Sotomayor Hearings: Who's in the Hot Seat Now?
By Eva Rodriguez
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., entered this fourth day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings with seeming concern about how all this is playing back home.
During an appearance on C-SPAN earlier today, he had been asked about a Politico article quoting a prominent Texas Republican political consultant, who warned that “Cornyn’s going to have to repair fences with Hispanics; they are going to be scrutinizing him a lot harder after the way he questioned Sotomayor.” Cornyn also took a question from an Arkansas caller on the "Democrat" line, who pointed to repeated and sometimes intense Republican cross-examination of Sotomayor over her "wise Latina comments" and argued that Cornyn would face backlash in his home state, with its substantial Hispanic population, if he voted against confirmation of the would-be first Hispanic justice. Not surprisingly, Cornyn disagreed and implied that his constituents would understand if he voted on the basis of principled differences.
Still, Cornyn's opening questions to Sotomayor this morning suggested that he may have taken the warnings to heart.
Judge, when we met the first time, as I believe I recounted earlier, I made a pledge to you that I would do my best to make sure you were treated respectfully and this would be a fair process. I just want to ask you upfront: Do you feel like you've been given a chance to explain your record and your judicial philosophy to the American people?
Sotomayor gave Cornyn the answer he wanted -- in fact, that only answer the politically savvy nominee could give. I have been treated fairly, she said. "Every senator on both sides of the aisle that have made that promise to me have kept it fully."
Perhaps fearing that didn't provide him enough political cover, the senator went on to compliment Sotomayor. "And Judge, you know, the test is not whether Judge Sonia Sotomayor is intelligent. You are. The test is not whether we like you. I think, speaking personally, I think we all do. The test is not even whether we admire you or we respect you, although we do admire you and respect what you've accomplished," Cornyn said. "The test is really, what kind of justice will you be if confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States?"
It's unfortunate that the white men like Cornyn, who may be skeptical of Sotomayor's approach to judging, have to fear that a vote against her may appear to some -- or be used by opponents -- as proof of prejudice. That's completely unfair but sadly the political reality they must deal with. I'd love to think that every senator who weighs in on this nomination would vote on the merits as he or she sees them. I've been in this town long enough to know that merits often have little to do with a lawmaker's final vote.
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