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Sotomayor: The Apology Solution

Judge Sonia Sotomayor employed a classic and nearly always effective solution to the problem of explaining away public words that have become a problem: back away from them, apologize, and move on.

As The Post is reporting, Sotomayor “described her now-famous remarks that she would hope a ‘wise Latina’ would make better decisions because of her life experiences than a white male as a regrettable ‘rhetorical flourish that fell flat’ and does not reflect her views.

"’I want . . . to give everyone assurances, I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging,’ she said. ‘I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge regardless of their background or life experiences.’"

Personally, I always thought her remarks were defensible, especially since they arose in a context in which she was arguing that judges must transcend their personal situations and biases. A perfectly good case can be made that those who see life from the bottom up might see things more clearly than more privileged people who gaze at the world from the top down.

Moreover, Gene Robinson had it right today when he wrote about the double standard that seems to apply here:

Thus it is irrelevant if Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. talks about the impact of his background as the son of Italian immigrants on his rulings -- as he did at his confirmation hearings -- but unforgivable for Sotomayor to mention that her Puerto Rican family history might be relevant to her work. Thus it is possible for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to say with a straight face that heritage and experience can have no bearing on a judge's work, as he posited in his opening remarks yesterday, apparently believing that the white male justices he has voted to confirm were somehow devoid of heritage and bereft of experience.

We all have a heritage, and we all have our experiences. I saw nothing wrong with Alito talking about his Italian-American heritage, and there’s nothing wrong with Sotomayor speaking about her Latina background.

Nonetheless, Sotomayor made the wise political choice today. If she had tried to explain her comment, we might have seen the senators spend hours parsing the meaning of her words, leading to an exceptionally divisive day that would have done her no good.

Sen. Lindsey Graham won the sound bite competition yesterday when he said: "Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed." Sotomayor decided to avoid the meltdown by pushing her own quotation aside. That proves that she is a wise Latina. But please don’t quote me saying so, and I apologize in advance for any misunderstanding that sentence might cause.

By E.J. Dionne  | July 14, 2009; 7:54 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

I think her decision to (in effect) apologize and genuflect was a reaction to sexism. I think she was terrified by the second-rate senators of reaction.

"Just get through this portal" is the decision of many who still have to fight their way through the WhiteMale barrier.

Lindsay Graham: Were you the grappler?

Posted by: muddypaws | July 14, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

eugene robinson just seems bitter about every white male that ever came before sotomayor.

i think he suffers from some of the same bitterness that obama identified as what rev. wright useless from the point of view of society moving forward. euegen robinson is much more repressed than rev. wright, but you can see flahses of bitterness in almost all his columns that touch on race, and even some that dont.

Posted by: dummypants | July 14, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

South Carolina - such a great state but you sent Lyndsay Graham back to the senate. Shame on the state Republicans for even nominating him.

Posted by: wj03412000 | July 14, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, E.J., smart column.

To dummypants, congratulations on selecting such an appropriate screen name to use when trying to toss the "kitchen sink" at Eugene Robinson. There's a saying (in Russian) that the names that you call other people are the names that stick to you.

Posted by: spbphil | July 14, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

She didn't cite being privileged though. She cited race and gender.

Anyone who claims race, gender and ethnicity create qualitative differences between human beings is a bigot.

Posted by: patrick3 | July 14, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

patrick3 wrote, "She didn't cite being privileged though. She cited race and gender. Anyone who claims race, gender and ethnicity create qualitative differences between human beings is a bigot."

*******

Perfect! Enough said.

Posted by: JD15 | July 14, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I see. she's disingenuous. Thanks for pointing that out.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | July 14, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor should say whatever it takes to get through to the vote, which she will win, then do whatever she wants on the bench, just like John Roberts has done.

Posted by: hairguy01 | July 14, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

What about being straightforward, honest and true to one's own philosophy? I support Ms. Sotomayor, but I'm absolutely sick at the cowtowing to avoid contentiousness. To say that abortion rights are settled law is to shrink from a judge's obligation to expound what the law is. The correct answer is there is a right to privacy inherent in the Constitution beyond which line the government may not cross. This applies to fetuses like it does to your own liver. No one can reach into your body and make you do with it as they wish. There is no honor in avoiding confrontation where confrontation is plainly needed. To paraphrase an old political speech, 'tis like a rotting mackerel at moonlight, it facially shines, but it stinks.

