While Democratic committee members, including Edward Kennedy and Russ Feingold, apologized profusely for the way White was treated during confirmation hearings for a federal judgeship, the expressions of regret seemed to be aimed more at Republicans who voted against White's confirmation than at White himself. "In my view, what happened to you is the ugliest thing that's happened to any nominee in all my years in the United States Senate," Kennedy told White, shooting angry glances at his colleagues. White thanked the Senate for allowing him to "clarify" his record, which he says Senator Ashcroft "seriously distorted" during his 1999 confirmation process. Ashcroft is widely credited with derailing White's nomination and some of the senator's opponents have suggested his opposition was race-based.
For their part, Republican committee members spent a fair amount of their time congratulating Judge White for his accomplishments, citing his difficult childhood. And while the intent was likely friendly, the result was spectacularly condescending. Alabama's Jeff Sessions, in particular, showered Judge White with a lengthy (and indefinably offensive) commendation, in which the senator seemed utterly amazed by White's successful career and urged White to appreciate the "august" post he had somehow managed to attain.
White plowed through the questioning with good grace, responding quietly and briefly to long and often convoluted lines of debate regarding his record on death penalty cases, his attitude toward prosecutors and his conflicting reputations as a "liberal" (read: soft on crime) or "moderate" (read: soft, but not quite as unpalatable). In a bizarre twist, White found himself proudly agreeing with California's left-leaning Dianne Feinstein as she trumpeted his reputation for upholding the vast majority of Missouri's death penalty convictions. (Take that, conservatives our guy can knock off criminals just as well as anyone you've put on the bench.)