This is not a good excuse
From the New York Times by way of AMERICAblog, we get this as a partial explanation for the Democrats' weak showing at the Alito hearings:
Democratic aides said there had been even less strategy than usual in trying to coordinate the questioning by the eight Democratic senators. The situation was complicated because senators and staff were out of Washington before the hearing.Gee, guys, next time there's an appointment to the Supreme Court at stake, do you think you could get your asses where you need to be? It's hard to imagine what you had to do that was more pressing.