Posted by: seve2yoo | July 14, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor should have been honest, instead of evasive and arguably not honest, and defended her controversial comments. She made the same or similar comment on several occasions, according to television reporters and pundits, so she obviously believes she, as a Latina judge occasionally be more fair than some white males.

Such an outlook may or may not be racist, but does not in itself disqualify her from being a justice. Just about any individual with many years as a judge, legislator or politician is likely to say at least a few foolish things. Some people, especially partisan politicians, are just too judgmental about some other people, while disliking the same standards being applied to them.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | July 15, 2009 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Gene Robinson (and Mr. Dionne in quoting him) missed the point with his comparison of Samuel Alito to soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor. I was disappointed to miss seeing any analysis from Post writers taking the analogy to its logical conclusion. Of course Sotomayor will and should be influenced by her heritage and upbringing. So should Justice Alito. The difference is that she stated that her particular heritage would lead her to make better decisions than people of another race and gender. If Alito had stated that his Italian-American background made him a better judge than a Latina woman, he would immediately have been disqualified as a bigot. I recognize too that white men have many historical social advantages especially in circles of power like the Supreme Court. As such, Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment is somewhat mitigated. There is also no reason for a single sentence taken out of the larger context of a speech should keep someone from attaining the Supreme Court when the rest of her career indicates that she belongs. However, she was right to back down from the assertion that her upbringing makes her intrinsically better than a white male judge. The problem is not that she acknowledged her heritage, it was that she claimed that her heritage made her superior. That is the kind of racial preference that this country has been struggling against for centuries. Please Justice Sotomayor, acknowledge and celebrate your culture, just don't believe that it is necessarily better than any other.

Posted by: cls28 | July 15, 2009 2:14 AM | Report abuse

"A perfectly good case can be made that those who see life from the bottom up might see things more clearly than more privileged people who gaze at the world from the top down."


Sotomayor is perhaps even more authentic, than Alito(her soon to be colleague on the Supreme Court), coming up from an even lower station in life, and from a minority group that is even more marginalized in elite circles. Since the Conservative White Man's Club seem to recognize only Horatio Alger Stories and not Horatia Alger Stories (with a Latina flavor), it is only fitting that they so cynically parse an honest statement of fact, like being "A Wise Latina," and promote the use of boiler plate denials of emotion and experience that validate the concept of "The Melting Pot," inscribed on the Statue of Liberty ("Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, ...")

Instead, the Conservative White Man's Club looking at society from the top-down, seems to be validating an "Unmelting Pot" in which the ingredients from favored groups in society rise to the top (even if they are light-headed like Bush), and those from less favored groups sink to the bottom (even if they are heavy with brains). As any cook can tell you, this makes not for a tasty stew or from another perspective wise, democratic decision-making.

Posted by: Jeff-for-progress | July 15, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

"

eugene robinson just seems bitter about every white male that ever came before sotomayor.

i think he suffers from some of the same bitterness that obama identified as what rev. wright useless from the point of view of society moving forward. euegen robinson is much more repressed than rev. wright, but you can see flahses of bitterness in almost all his columns that touch on race, and even some that dont.

Posted by: dummypants"

Incoherent as usual, "dummyupants" posits the Ku Klux Klan position on the news as best he can understand it in his drunken state.

They don't call him "dummypants" for nothing!

Posted by: thrh | July 15, 2009 3:00 AM | Report abuse

I think Sotomayor acquitted herself very well in the questioning, although I don't believe it was a scandal that she was asked about the wise Latina comment. Also, I didn't hear her apologize exactly. She conceded the point that she had spoken loosely and clarified that she did not mean what she appeared to say. I also don't think her wise Latina comment was really much like Alito's. She did not say her heritage would contibute to her ability to see things broadly, she said her race and gender would make her a better judge than a white man. I understand where this sort of rhetoric comes from, and I understood from her explanation why she would make it, but it is not a statement that is above question.

