8 a.m. ET: During the 2008 presidential campaign, so-called "social issues" were mostly overshadowed by economic ones. That trend has continued this year, as debates over abortion and gay rights have taken a back seat to the financial crisis, health care, climate change, Iraq and Afghanistan. But for at least one day in one place -- yesterday in Hart 216 -- social issues were what mattered most.
On the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Sonia Sotomayor was grilled on the full menu of hot-button topics -- abortion, gun rights, and gay rights. As expected, she did not provide many specific responses. The Los Angeles Times says Sotomayor "sidestepped" those tough questions, "leaving both conservative and liberal activists troubled." Indeed, Matthew Franck complains from the right that Sotomayor is "either woefully ignorant of the state of constitutional law [on abortion] ... or she knows it perfectly well but does not want to lay it out in public view." From the left, the Center for Reproductive Rights laments that Sotomayor has "largely stuck to the script" and avoided asserting that women have a fundamental right to abortion. The Washington Post notes that "by midafternoon, even two Democrats on the panel sounded frustrated by her long, elusive replies." Haven't these people ever watched a confirmation hearing before?
The menu for Day 4 of Sotomayor: A dozen more senators will conduct their second round of questioning for the nominee, and presumably none of them will try to stump her with a Perry Mason question. Then comes a long slate of witnesses testifying for and against the nominee, headlined by Frank Ricci of the New Haven Fire Department. More worrying, particularly since David Cone is scheduled to testify on her behalf, is the news that Sotomayor may have exaggerated her love of baseball. This is a true scandal.
Elsewhere in the Senate, the HELP Committee approved its version of health-care reform Wednesday. The party-line vote "underscored the absence of political consensus on what would be the biggest changes in social policy in more than 40 years," the New York Times reports, though no one really expected that the bipartisan compromise -- if it does happen -- would happen within the HELP panel rather than later in the legislative process. Ezra Klein notes that the HELP bill actually was bipartisan -- if you use Rahm Emanuel's unusual definition of bipartisanship. John Dickerson makes a similar point. And yet another poll, this one from McClatchy-Ipsos, shows Americans split on "how they want health care fixed and whom they trust most to do it."
Foreign policy isn't exactly issue No. 1 this week, but Hillary Clinton still did her level best yesterday to articulate how the Obama administration sees the world. Politico writes that Clinton's speech "was a tour of American foreign policy that also served to highlight her stature inside the Obama administration." Along the same lines, The New York Times (note the "lonely Hillary" photo accompanying the story) called the address a chance to "recapture the limelight" for both herself and the State Department in an administration where foreign policy decisions all seem to emanate directly from the White House instead of Foggy Bottom.
Tonight is campaign night for the presidential ticket, as Obama will do a fundraiser for struggling Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Joe Biden will headline an event for Creigh Deeds in Richmond. On that subject, 2nd quarter fundraising numbers are trickling in, with Charlie Crist and Roy Blunt both having posted strong cash totals for their Senate campaigns through June. At the other end of the spectrum, Charlie Rangel has spent nearly every cent from his campaign kitty -- more than $700,000 -- on legal bills this year.
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