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What Did You Want to Ask Sotomayor?

Politicians taking queries from the electronic masses is no longer a reliable attention grabber. Just this past Monday, President Obama answered a couple of questions lobbed his way from Nigeria and Niger, and few around Washington noticed. Instead, in District cabs tuned to C-SPAN radio and on Rockville flat screens blaring CNN, many ears and eyes were on the Sonia Sotomayor hearing -- and an old school display of representative democracy, long-winded windups, and the ancient art of trying to say nothing at all.

But it's still interesting to know what people around Washington would ask the Supreme Court nominee if they had a seat on the dais. Thanks to Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat and the region's representative on the Judiciary Committee, that curiosity can now be partially quenched. His staff set up an online question form, and got hundreds of responses. Among them were many nonresponsive missives on health care -- hey, it's an important moment in that debate, and a constituent's gotta do what a constituent's gotta do. But there was also a broad range of sharp, hostile, warm, fuzzy, and occasionally clueless or incisive submissions. Sotomayor was almost certain to get Cardin's vote, and it was her opponents who were most motivated to chime in.

Among the questions:

How come you hate the United States so much? -- San Ramon
Personally I am a staunch supporter of individual rights, including gay rights, rights of each person regardless of age, color or ethnicity. This encompasses the freedom of choice as guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. My question then is what is Judge Sotomayer's answer when asked "When does life begin?" -- Laurel

What is Judge Sotomayor's general philosophy concerning the granting of parole in sentencing guidelines for convicted felons? -- Silver Spring

Given your "wise Latino women" comments: Do you think you are a racist? Do you have anything against any other ethic group? Do you think you are superior to others? -- Gaithersburg

There's evidence that minorities have often not been fairly treated by the Justice system. Do you believe this is the case? If so, do you have any ideas on how to address this problem? -- Salisbury

No question. Please vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor. I suspect that Ruth Bader is getting lonely. -- Gaithersburg

Take a look at this file for a slew of additional questions that came into Cardin's office.

Cardin ended up asking about civil rights, the impact of conservative judicial activism on environmental law and the Chesapeake Bay, pro bono work, and the importance of women on the bench. And he invited the judge to an Orioles game. ("It's a beautiful stadium," she responded.)

Said Cardin in an interview: "Before we stared the hearing I was 95 percent ready to be an advocate for her, but still withheld my 5 percent, to make sure there's nothing coming out. We've almost finished the confirmation process and it's only been reinforced."

He summarizes his argument here:

You can also download the clip.

Any other questions you'd put out there before Tuesday's committee vote?

By Michael Laris  |  July 16, 2009; 8:02 PM ET
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