Posted by: dwatson01 | July 15, 2009 7:01 AM | Report abuse

The issue with her comments is that she sure made it sound like she felt that a generic poor latina gal would consistantly make better judgements than a generic white guy - period. Alito did not say 'I can make better judgements because I am from immigrant Italian stock'. If he had, he would not be on the bench today. The two are not the same and both Dione and Robinson know this and should be more journalistically honest.

Posted by: rnelson10 | July 15, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Her claim that she was simply trying to INSPIRE young Latino students with her now famous assertion is laughable. Who on the left would support a white man standing in front of a group of impressionable white students asserting the superiority of white males in order to "inspire" them? I realize it is nearly impossible for liberals to reason analytically, but this situation should be relatively easy to comprehend.

Posted by: Independent62 | July 15, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

She could of just stated-

"I don't recall"

How is that for upholding the Constitution Sen Graham?

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 15, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON THE ATTACKS ON JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR AND THE PUERTO RICAN LEGAL DEFENSE FUND IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE:

'It is disappointing but not surprising that another Supreme Court nominee is facing baseless personal attacks.

Only in Washington could someone's many years of volunteer service to a highly regarded nonprofit organization that has done so much good for so many be twisted into a negative. ...

When I discussed Judge Sotomayor with President Obama in the Oval Office and gave her my enthusiastic recommendation, I knew that some would try to play politics and engage in guilt-by-association attacks.'

Signed- Mayor of New York

Think he knows a bit about politics?

Maybe not- country first folks have their own style and strategy for the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Posted by: sasha2008 | July 15, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Diversity is what makes this country so strong and resilient. We have so many different strengths arising out of our many cultures, that it would be hard to subdue us. I always interpreted her remark as saying that a female judge from a Latino heritage would offer more diversity than one more white male judge and thus would strengthen the judiciary, would make it be better. I'm sure her presence on the Supreme Court will make it a better court, and I think even Roberts, Scalia and Thomas will agree.

Posted by: gss49 | July 15, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Sonia Sotomayor is being pummelled against the litmus test of White Maledom. Lindsay Graham et Al. seem to think they are the rubicon against which all other points of view must be vetted. How dare they preach to Sotomayor about having a point of view? Do Lindsay Graham and Jon Kyle truly think they have no perspective or attitude that affects their reasoning? Do they honestly believe Justices Thomas, Alito, and Roberts possess no ideological bias in their decision making? These folks may as well just tell Sotomayor she isn't good enough because she is a female latino, and couldn't possibly understand the complicated machinations of how things work. They are truly that ignorant and foolish.

Posted by: swatkins1 | July 15, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

That quote has always been defensible it was her delivery that was unfortunately phrased to could be taken to sound elitist.

It takes a certain kind of mind to twist that quote into a reverse-racist manifesto. Not a racist necessarily but a partisan mind willing to skew and spin to their predetermined, selfish partisan point of view. Those spinmeisters were in full flourish and it's not coincidental they had a R.- after their names.

Posted by: joebanks | July 15, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Wow, lots of willful ignorance here. Here's two questions for everyone: Is it proper for states to sanction discrimination against women and minorities? Is it proper for business to engage in discrimination against women and minorities?

I would argue that the answer in both cases is "No." There's no basis for that discriminatoin and, arguably, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment bars such discrimination. That said, there's a long history of "wise old men" on the Supreme Court upholding discriminatory statutes and actions.

Judge Sotomayor makes the perfectly honest and perfectly reasonable point that "wise old men," typically white, middle-age attorneys, will likely never have faced discrimination of any variety in this country. As such, they MAY be poorly situated to fully recognize the negative effects, much less the inherent wrongness, of such discrimination, and that inability may color how they apply the 14th amendments protections. Women and minorities, on the other hand, continue to face discrimination in this country and, if serving as judges, may use those experiences to guide their interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

Of course, Judge Sotomayor's statement does seem to be predicated on the notion that the 14th Amendment protects against racial and gender discrimination. Personally, I just wish she would say that. And, likewise, I wish Sen. Sessions and friends would come right out and say that they disagree.

