SOTOMAYOR—“YO-TOMAYOR” OR “NO-TOMAYOR”?
By Andy Weddington
Friday, 17 July 2009
The Senate Judiciary Committee got a lot of face time this week—daytime TV quizzing Obama’s contentious Supreme Court nominee—Sonia Sotomayor. Frankly, the daily post-hearing news coverage was more exciting than the hearing(s)—not much drama and it was probably scripted that way—the process reeked of mere political posturing and formality. Blah, blah, blah.
Having met privately with nearly all 100 Senators prior to sitting through the televised proceedings, Sotomayor’s ascension to the Supreme Court is all but a foregone conclusion. Bottom line: The seven wise white guys stood little chance of dismissing the “wise Latina woman.” They did not.
The seven Republicans threw some hardballs and a curve or two. No sliders, sinkers, change-ups, or spit balls. On the other hand, the twelve Democrats, including switch-hitter Arlen Specter (D, PA), gently lobbed softballs—though Specter did lapse, if only for a moment or two, to his GOP days. Who knows, maybe it was for old-time sakes. Maybe it was “chemo brain.” No matter, Specter’s still in the game.
Not surprisingly, the newest member of the Senate and Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Al Franken (D, MN), had nothing substantive to offer. His seniors likely told him as much. So, the former Saturday Night Live writer and performer resorted to familiar territory—comedy.
Franken started out noting his and the nominee’s mutual interest in a TV lawyer and queried the Supreme Court nominee about the name of the Perry Mason episode in which he (Mason) lost his sole case—vitally important stuff. Sotomayor, lightheartedly flustered, did not know the answer and laughingly apologized. Erle Stanley Gardner probably rolled over in his grave—right after Perry’s court room nemesis, Hamilton Burger—the only time he won and she can’t remember. What? Good one, Senator—hopefully not a preview that your tenure in office will be one big joke ripe for parody on SNL. What an irony that will be.
Several of the Republicans pressed Sotomayor but did so gentlemanly.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC)—a southerner and a lawyer with country boy smarts and ah shucks wit—noted during the start of the confirmation hearings that Sotomayor would, barring a “melt down,” be confirmed. She had been all too well prepared for a melt down to occur—and it did not. By the way, it was then Congressman Graham who, during the Clinton impeachment, when referring to Bubba’s late night telephone calls to Lewinsky said something along the lines of, ‘I don’t know about you folks but where I come from if someone is calling someone else at 3:00 in the morning rest assured they’re up to no good…’ Me too, Senator—likewise from where I hail in the south. Regrettably, Graham was all business this week and did not muster a zinger of the caliber when admonishing 42.
Senator Graham repeatedly asked Sotomayor to address a controversial remark she made during a 2001 speech, “…I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life…”—a comment documented a handful of times over the course of several years.
In short, Sotomayor stood by her words, said they were taken out of context, and on the last day of questioning, when again quizzed by Graham, said she regretted if her words offended anyone. She did not say she did not believe what she said. Any doubt that Senator Graham still feels troubled? Everybody should be offended and feel troubled—not just “white males.”
Sotomayor also had to address probing questions about accusations of a hostile and bully-like bench temperament and the incredibly dopey decision she made upholding a Connecticut town’s move to not promote white (and a Hispanic) firefighters who passed a promotion test merely because no blacks passed the test. The Supreme Court corrected the Sotomayor blunder.
Her supporters on and outside the Senate committee cite her impressive resume and wealth of experience noting she is more credentialed than anyone appointed to the Court in the last 100 years. That’s all well and good. But, if an impressive resume and experience were all that mattered then John McCain would be President. And he would be if he were a minority female. Can't help but wonder if a sex change would have put him/her over the top. Just kidding Senator McCain.
There is any number of arguments to debate regarding gender, ethnicity, rearing, education, and life experiences to mention only a handful of relevant variables when considering a Supreme Court nominee. But the arguments are moot. Who really gives a damn if Sotomayor is a woman (a biological fact), a Latina (another biological fact), or even wise (a self-anointed trait)?
The important question is, is she the right person for the country’s highest court? Will she practice—blindly—“justice for all?” She says she will. The better portion of her judicial work supports her word. But indicators—some subtle and some not so subtle—in her speeches, writings, select bench decisions, and shallow and evasive answers during confirmation sessions indicate otherwise—enough so that polling indicates most Americans do not want her on the Supreme Court.
Too bad we've lost our way as a nation of representational government otherwise she’d not be confirmed. We’ll soon see when the fat lady—the Senate—sings “Yo” or “No.”