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Sonia Sotomayor Speaks -- and Feels

Finally, we got to hear from Sonia Sotomayor. The key line -- emphatically delivered -- was an arrow straight through the heart of her detractors:

"As an assistant District Attorney in New York.... I saw children exploited and abused. I felt the suffering of victims’ families torn apart by a loved one’s needless death."

She was clearly letting everyone know that the "empathy" trope that has been dogging her since her nomination in May isn't about bias, but about understanding. Which is to say, about being human. She was careful to put emphasis on the word "felt," and the message was clear: If the senators want to go to the mat over "empathy," this wise Latina is ready to rumble.

Then, as Sotomayor continued to flesh out her resume, she strategically distanced herself from that empathetic position by noting that her "career as an advocate ended."

"My career as an advocate ended -- and my career as a judge began -- when I was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. As a trial judge, I decided over four hundred and fifty cases, and presided over dozens of trials, with perhaps my best known case involving the Major League Baseball strike in 1995."

Overall, her tough, serious demeanor put the Judiciary Committee on notice that she is temperamentally well-equipped for the moment.

By Kathleen Parker  | July 13, 2009; 3:13 PM ET
Categories:  Parker  | Tags:  Kathleen Parker  
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Next: Sotomayor's Unconvincing Backpedaling


Is empathy discrimination?


Posted by: usadblake | July 13, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I've been reading the Washington Post since the mid 1970's and I'm happy to say that Kathleen Parker has become my favorite of the columnists found here now.

I can seldom if ever predict the position she will take on news of the day and yet once read the positions don't seem random, but rather, thoughtful and non-axe-grinding (I'll bet you can say "non-axe-grinding" without hyphens in German, but that's beside the point).

You're a pleasure to read, Ms. Parker.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | July 13, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

George Herbert Walker Bush nominated Sotomayor. Interesting. We know that Bush II's nominees leaned heavily to the right. Has a centrist been nominated by a Democrat in recent history?

Posted by: jhpbriton | July 13, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Has a centrist been nominated by a Democrat in recent history?

Posted by: jhpbriton

There's only been one Democratic president in the past twenty-plus years: Clinton. He nominated only two members, Ginsberg and Breyer, both of whom passed muster easily. I actually count them both as very centrist and pragmatic, through Breyer is interested in more esoteric avenues for the growth of law and jurisprudence than most in the mainstream currently feel comfortable with.

However, by your very framing of the question, one can pretty confidently deduce that you're criteria for "centrists" is considerably further to the right than mine. Guess it all depends on perspective, eh?

Posted by: abqcleve | July 13, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Quiet as it's kept, in recent memory Kathleen Parker is the best new voice that the Post has added to its roster of columnists. This particular piece only reinforces that opinion.

Posted by: andym108 | July 13, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Has a centrist been nominated by a Democrat in recent history?

Posted by: jhpbriton

I would turn that around and ask "Has a left wing idealogue been nominated by a Democrat in recent history"?

The answer would be no.

Whereas I would argue that Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito are ALL right wing idealogues and activist judges (gasp) who have been nominated by recent Republican presidents.

Posted by: sambam | July 13, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I thought Kathleen Parker was hired to be a conservative counter-balance to all the liberal columnists at the Post. But since she's been there, most of her writings have been devoted to bashing conservatives and applauding liberals (like the above). So the editorial page's balance is even more out of whack.

I'm not sure what happened, but I think when Kathleen got to the big city, she decided she want to impress her new buddies in the newsroom, so she started to change her ideological colors. Doesn't speak well of her integrity. But the lefties here sure are enthralled.

Posted by: dakotadoug83 | July 13, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

George Washington is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave today:

"It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield."
-- George Washington, 1796

Posted by: patrick3 | July 14, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Sincere was she? Sincere ... hmmm. Sincerity is an 'interesting' word. In workplaces around this country, one can be censured for things they say with sincerity on employer property. Points can be applied to ones' work record. If ya' get enough points, you can be asked to leave. It's legal. Hmmmm ... still wondering. Oh well. There's always tomorrow.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | July 14, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Since the "wise Latina" meme has become the only Republican "weapon" it seems even more ridiculous that no one seems to remember the testimony of Justice Samuel Alito during his 2006 Confirmation Hearings. He proudly stated that, yes, he had let his ITALIAN heritage affect his rulings, with nary a peep from Constitutional scholars such as Rush Limbaugh ... or Jeff Sessions.
As quoted by Melissa Block on NPR during the May 28, 2009 show, Justice Alito said this in talking about how his background affected his rulings:

“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.”

Oh, Senators.... Seeennnatoors. I'm sure you've just overlooked this blatant "racist" comment by the white Italian male admitting he let his heritage affect his decisionmaking. Of course Judge Sotamayor has never said anything like that, and the "wise Latina" statement is always wildly misquoted. But, hey, why let a few facts get in the way of political theatre, eh?

Posted by: Omyobama | July 14, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

someone pins Ginsberg as a Centrist? You're kidding, right!? Her most ardent fans are from the fsar left; her biggest detractors are the real conservatives. If Judge G is a centrist, I'd like to see what a left-leaning judge looks like!

Posted by: TomH1 | July 14, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

...Her most ardent fans are from the fsar left; her biggest detractors are the real conservatives. If Judge G is a centrist, I'd like to see what a left-leaning judge looks like!

By the gist of your POSTing, anyone not named Scalia and his trusty SideKick Clarence perhaps????

or Anyone not supporting the Federal Govt having a Program to torture Suspects?

Or Anyone NOT a Cheney Hunting Partner and still alive:):):)

Posted by: MarkAntney | July 14, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in then-rural Orange County, Calif. and I now live in partly-rural Manatee County, Fl. I am a middle-aged white male, but because of where I've lived and worked, I have known many "wise Latina" women whose temperaments would suit them for making Supreme Court-level decisions.

I've also known WASPs, blacks, Jews and others, both male and female, who shared what we might call a "judicial temperament. I would be perfectly fine with "wise Latina" Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, which I believe should be composed of people from a mix of backgrounds, as is the rest of the U.S.A.

Posted by: roblimo | July 14, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Bingo! Empathy is not discrimination, it is part of the mix of considerations that compose a judgement about a situation. The law, the facts of a case are part of that judgement. The assertion that Law and Facts are applied without a larger framework of experience is epistomologicaly naive in the extreme.

Posted by: theosnyder | July 14, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It's really a shame that Parker still disguises herself as a conservative while she performs as a tool for the Left.

Posted by: dlrapoza | July 14, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"S.S. speaks--[then] feels." Kathleen appears to have a bit of masculinity in her.

Posted by: johnson0572 | July 14, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

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