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Why Obama Picked Sotomayor

By Edward Schumacher-Matos

I should be giddy about Sonia Sotomayor, but I can’t stop thinking about Alberto Gonzales.

Former President George W. Bush’s former attorney general was supposed to be the first Hispanic to be nominated to the Supreme Court. We Hispanics, even Democrats, were so proud of him. Sotomayor rose from Puerto Rican poverty in the Bronx, but Gonzales had a similar trajectory, rising from Mexican American poverty in San Antonio. Sotomayor went to Yale Law School. Gonzales went to Harvard. But then he fell into disgrace. He condoned torture and fired nine U.S. attorneys on political grounds. It is presumably because of an ongoing investigation of those firings that he can’t find a job. But I and many successful Hispanics I know don’t believe it. The good old boys in Texas would have protected one of their own and at least given him an income. Gonzales was the expendable wetback who could be put out to dry.

To be sure, lots of Latinos succeed, and most Americans are happy for them. Sotomayor is clearly more qualified than Gonzales and seems to be more ethical as well. For a few days, at least, I want to believe in her, like I did in Gonzales. After that, I will judge her like I would anyone else. The Republican attack machine will surely find flaws to exploit and judicial rulings to question. She is, after all, human. I just hope she didn’t do anything that will break my heart. And that, for her sake, she doesn’t find herself abandoned and alone.

The Republicans are right about one thing: Obama picked Sotomayor in part because she is a Latina. She punches both the female and Hispanic tickets. Good! That is the way it should be, not in the sense of filling strict quotas, but in the sense of loosely trying to have diversity on the court that reflects the country.

The court rules on issues crucial to all Americans. All of us, including judges, are captives of our backgrounds and the lens through which we see the world. The best we can hope for is that each judge individually attempts to be objective in interpreting and applying the Constitution, and that, collectively, enough backgrounds are represented to achieve the most genuinely objective group decision possible.

Sotomayor brings to the court an objectivity and truth -- or what Obama calls “empathy”-- colored by being Hispanic, just as John Roberts has the empathy of a white Catholic male from New Jersey. Both honorably try to overcome their biases, but neither totally will. Now that Hispanics make up 15 percent of the population, we deserve to have at least one among the nine judges on the Supreme Court who wears our lens.

So, does this mean that Sotomayor will somehow favor Hispanics from the bench? Based on her record, it seems she won’t. In what may be her most controversial decision, for example -- that in the case of a white firefighter in New Haven who claims he wasn’t promoted because of reverse discrimination favoring blacks -- a Hispanic firefighter was passed over for promotion, too. She ruled against the promotions.

By Edward Schumacher-Matos  | May 27, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Schumacher-Matos  | Tags:  Edward Schumacher-Matos  
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"But then he fell into disgrace. He condoned torture and fired nine U.S. attorneys on political grounds. It is presumably because of an ongoing investigation of those firings that he can’t find a job. But I and many successful Hispanics I know don’t believe it. The good old boys in Texas would have protected one of their own and at least given him an income. Gonzalez was the expendable wetback who could be put out to dry."

What pedantic self pitying nonsense. Gonzalez sold his soul for Pres. George Bush and now is paying the price. Maybe if he done what was right he would be able find reputable work (or conversly more competant at being a bad guy the bad guys would hire him). As is why would any decent company trust or hire such an individual.

Posted by: kchses1 | May 27, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Why after 400 yrs,that everything today is viewed as racist? Who looked to whom for what? Try something different. Sit down and talk to folks, with and without color, folks whom,you may not know;Just TALK Talk Talk, talk. After a few minutes, you forget about color,personal struggles, likes and dislikes,etc. You may be looking for that 2nd chance to talk. Now just like yourself, other folks have come to select the folks who do appeal to them, by same kind of exposure. That appeal comes from what ever intrigued you about that other's brain, and their ability to hold YOUR interest. Mama said, now go tell your folks, BEFORE you speak,TALK and LISTEN. This kind of rolling moss will gather many good friends,too

Posted by: mamamay | May 27, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous column. The core of its argument is laughable. Comparing Gonzales to Sotomayor simply because both of them are Hispanics is so out-dated. The two individuals could not be more different. Gonzales was always an ideologue willing to bend the law to suit his clients. He had a track-record of this behavior for over a decade before arriving at the White House. Sotomayor's legal record is quite different.

My mother always said "Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres" or in English "Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are." Gonzales was hand-picked out of law school by Rove and G.W. Bush because he met the requirements they sought in an attorney. Sotomayor has instead sought and made her own path out of an ivy league law school and in to a prosecutor's job, a corporate job, and then appointed by H.Bush and then promoted by Clinton and now Obama.

I hope I never see Sotomayor mentioned in a column again with that disgrace that is Alberto Gonzales. He is a stain on the profession, and his own people. He sold his soul and now must pay the price...and being out of work is not enough to repay his debt.

