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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.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 3, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Supreme Court  
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Sorry, but Judge Sonia Sotomayor's advancement to the Supreme Court is a bad idea. She is a racist as well evidenced in her remarks of the past several years. She would compromse her decisions based on her personal beliefs, and is therefore not s supreme valid canididate for a Supreme Court judgeship. This dispite a poignant accomplished record of educational acheivement. The United States deserves better than partial judges who rule by racial empathy. Obamabots make poor choices based on emotion, not reality...

Posted by: USDefender | June 8, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

If this was not such an important issue Graham's remark would be funny. Since when are United States Senators "everyday white guys" - he has honed in on one remark taken out of context to get his fifteen minutes of fame! Read the remainder of her speech, review her judicial record and THEN decide if she is worthy to become a Supereme Court Justice. The fact that Graham is using a snippet to promote himself speaks volumes about him.

Posted by: csmsd13 | June 6, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The complete excerpt that contains Sotomayor the comments causing all of the consternation has been available since her nomination but judging fro the hostile commentaries you would never know it. She said in 1994 “I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.”

Well don’t we all hope that our biography would give us some special insight on the world? She didn’t say that her background has endowed her with some magical powers of jurisprudence; in fact she said just the opposite. She went on to say that the real world of bench decisions leaves little room for that kind of thinking.

Posted by: SCKershaw | June 4, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Graham remarked that he could not support Sotomayor because then Sen. Obama did not support Sam Alito. Isn't that rather like a child? Obama didn't like Alito, so Graham won't like Sotomayor. Graham said, "If that's the way we're going to play..." referring to his (Graham"s) interpretation of Obama's motives for not supporting Alito, "then I (Graham) can't vote for Sotomayor. That is the reasoning of Lindsay Graham, U.S. Senator from South Carolina.

Posted by: davie163 | June 4, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Lindsey Graham misrepresented to Chris Wallace and the nation on "Fox News Sunday" that Sonia Sotomayor seeks to parlay her famous comment about life experience improving legal judgment into a claim of moral superiority. To this end, Senator Graham distorted Judge Sotomayor by asserting she believes "that all the hardships she has gone through makes her better than me."

This comment is nonsense. It is Graham himself who seeks to lead us to a faulty conclusion. Perhaps his words befit a neo-Confederate suspicion of uppity minorities or an alien brown peril eager to participate fully in the American dream ostensibly before their time, and thereby aim to ease the plight of senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, among others. But these words are totally unworthy of Senator Graham.

Posted by: FirstMouse1 | June 4, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Ms Sotomayor is lowering standards and this is wrong for the protection, safety and well being of all americans. Learn, be proud and be honest. Showing favorites to on group is wrong, and I was very poor at a young age, no running water nor nice bath room like those in the projects, but I tried to learn and be honest and the rewards are great. Don't distroy American by the poor ruling by Ms Sotomayor. My family never had public help of any kind, so why just one group????? Ms Sotaomayor and Obamas are showing racism.

Posted by: ednasmith | June 4, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

JakeD's self-indulgent musings "Off topic: did you see the news that Obama is still reading the same novel he started back in APRIL?! Bush's reading habits are well known"

You seriously think that moron read one book in a week. More lies from Rove for low-information idiots like you. (Really ? The Newser as your source ?)

Graham is a vile nasty partisan hack that's playing to the party base and the SC republicans. Thankfully his vote means nothing.

At least Sotomayor doesn't have issues with her sexuality like some SC senators I could mention.

We would be well served with this woman on the SCOTUS and the shrill hateful republicans need to calm down and deal with the single thing that's troubling them.

You lost.

Posted by: polaris11 | June 4, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Senator Graham forgets history. Of the approximately 137 Supreme Court Justices only 5 were women or people of color.

And now poor oppressed Lindsay Graham feels like a poor oppressed southerner, because if the shoe were on the other foot,he bekives he would be confirmed. Gimmee a break.

All I have to say is Republicans and senator graham seem to have forgotten that the majority party does not actually need a filibuster proof majority; they can simply change the Senate rules to abolish the filibuster and pass whatever they please by simple majority votes.

The filibuster is not a constitutional right; it is a mere Senate rule which can be abolished by a simply majority vote in the U.S. Senate. And the Republicans best remember they pulled that end the filibuster rule tactic a few years ago

I do not think that Democrats want to go as far as the rabidly partisan Senate led by Senator William Frist did when they threatened the minority party (democrats) that they (republicans) would abolish the filibuster rule in order to stop the filibuster of Alito- they abused their majority status to steamroll the minority party-

Today the democrats are hoping for some good will from Republicans. But, if zealots like Lindsay Graham, Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell and Sean Hannity continue their angry rants directed towards a brillaint and qualified Judge who has shown remarkable balance and judicial restraint.. things could change quickly.

And the republicans will have no one but their former majority leader, Bill Frist to thank for the nuclear option.