Posted by: eevolk | July 15, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Analyze this: where did Lindsey Graham find the nerve, the gall, the infinitely inflated ego to tell (ok, it was more to INSTRUCT) Judge Sotomayor what it was like "in our world". Whose perspective is he attempting to relay to her? How extremely condescending! What has HE seen, what does HE know? He has health care that not even the top CEOs will even touch. He has a JOB in which HE can decide what he CAN and WON'T be able to perform. What TOUGH decisions has he made -lately? If he even remotely lays claim to saying, "Don't kill me; I'm just the messenger (for my fellow Republicans who 'wouldn't vote for Sotomayor')", as he said in his opening remarks on 7/12), it will be time for him to come out of his D.C. ivory tower.

Posted by: mukazzi | July 15, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Between Eugene Robinson eloquently pointing it out, and Sotomayor calmly proving his point, there has been no better opportunity for Republicans to "reflect" on their penchant for race baiting and double standards than during yesterday's senate confirmation hearings...

Too bad they will not take advantage of the opportunity, but the majority of voters will next election... The Republican echo chamber is sounding more and more desperate these days...

Posted by: gmoore40 | July 15, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

E.J.D. - "A perfectly good case can be made that those who see life from the bottom up might see things more clearly than more privileged people who gaze at the world from the top down."

Why is Mr. Dionne assumes that only white males see the world from the top down, and that all minorities see the world from the bottom up?

G. Robinson - "Thus it is irrelevant if Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. talks about the impact of his background as the son of Italian immigrants on his rulings -- as he did at his confirmation hearings -- but unforgivable for Sotomayor to mention that her Puerto Rican family history might be relevant to her work."

But that's not what Sotomayor did. She claimed her gender and family history made her a "better" judge. That's a big difference. It was certainly legitimate to ask her to explain her comment. She did. The rest of us can now move on. But I'm sure the MSM won't.

Posted by: MDLaxer | July 15, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

"She claimed her gender and family history made her a "better" judge"

---

No she didn't. She said she hoped her gender and ethnicity would help her come to a better decision in dicrimination cases. There's a difference between that and "a better judge."

Posted by: VTDuffman | July 15, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Gene's editorial was "spot-on."

Posted by: sbaker1 | July 15, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Dionne, Judge Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark is a red herring, easily explained away as a faux pas, and far from her most controversial comment. Is that why you and so many others in the media are dwelling on it?

The Sotomayor remark that most got to me was the one I first read here in the Post to the effect that "I couldn't do well on the SAT because it is culturally biased."

Really? Algebra is culturally biased?

As a liberal Democrat, I'm appalled that someone with such an obvious chip on her shoulder, whether liberal or conservative, seems poised to join the already infamous Supreme Court roster.

It is common enough for public figures (see McCain, Lieberman) to turn on a dime and reveal their true colors when it proves convenient for them. And David Souter himself proves that Supreme Court nominees don't always turn out the way their nominors expected. Let us hope that a Justice Sotomayor does not follow suit.

Posted by: Itzajob | July 15, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

The verbal section of the SAT can be potentially biased, if it has words and concepts applicable to rich people. Who in Harlem ever heard of a regatta? Dad told me before I took my first job I blew my chance to row in a regatta because I was going to perform manual labor (a dishwasher). Doesn't sound like it applies to folks in Harlem, either.

(The Wikipedia definition does not mention this.)

= = = = =

Sotomayor could have said without offense that it is preferable for the Supreme Court to have, in general, a diversity of backgrounds to judge laws applicable to every American. She could have sidestepped the issue of racism or sexism, not even suggested quotas, and she would have been 100% correct.

Perhaps Brown v. the Board of Education would not have been delayed so long if we had had a more representative Supreme Court. The postwar fascist-leaning white-supremacist Southern states' rights policy was beginning to give the entire United States an embarassing black eye in the Communist-controlled world. Don't forget America had eugenics and even de facto slavery before the Second World War. Read Slavery By Another Name. Many African Americans convicted of trumped up or minor offenses were reduced to de facto slavery with impunity until the Second World War.
The Civil War did not completely end the slavery of blacks. It certainly did not give them equality. The Battle of Little Rock Arkansas, 1957, did: with the introduction of Eisenhower's U.S. Army to admit African American high school students.

