Sen. Graham, 'Every-Day White Guy,' Takes Issue with Sotomayor Remarks
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he remained concerned about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 remark that a "wise Latina" might make a better judge than a white male, even after meeting her for more than 30 minutes this afternoon.
"My criticism about her comment and the speech that she gave wasn't that I think this lady is a racist," Graham said, later continuing: "There is no evidence of that, but this statement is troubling and I did tell her this, 'If I said it, it would be over for me. No matter how well-intentioned I was and no matter how much I tried to put it in context, that would be it.' And you all know that."
He added, "being an average, every-day white guy ... that does not exactly make me feel good hearing a sitting judge say that."
Many Republicans have criticized Sotomayor for her remark in a speech at the University of California-Berkeley when she said "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."
Graham said he and Sotamayor discussed the remark, but he would not describe the pair's conversation beyond saying the judge was "somewhat moved" by his concerns. President Obama has already said Sotamayor would have "restated" the comment if given another opportunity, but Graham repeated his call for Sotomayor to apologize publicly herself. He said he was pleased that former house speaker Newt Gingrich had retracted his claim that Sotamayor is a "racist."
"She needs to explain herself and she needs to understand she offended some people," Graham said. He added, "The president tried to put words in her mouth that he wishes she had said."
The meeting with Graham was one of several for Sotomayor with individual senators on Wednesday, her second day on Capitol Hill. A series of Democrats she met with earlier today praised the judge, but Graham was her first meeting with a GOP senator on Wednesday. He signaled many Republicans would vote against Sonia Sotomayor purely based on her judicial views, arguing Obama had used such as standard when he was in the Senate to oppose justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
"That's what Senator Obama was trying to say, my base doesn't like Alito or Roberts," Graham said. "He used a standard that would make it impossible for a person of the opposite party to confirm a nominee of the other party. If I used the Senator Obama standard, there is no way she would get my vote."
Each senator allowed reporters briefly into their sessions with the judge, but Sotomayor said little publicly, ignoring shouted questions about her response to Gingrich's comments. Sotomayor did mention her love of the Nancy Drew series of detectives novels to Sen. Barbara Mukulski, who told Sotomayor she was a fan as well.
"I had two shelves of them," the judge said, describing herself as "enamored" of the series when she was young.
Posted at 2:30 PM ET on Jun 3, 2009
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