I would urge Senator Reid to consider the nuclear option precedence established by his predessessor, Willam Frist if the republicans have the nerve to filibuster this fine and decent judge who has shown balance and remarkable judicial restraint in her rulings

re nuclear option: see:

Posted by: dcucich | June 4, 2009 3:01 AM | Report abuse

mESSAGE To - nodebris | June 3, 2009 11:59 PM


Posted by: gregp1 | June 4, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

1960's Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. August 28, 1963.

Posted by: opp88 | June 4, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Although most of you have taken life, love and liberty for granted. This has been a dream for a long time. Martin Luther King Jr. died in the name of Freedom. For the cause of Freedom for all people black and white, red, yellow, brown, men, women and children.

Martin Luther King "I have a dream"

Posted by: opp88 | June 4, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

XLiberalJack wrote: "Who is this bicth to presume to know my life experiences??? She hasn’t walked in my shoes. It sounds like she has lived a very easy life compared to many of us white men including me."

Reading your comment, I think my dog could fairly claim to be wiser than you, having walked in your shoes or not.

Poor pitiful white men. How much you sound like your stereotype of the minorities you loathe. "Everyone hates me because of my skin. If I'm a failure, it's because I'm white. A poor immigrant has an easier life than me. What an easy life she had, cruising through schools I couldn't get into if you doubled by IQ."

If everyone hates you, it's because you are a pathetic loser with few skills and less sense, who blames other people for their own failures. I say this as a white man. You sound like trash to me, buddy.

Christ! If you're a proud white man, Buck up. Rise above. Work harder. At the very least, don't tar me and my sons with your pathetic, cringing, whining. Competent white people can deal with competent Latinos. It's the weak-*ss losers who complain about competition from them brown people.

Get thee back to thine trailer and pop open another six-pack. Fox News is probably on the tube.

Posted by: nodebris | June 3, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

"Off topic: did you see the news that Obama is still reading the same novel he started back in APRIL?! Bush's reading habits are well known:"

That's because Bush spent most of his tenure on "vacation."

Posted by: thrh | June 3, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

"Who is this bicth to presume to know my life experiences??? She hasn’t walked in my shoes. It sounds like she has lived a very easy life compared to many of us white men including me. I say Bork her.

Posted by: XLiberalJack"

Don't be so hard on poor Lindsey, Jack!

Posted by: thrh | June 3, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

AWW--"Miss Nancy" is offended! But where does Lindsey get this "guy" stuff??

Posted by: thrh | June 3, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Perry Bacon Jr. -- once again, being an excellent stenographer. At what point do you not call Graham on these baseless accusations about the whole issue of one thing she said 8 years ago? At what point do you not put the comment into context as to what she was actually saying? At what point will the Washington Post hire a real reporter that does actual journalism and not stenography?

Posted by: ChicagoTodd | June 3, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm from SC and I do think that Senator Graham is going to find out what it is like to be an average unemployed white guy when his time for re-election is due. Who is kidding who because he is a lawyer and that is not peanuts. That is why most of our politicians are so out of touch. Most have never done an average days work.

Posted by: racam | June 3, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I seem to recall heavy flak from the right when candidate Obama referred to his grandmother as an average white person.
Now Graham claims that HE's the average white person.

Has anyone told Joe the Plumber about this?

Posted by: JohnQuimby | June 3, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

The 50 something unmarried Senior Senator from SC says he is an average every day white guy?

Senator Graham is a thoughtful and talented person.

But in what universe does his personal experience make him average?

Posted by: JohnQuimby | June 3, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Who is this bicth to presume to know my life experiences??? She hasn’t walked in my shoes. It sounds like she has lived a very easy life compared to many of us white men including me. I say Bork her.

Posted by: XLiberalJack | June 3, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

@lclifton: "Americans who still care about the country need to stop following Obama around like slaves. he is destroying the future of your children."

Americans who can still read and write need to take time out to slap down idiots who make absurd statements like this after we survived 8 years of his predecessor.

Seriously, Chicken Little, get an inkling of perspective.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | June 3, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I have to take a mulligan.

I don't think the "Wise Latina" comment is necessarily a racist comment or the comment of a racist person. But it is the comment of a person who is way too full of herself.

I am sure she will recant it to some extent during the confirmation hearings.

While I am here I noticed that someone was castigating Robert Bork and portraying him as a Nixon robot because he fired Archibald Cox. It is somewhat of a simplistic view.

Richard Nixon did have had the right to fire the special prosecutor even it was obviously being done for political reasons. Someone had to carry out the order so that things could move on instead of having a string of DOJ officials continue to resign rather than carry out the firing.

Few serious legal scholars fault Bork for this and I doubt if the poster was actually alive when all of this happened.

What killed is nomination was a unique unprecedented assault on him by interest groups. Prior to that, the Senate usually deferred to president's Supreme Court nominees unless they were unqualified judicially or lacked the temperament or the ethics for the job. Bork clearly was superbly qualified.

