COBURN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, and welcome to your family. I look forward to our time together this week.
The purpose of these hearings for me is not to examine or evaluate your professional qualifications. I think -- I think those are obvious.
But for me, it is to determine whether or not you have an appropriate judicial philosophy, and you and I discussed the fact that I gave a speech about a week ago on the floor that kind of lined up with what you said in 1995, the very fact that we have a relatively new phenomenon.
For the vast majority of this country's history, we didn't have these hearings. As a matter of fact, we looked at the record, we had individual meetings with -- with nominees, and they were voted on, and we didn't have this dance back and forth. And much as you described, the Bork hearings were what you thought were fantastic, and -- and I think that the quote was, The Bork hearings were great. The Bork hearings were educational. The Bork hearings were the best thing that ever happened to constitutional democracy.
I'm not sure I would go that far, but you and I are kindred spirits when it comes to whether or not the American people ought to know you, and know what you think, and know what you believe. And to do less than that on -- as far as this committee is concerned, we've done a disservice. All the back-and-forth you've heard about activist, non-activist, everything else, the fact is, is we know elections have consequences.
There is a group in America, though, that believes in strict constructionism. We actually believe the founders had preeminent wisdom, that they were very rarely wrong, and -- and that the modern idea that we can mold the Constitution to what we want it to be, rather than what that vision was, is something that's antithetical to a ton of people throughout this country.
So I'm -- really am going to want to know a lot about specific issues. And -- and as we talk about it, the question I would ask you to ponder is, should the American people really know what you believe before we install you for lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court? What -- what obligation do we have to make sure they know what your thinking is?
Whether it liberal or conservative, the fact is, is they ought to know Elena Kagan by the time of these hearings. And the only way they'll know that -- and you asked me for advice when we finished. And my advice to you is be absolutely completely honest with this committee.
And it's really not for the committee, because as our country is divided today, we're polarized. We're polarized regionally; we're polarized politically. What we have to have in whoever comes to the court is a confidence in their heart that they're going to do what's best in the long term for this country based on what that document says.
So my hope is -- is that, with your stellar academics and your stellar intellect, that your patriotism will be just as stellar, that, in fact, you will set a new course, to set a new precedent for this committee, so that we can once again -- the American people can find out what a justice is all about.
It's obvious -- this is my fourth Supreme Court hearing. It's obvious that what we've heard in the previous hearings are not predictive of the decisions of the nominees that came before the hearing. And -- and that's schizophrenic. Why -- why should we have this dance if we're not going to find out real answers about real issues about what you really believe?
So my hope is, is that you'll really do something great for the Senate, and great for the country, and set a new standard, and where you really answer questions. We're not asking you to violate judicial canons, but really give us answers, so the American people can rest assured that, when you go on the court, if you do, that they know Justice Kagan and they know what you -- and they believe what you said.
Because the real measure isn't what you say here. The real measure of the Supreme Court justices that we put on there is whether or not they've gained or lost the confidence of the vast majority of Americans in this country.
My hope is, if you're a justice, that the vast majority -- not a small majority, but the vast majority will learn to trust your judgment as you embrace the Constitution.
Mr. Chairman, I have a full statement I'd like for the record, and I yield back.