Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SCOTUS: Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing Coverage – Day Two ‘wise Latina”

Yet again, Dan Radmacher and the Roanoke Times Editorial staff have articulated a far better point about the tone and tenor of the Conservatives questioning Judge Sonia Sotomayor during yesterday’s hearings, than the one I was trying to make. In today’s editorial, the Roanoke Times highlights a theme that was as consistent and coordinated as any that the Republicans have put together.

It seemed as if this was their opportunity drill into the public record the “wise Latina” remark from Judge Sotomayor. It was obvious that Republicans wanted to send the message that they are tired of being labeled “racist” by focusing on this one remark and the double standard that is being unfairly applied and the pass give to Judge Sotomayor. But, as the Roanoke Times points out – “Those fears, of ethnic bias and judicial activism, are so much political posturing.”

Addressing the comment earlier in the day, Judge Sotomayor admitted that it was a poor choice of words and that she does not feel that a person’s ethnicity gives them more of an advantage or disadvantage than someone else’s ethnic background. But, this answer was not enough for the Conservatives on the committee. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is also a JAG Officer in the Air Force Reserve, drove home the point about the double standard being applied to Judge Sotomayor and the “wise Latina” remark this way:

If I ever said something remotely like that, my career would have been over.”
Senator Graham point taken that if you, as a privileged white male, had made a comment like Judge Sotomayor you would be finished in politics. (Now, can we move on?) He does and highlights the most critical of comments from an anonymous survey from litigators that rates Judge Sotomayor’s professionalism and judicial temperament, which call her a “bully.” He does say that there are positive comments as well but, those negative comments stuck out like a “sore thumb”. Careful, Senator Graham. Are you calling Judge Sotomayor a “racist” “bully”? Or did you just want to get this on the record? All of this, coming from a Republican Senator that “likes” her and may still vote for her confirmation.

Whichever way you slice it, this was a tough day for Judge Sonia Sotomayor and she handled it masterfully. But, Republicans are getting very close to overreaching and this hard line of questioning has the potential to blow up in their faces. Judge Sotomayor can no more take the “Latina” out of her than Supreme Court Justice Alito can dislodge his Italian heritage when considering the facts of a case and making her decision. Here are Judge Alito’s own words during his bruising confirmation hearing about how his cultural background and heritage play into his judicial considerations:

“When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.”
I understand the point that Conservatives are trying to make, but they can make it in a more mature way than saying - “look at what she said and you call me a racist?” Conservatives still cannot hide the fact that all white male judges and Supreme Court Justices populated the bench until Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Judge Sonia Sotomayor is qualified for the highest court in the land and her confirmation will not change the ideological make-up of the Supreme Court on bit. But, maybe that’s the problem for Conservatives. Stop the politics and confirm Sonia now!

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