Under this system the court would stay balanced over time as Democratic and Republican presidents appointed justices.

People like the poster criticizing Bork may have relished their victory at the time but I think it was the beginning of the end of an independent judiciary branch.

Posted by: danielhancock | June 3, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the "Wise Latina" is necessarily a racist comment or the comment of a racist person. But it is the comment of a person who is way too full of herself.

I am sure she will recant it to some extent during the confirmation hearings.

Posted by: danielhancock | June 3, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are nothing but a bunch of duplicitous jerks. How do they reconcile what this judge said-which i think has some merit, to what their highest ranking member in the judiciary said which is and I am quoting here "that I-[Jeff Sessions] used to think the KKK was Ok until I found out that some of their members smoke pot." which he later retracted and claimed it was a joke. It is despicable for republicans to latch on such non issue. If this is the most that they got………bring it on!!!


Posted by: mjimale | June 3, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

JakeD - Thank you for finally admitting you are off topic. Your self indulgent diversions are pathetic, as you yourself are. Get a clue: watch Keith Olbermann.

Posted by: gregp1 | June 3, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

"did you see the news that Obama is still reading the same novel he started back in APRIL?! Bush's reading habits are well known"

Obama's book doesn't have pictures.

Posted by: nodebris | June 3, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

An everyday white-guy... offended... what a phrase. If Graham were opposed to racism per se, that would have has nothing to do with his being an everyday white guy. Only human being. It looks like what irks him the most is that he WANTS and everyday white guy to be sitting on the bench -- someone like HIM.

Posted by: johnnormansp | June 3, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

In the words of a PEN-honored, very funny feminist writer I know, "We're sick of their [white male supremacist] opinions!" I suspect that for Sen. Graham, this is all theater, anyway. Well, theater would be the polite word for it.

Posted by: anonymous52 | June 3, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

As a life-long Rescumlican, I say torture her! She must be tortured! Being un-white is un-American! Only white guys can mete out justice in a way that is fair and impartial to white guys. A Hispanic woman will completely destroy my white-guy right to preferential treatment by a white-guy judge. So get out the water board. Surf's up!

Posted by: DaveMiner | June 3, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey, even Newt Gingrich retracted his initial comments. At least he's man enough to admit when he's wrong. Graham is just playing to his Klan followers in South Carolina since he knows he can't do anything to stop her confirmation. As for Limbaugh, his refusal to retract his comments show him for what he is, a paid shill, outside the realm of civil discourse, howling in vain in the wilderness.

Posted by: caebling | June 3, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Graham is disingenuous at best; malicious at worst. As if "every-day white guys" don't bring their prejudices along with them. Just because Graham shares those prejudices doesn't mean they don't exist, or are the "right" or "acceptable" prejudices.

As for Bork: Republicans would have people believe he was defeated for being conservative. Don't believe the lie; Bork was defeated because too many people remembered his part in Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre." If you don't recall, Nixon demanded the firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had subpoenaed Nixon's tapes. Two Attorneys General - Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus - resigned rather than fire Cox. It was Bork who did the dirty deed, and his chickens came home to roost when nominated for the Supreme Court.

As for Sotomayor needing to understand that she offended some people, and needing to apologize, you first, Graham! Your presence on the planet, with your neanderthal views, offends me. I don't think a legislator should behave the way Graham does. I am very disturbed to hear him make these demands of a person who has accomplished more in her lifetime than he has or would - even given two lifetimes! Where is my apology?

Graham, you're in the minority party. Try to behave like a reasonable adult. BTW, the kind of grandstanding you're doing is neither reasonable nor adult, and only makes you look ridiculous.

Posted by: slavicdiva | June 3, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor is bigoted and will legislate ffrom te bench. Also, Jeremiah Wright was the clue to Obama's race-baiting and bigit roots. He is worse than Sotomayor, and neither are fit to serve in public office.
Americans who still care about the country need to stop following Obama around like slaves. he is destroying the future of your children.

Posted by: lclifton | June 3, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

As an, at least semi intelligent non-republican person, and having enduring 8 years of goober Bush and Darth Cheney, and regarding supreme court placements.... Psuck it wing nuts. Ya' can't do a thing about it... Get used to it... Whose your daddy now?

Posted by: humanbeng | June 3, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

One word: Bork

Posted by: XLiberalJack | June 3, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Nearly as I can tell, these guys are proving her point. Just to spell it out for the logic impaired, she's not saying being Hispanic makes her superior (as white racists do in reverse); she's saying her more complex experience makes her wiser. Is anybody ready to deny that a more rich and complicated social experience provides more context for judgment? And Limbaugh calling somebody ELSE a racist? What a laff-riot that guy is.

Posted by: NomoStew | June 3, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

LOL!!! Filibuster time : )

Off topic: did you see the news that Obama is still reading the same novel he started back in APRIL?! Bush's reading habits are well known:

Posted by: JakeD | June 3, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

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