In coverage of the Alito confirmation hearings, references to "Kabuki," "Kabuki dance," or "Kabuki theater" keep coming up. Even participants in the hearings like Senator Joe Biden made them.
MSNBC commentator Flavia Monteiro Colgan writes: "Most of the public that could have been interested in weighing these issues had tuned out because of the air of inevitability that Democrats had fostered--or they were turned off by the Kabuki theater of the previous days." Commentator Carol Platt Liebau writes, "we’re treated not to a hearing, where issues and concerns will be thoroughly but impartially aired, but instead to a stylized kabuki ritual, where Judge Alito’s adversaries will attempt to draw blood...." ("Draw blood"? That's some ritual!)
The Jurist has an article entitled "Of Kabuki Dances and Subtle Minuets."
The cliched phrase is usually used to refer to highly regulated yet empty movements, though Salon bungles that somewhat. They've got: "The moribund hearings have been as predictable as a Kabuki drama." Predictable? Can you really imagine the Salon writer in a Kabuki theater slapping his forehead and saying, "Not this again!"?
While in Japan, I never caught a Kabuki performance, but I did see a Noh play. I thought Kabuki was the highly-stylized and ritualistic Noh's wilder offspring. Maybe Noh is what these commentators really mean.
Anyway, "Kabuki" or "political Kabuki" seems to be a meme that's gathering steam, as Language Hat predicted a while back. Here is an old blog entry on the topic from Semantic Composition which traces its usage.