Posted by: LaMaca | May 28, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Thanx for the post. The very great differences in the two persons is one thing and the very different lives the two lived really points up the inadequacy of a term like Hispanic is in describing Puerto Ricans or Cubans, Mexican or Chicanos and the effects each of these cultural forms have on the person and their own perspective. From all that I've read and heard about the Nominee, she's a much more urbane personality than say "Fredo" which I believe would have predicted his wallowing in submissive service to the end goal of future acceptance by his betters. Sotomayor in comparison is at least slicker in her efforts to ingraciate and when having to defend herself, does so from an intellectual plane with a tough street based core under a veneer of gender and intellect. I can't wait for the other members of the Court to get a load of this chick with the thick and sometimes employed Bronx latin accent. Too tough, too smart and too accomplished to bully, too young and too independent to wait out. Ginsberg and Clarence the Coward are now on notice to step it up or get played,Scolia as the local bully will as well have to watch his step. For all of you who care, check out K.O.'s "Countdown" where the full clip of Sotomayors often ran latin women experience in decision making is fully aired, completely kicking the cover off of the rights weak attack. I can't wait for the Confirmation process and see a real intellect take on the phony balony's in the Senate starting with the ranking "major minority leader with no followers" Opie Sessions... Stay tuned, here comes Eric Holder(SCOTUS) or Deval Patrick(SCOTUS or 2nd.Circuit first step) remember where you heard it first...

Posted by: freesmilesinc | May 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

1) I nearly always disagree with Justice Scalia, but I think he was quite right in saying (and I'm paraphrasing) that there's not a male legal answer to a question and a female legal answer to a question - or a white, black, Hispanic, etc. legal answer to a question. Different people interpret the Constitution in different ways, but it says what it says, no matter who's reading it. Saying otherwise is like saying that the meaning of "five" changes based on one's gender or race.

2) The best person for the job should get it, period. Judge Sotomayor appears to be a stellar candidate and I'm thrilled with her nomination, but I'd like to think that if the best person for the job were yet another WASPy man, that he'd have been the nominee. Dr. King's dream, shared by so many of us, seems at odds with the notion that a Supreme Court Justice should be chosen even partially on the basis of racial identity.

3) Re: empathy of a white Catholic male from New Jersey, I presume that you meant Justice Alito. Chief Justice Roberts is from Buffalo, Indiana, Cambridge, and/or DC, but not New Jersey.

Posted by: soundslikedrums | May 29, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

An "interesting" opinion. My favorite line was "Sotomayor brings to the court an objectivity and truth...-- colored by being Hispanic" If objectivity is colored it becomes subjective, if truth is colored it becomes untrue.

Posted by: the_node | May 29, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

There are many reasons why Sotomayor shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court but most stem from 2 statements she made:

“Courts are where policy is made”


“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Sotomayor doesn’t belong anywhere near the Supreme Court.
She is also against the long standing interpretation of the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms. She fits in perfectly with the Obamination of America.

I believe what Sotomayor says and not what the media pimps or the Obamination say what she meant.

Posted by: ekim53 | May 29, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

The whole idea of Constitutionalists is counter intuitive anyway as the notion that the Constitution must be untouchable or devoid of critical thought is not the rule of the land and certainly not supported by the Founding Fathers who understood there finite perspective in their place and time. Conservatives would like an objective robot as a judge, but one they programmed. There's no such thing as "blind justice" and former judges who used "subjectivity" are now seen as hero's by most Americans. It's all code for, "I want political activist judges who agree with me, not you"

Posted by: againstthecurrents | May 30, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

My understanding of the situation is that the District Court's ruling did not concern the legitimacy of the test but was about the city's legal right to cancel the test itself.

The ruling was that the cancellation was legal and the Appeals Court merely upheld that ruling.

Posted by: melitz | May 30, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

obama picked her because she will go as far against the constitution as he wants her to,and this will further help in his socialist agenda.she also,like obambi is a racist,and you wonder why the black panthers were turned loose by justice dept?eric holder is another one,and besides,its better that way,because they are ALL tied in with acorn.
racist policy by anyone is wrong,and in the govt it can have damaging effects on us all. the democrats have been using race to further their agenda,but most black americans are starting to see what they are up to,and like me,they are getting angry with obambis is a fact that all of us will be financially screwed by what they are doing to our country.
all this may not matter much,if north korea,and iran get their fingers on those nuke buttons,and they are only days away from this goal.
the funny thing is,i can not bring myself to give a damn anymore,and a lot of others are feeling the same way.we have low life republicans,doing the same things the low life democrats are doing to us.just look at that omnibus,and that intercourse package they called a stimulous.allthe waste,when there are hungry children right here under their noses. look at nancy piglosi,barny franks,chriss dodd,and waxman,and so many others who keep getting re elected,do we not deserve to be screwed?
when north korea and iran start sending their missiles,i do not expect this administration to do more than condemn their actions,and i at this point DO NOT care.
the radical leftist lowlife population will hide under their beds when the fighting starts,and wait for better men to fight the battles to save their worthless asses,then they will come out after it is all over,and condemn the tactics that were used to save lives.
so north korea,and iran BRING IT ON!!! i will watch,and hope everyone else watches while this country is taken apart,after all,we are going down the road to sickness,moral weakness,and socialism,so what is there to fight for? i think a lot of soldiers feel the same. shame on us for allowing these things to come to pass in the country that was so great for so long.

