Q: What was the tenor of Norton's first day of hearings?
Thompson: It's been gentle with the occasional tough question but not nearly as tough as Ashcroft's hearings. For the most part, Republicans have brought up grievances they have had with the Clinton administration and Democrats have brought up concerns raised by environmentalists.
Q: Have any particularly contentious issues come up?
Thompson: Surprisingly, no. Many of the most inflammatory issues raised by environmentalists were brought up and easily batted away. Norton even seems to believe in global warming, although she says she's unclear as to what the cause is and what impacts it might have.
Q: Has any one Senator (or group of Senators) emerged as particularly contentious interrogator(s)? Or as defender(s)?
Thompson: So far, as you might expect, Republican senators are her biggest fans. Not coincidentally, many of these senators are from western states, which have vast areas locked up as federal lands an issue that's likely to take a front seat during this administration.
Q: What's considered Norton's biggest stumbling block, if any?
Thompson: So far, the biggest problem to come out of the hearing is the traditional tug-of-war between local rights and national interests. Norton repeatedly says she wants to consult with locals to work out problems, but it is less clear what compelling national interests would be balanced against those local demands.
Q: What's the current outlook for Norton's confirmation?
Thompson: Barring a filibuster, she will easily be confirmed.
Q: How long are Norton's hearings expected to go on?
Thompson: They should end Friday.