Valerie Jarrett Cites 'Double Standard' Between Sotomayor, Alito
By DeNeen L. Brown and Richard Leiby
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett today defended President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, saying that critics are holding Judge Sonia Sotomayor to a "double standard."
Jarrett, speaking at the annual luncheon of the National Partnership for Women & Families, compared Sotomayor's controversial 2001 comment about the judgment of "a wise Latina woman" with comments made by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. about his Italian American background during his 2005 confirmation hearings.
Sotomayor has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court justice in 100 years, Jarrett told the crowd of mostly women leaders gathered at the Washington Hilton: "You can imagine our surprise when people started saying maybe she wasn't qualified. 'What are you talking about, she isn't qualified?'"
"You add to that the incredible, rich personal story, where she grew up in the South Bronx," Jarrett said. "Her father died when she was young. Her mother worked so hard -- two jobs to get both she and her brother through school. He is a physician. She is an accomplished lawyer. The American Dream, doing exactly as you would expect her to do. ... Then she talks about how important that upbringing was, what that will help her bring to the bench -- just as I might add -- Justice Alito did during his confirmation. Now suddenly her background comes into question. So there is a double standard."
Sotomayor said during a speech at the University of California, Berkeley: "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."
Alito suggested in 2005 that his own family's Italian immigrant background would play a part in his judicial perspective, saying: "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."
Jarrett, who is considered one of the most powerful women in the president's inner circle, assured the audience that Sotomayor will succeed. "I can tell you we really don't have anything to worry about. ... She will be far more prepared than anybody else, which is often the case with women," Jarrett said to applause. "She will make us all proud."
Jarrett said that Sotomayor's determination was obvious after a recent mishap left her with a broken ankle.
"Anybody who falls down at the airport, manages to get up, keep on going, swing by the hospital and then have 10 more meetings in the course of the day, says a little about her tenacity," Jarrett said.
Posted at 8:43 PM ET on Jun 15, 2009
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