Posted by: silusdogood | May 30, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

You seem to have forgotten that Clinton fired every US attorney in the country when he took office. I haven't heard what Obama did. You mention Gonzalez, what about Miguel Estrada? His bio was more compelling than Sotomayor's , but because he was a conservative, the dems refused to give him an up or down vote for an appeals court position BECAUSE he was Hispanic, and they were afraid he was being groomed for the Supreme Court. Suddenly Republicans are told they better be careful or the Hispanic's will be angry with them. Hispanics didn't show any outrage over Estrada's treatment, at all.

Posted by: hdc77494 | May 31, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

We the People of the United States, (it says: WE!") in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.




Posted by: mavericktradingco | May 31, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I believe Scalia's complete thought was: "There's not a male answer or a female answer, or an Hispanic or a Negroid answer to a legal question. No, there is just the old white man answer, and you're looking at the old while man who has all the answers."

Posted by: obamasnoosama | June 1, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Edward Schumacher-Matos says:
"Now that Hispanics make up 15 percent of the population, we deserve to have at least one among the nine judges on the Supreme Court who wears our lens."

Why do you "deserve" a biased judge on the court? One who "wears [y]our lens"?

If she won't favor Hispanics then what's the purpose of having a Hispanic on the court? To make a "diverse" yearbook photo?

The stupid idea of forcing identity politics on the Supreme Court for the sake of appearances is dangerous.

Posted by: spamsux1 | June 1, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Punching two tickets, but that is not a quota. Are you kidding yourself? Surely you don't think we believe you? You are a Hispanic first and an American only sometimes, perhaps only when you want to travel internationally, then you like that US passport. I noticed you kept quiet about the ethnic cleansing of blacks by Hispanics in Hawaiian Gardens. Your blatant racism, which you decry in others, is shameful.

Posted by: combat18 | June 1, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

The woman is the judge with the history of poor judgments, in which she always sided with the stronger side, no matter how many violations of laws it requires. Of course, she would go in destruction of laws and constitution as far, she could. She has the very eloquest history of doing it. She is also a member of La Raza, and the reverse racist with the long time pending and existing hatred to Caucasians. There is no doubt that Obama could pick anybody else right now without a case so eloquently showing the reverse racism of its judge, as Ricci vs. DeStefano now pernding in Supreme Court. Why can't they now to find some smooth reason(s) to stop this nomination either by Sotomayor or Obama I really can't understand.

Posted by: aepelbaum | June 1, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

A history major, Sotomayor wrote her senior thesis at Princeton on Luis Muñoz Marín, the first democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico, and on the territory's struggles for economic and political self-determination.

The thesis won honorable mention for the Latin American Studies Thesis Prize. She won the Pyne Prize, the top award for undergraduates, which reflected both strong grades and extracurricular activities.

She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1976 she was awarded an A.B. from Princeton, graduating summa cum laude. Sotomayor has described her time at Princeton as a life-changing experience.

Brilliant choice for President Obama, the question should be is, who will oppose her?

gop,rnc,cheney,mcconnel, boehner,cantor,bachmann,gingrich,steele,
hannty,limbaugh,beck,coulter,red states, romney,huckabee,palin,jindal.

Posted by: opp88 | June 2, 2009 2:48 AM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
02 June 2009

President Barack Obama picked Sonia Sotomayor, out of a very short list of candidates, because she is supremely qualified to be a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I am certain that America will be a better place with her on the Supreme Court. She will very likely turn out to be a worthy replacement for retiring Justice David Souter.

And she will prove to be a countervailing force against "strict constructionist" and "original intent" justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts Jr., and Samuel Alito who view the U.S. Constitution as a dead letter, a document forever frozen in time, and thus invulnerable to interpretations and constructions which a dynamic evolving society such as the United States of America requires.

Alberto ("I don't recall")Gonzales? The man had gelatin for a spine. And he had nothing much in terms of "character."

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | June 2, 2009 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Obama's choice of Ms. Sotomayor was politically and ideologically driven. No male was really considered, which is okay with me.

I support more females, especially with an overall progressive outlook, on the high court, but let's be honest. Obama chose her because of her gender, moderately liberal ideology and apparent qualifications.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | June 2, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

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