and smile at a Maureen Dowd look-a-like at the press table. She didn’t smile back — must not have been her.

Soon after the hearing begins, one woman in an orange jump suit started shouting in an inappropriate “outside voice” (as would be described by parent to a child). She goes only a few seconds with “I’m an army colonel” and “Don’t confirm him” and how bad Haynes was for the Army. Before Specter angrily ordered her removed.

I’m disappointed that she is too quickly overcome. If she were really former Army, she’d put up more of a fight. Women in Combat and all that.

But Nina Totenburg started smiling. This was going to be a good show.

Haynes starts with family introduction family values stuff: Loyal wife of 24 years; three kids, public schools…whatever. Now I love this family stuff; I’ve got one too. But somehow, Haynes doesn’t pull off the sympathetic family-guy thing. Republicans are expected to be up-tight prudes. Not news. But it is a contrast.

To be questioned by Ted Kennedy. It is the odd nature of politics these days where conservatives make the move to being soft and cuddly and liberals pretend to be hard and warlike.

Ted Kennedy preaching obedience to the law. Goodness.

So Senators Kennedy, Durbin, Graham, Leahy let loose. Even the chairman Specter.

Republican Graham, from conservative South Carolina, also came out swinging.

And the punches landed. Blood on the walls. Even with Cornyn and Sessions saying the right, nice things couldn’t clear or clean it up.

But, as with everything in show business Your Nation’s Capital, Haynes didn’t have the stage presence of mind to counter senatorial heckling from the bench. He brought it on himself.

And he didn’t quite have his one-liners down. He starts with a story about his mentor musing that a lawyer, “Should never attribute to malice, that which can be attributed to stupidity.”

At which point I heard a Code-Pinker in front of me stage whisper, “So that makes us stupid?”

Which, of course, it does. But by now, even this early, the crowd was lost, the battle was lost. For Haynes.

I really don’t know what was worse: the contemptuous questions. Or Haynes’ gosh-awful answers.

My favorite exchange was from Leahy: Who told you, you would be a good judge?

Haynes, …the President must have thought…I would do a good job…

(When Haynes talked, there was a lot of ” … “.)

Leahy, Did the President ever say you’d be a good judge?

Haynes, No.

The crowd was stunned into silence. It is seldom that one sees such a punch-in-the-nose in public.

Leahy continues with the haymakers, Tell me about who first told you that you were to be nominated — when you first learned about being a judge on the Fourth Circuit.

Haynes, …I don’t remember…

Leahy, Can you tell us who first told you about being a judge?

Haynes, … [and] … [and some more]…[finally] I really don’t remember.

This is an odd answer from an afternoon filled with odd answers. There are events that release so much epinephrine that the memory is forever imprinted. Where You Were When Kennedy Was Shot. Where You Were When You Got Your Draft Notice. The NFL Draft Call. That Wife Stuff. Your Kids Being Born. The WTC Attack.

The Call To Be A Judge On The Federal Appeals Court.

Haynes doesn’t recall. Leahy says that in his 32 years in this business, “This is the first time a nominee didn’t remember The Call.”

How did Leahy know to ask that question? And know that he’d get such an embarrassing answer?

The audience shifts in their seats uncomfortably. Even those who don’t support Haynes now feel sorry for him.

Except for me. I’m hoping the Senators will ask Haynes about the Army placing women into combat, breaking rule and reg.

But all the Committee wants is to torture Haynes with torture. It seems that Haynes assembled a team of lawyers to fulfill a General’s request to use extraordinary means to get information.

They needed some clever wordsmithing to get around cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which is prohibited by law.

And Haynes came up with some very clever work-arounds. With which I would agree.

But.

But, the law is clear: we can’t do degrading things like having a terrorist walk around nude on leash. If the Army interrogator wants a nude terrorist on a leash, change the law.

Goodness: This is insane. Nekked arabs on a rope is not torture. But the wording of the law is clear. Change the law so that we can torture with sleep deprivation and forced viewings of The View.

Instead, Haynes is too clever by half. And changes the meanings of words. Haynes says that it depends, “[how you] define that phrase…” and stumbled over an answer on ‘degrading’ interrogation techniques.

The Judiciary Committee didn’t get to Women in Combat. But they didn’t have to. Haynes has shown us an unfortunate pattern of word-change-definitions. Something about defense of necessity and lawyerly talkie-talk which made it clear that he was making it up.

When the issue is: either obey the law, or change it.

Haynes may be complicit in the changing of definition on women in combat. Somewhere, someone with clever lawyerly oversight, changed the definition of “co-locate.” Where women are now being placed into army units that are required to be all-male.

The pattern on Haynes’ advice to the DoD on torture seems to be the same with the semantics of women in combat.

The control of the military is slipping from the President and Congress to Army lawyers who can re-define “degrading” and “co-locate” and lots of other words to do anything the Army wants.

Which is not always a bad idea. But change the law first.

Haynes should not be nominated, unless he answers questions about women in combat.

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Full Disclosure: I serve as the Vice President of the Center for Military Readiness.

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