Q: What did you make of today's proceedings?
Waller: Ronnie White obviously highlighted today's hearing he essentially saved his reputation today. It wasn't such a good day for Ashcroft: White's testimony may have tarnished the senator's reputation. But in the end it didn't hurt his chances for confirmation.
Q: Did the Republican committee members surprise anyone today?
Waller: The GOP played softball last week they'd threatened to draw the White testimony out and rehash his past alongside Ashcroft's, making it a sort of dual hearing. But the GOP must have decided they're ahead on points Ashcroft will be confirmed, so why have every civil rights and liberal group in the country up in arms over a harsh line of questioning?
So what you had instead was some Republicans essentially apologizing to White for their votes. That moved the proceedings along and also muted the possibility that White's testimony would be really explosive.
And White really helped out the Republicans by being low-key. He appeared before the Senate to salvage his good name, which he obviously did. If he splattered mud on Ashcroft in the process, so be it.
This was a very poignant moment for White the U.S. Senate apologized for the way they treated him. It was not a good moment for Ashcroft, who came across as a vindictive person who was trying to get back at someone.
Q: When are they hoping to wrap up these hearings?
Waller: The outside witnesses are going to continue for a while. [Vermont senator Patrick] Leahy, who is chairman of the committee until this weekend, is saying the hearings will go through Friday, but Orrin Hatch [who will take over as chairman] wants to wrap things up. He's angry that Leahy scheduled outside witnesses in the first place if he had been in charge, Thursday's testimony wouldn’t have happened at all.
Q: And then the committee will vote?
Waller: They'll probably vote in committee next week, and the vote will go to the Senate floor the week after that, at the earliest. Then, of course, there's always the possibility that Ted Kennedy will whip out the filibuster he's been threatening, but I'm not at all sure how viable that warning really is at this point.