Having old white men behind the bench in Washington helped keep the status quo for nearly 100 years. Now we have had more than female Justice and more than one African American male Justice.

I didn't like being told she had better ideas than someone like me, but I am glad she apologized. It helped make my day. :-)

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | July 15, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

May I quote patrick3:

"Anyone who claims race, gender and ethnicity create qualitative differences between human beings is a bigot."

The writer does not understand the meaning of the word bigot. Citing true differences about persons race, sex, ethnic, and religious characteristics alone is not bigotry. False representations and intolerance are need to call a person a bigot.

There was no demonstration of false representation or intolerance from Judge Sotomayor yesterday. But, there was and has been such expression from media and political bloviators. Yesterday, it was Senator Sessions turn at bigotry by repeated and negative reference to the Judge;s Puerto Rican associations.

Try the dictionary, patrick3.

Posted by: pbarnett52 | July 15, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I think Walter Dellinger, American Professor, Duke University, former United States Solicitor General and currently at O'Melveny & Myers LLP comments on the Republicans' arguments against Judge Sotomayor during his recent appearance of the July 13th Charlie Rose Show ..www.charlierose.com are worth savoring. In response to Charlie Rose's question, "What about this idea that the law, is the law, is the law? Dellinger stated, "this notion that law is some mechanical or logical process like proofs of Euclidean Geometry is the great mistake that is behind much of the criticism of Judge Sotomayor. This notion that judging can be done well without drawing upon experience, your sense of the social culture, your sense of history, your understanding how different rules will affect different people...that's just crazy."

He also said, "The worst kind of judicial lawmaking is one that doesn't even recognize, acknowledge or admit that those policy considerations are playing a role is to pretend that you can stare at few words like privileges and immunities, or due process,or equal protection or the right to bear arms and decide if you think hard enough or logically enough about what that means without importing any other vice...that is just a misunderstanding how law works...."

"and to pretend that you find some magical logical formula is then not to take responsiblity for candidly explaining and acknowledging the real basis of the wellspring of the decision you are actually making."

He made some other interesting statements about conservatives values.

"We are entering a time when people speak of judicial activism without realizing that the issue more and more is conservative judicial activism. The great hot button issues that we are talking about, guns, property, reverse discrimination are cases where those who favor conservative viewpoints want judges to set aside decisions made by Congress, state legislatures, local governments; the elected representatives...and more and more that is the issue as to whether judicial power will be used to invalidate what popularly elected governments have done and to do so in the name of certain conservative values"

(these are my transcribed notes from the video, so there may be some tiny inacurracies) Watch the video!

Posted by: anghiari | July 15, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

This had nothing to do with sexism or racism or glass ceilings. This had to do with somone campaigning for consideraiton to be on the Supreme Court. And using this "rhetoric" as a means to plant seeds of support.

That she said what she said deserved to be scrutinized. If an Old White Guy had said the same thing 6 times he would have been villified.

If we have learned anything from New Haven, it is that equality is exactly that. There is no reparation allowed. And our guard has got to be up all the time to make sure that the same standards we have fought so hard to establish and enforce will be defended dilligently.

Posted by: DOps | July 15, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

RE. Judge Sotomayor mentions of a judge's prejudices and the impossibility of a judge lacking some prejudice when he or she makes a decision has raised a good bit of controversy among senators as wel as the general public. I'm thankful that the issue is raised because it is a vital one to ending prejudicial actions from judges and others.
I believe it is impossible to not have some prejudices. Just by virtue of our race, gender, religion, place of birth, or personal values we all have certain prejudices. To deny this is to deny our humanity and dooms us to play those prejudices out in our everyday life and I might add, on the Supreme Court if I'm a judge. None of us want to be seen as prejudiced but in fact we all are for the reasons mentioned above. To ask a judge to be prejudiced-free is to ask a judge to be without feelings, opinions or personal views; in a sense to be a robot. The good news is that if we can be real with ourselves about our prejudices we then stand a better chance to act out of the "better angels of our nature" It is the wise man or woman who knows their shortcomings and prejudices and chooses to do the right thing for all concerned.

Posted by: tribebuilder | July 15, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"The Sotomayor remark that most got to me was the one I first read here in the Post to the effect that "I couldn't do well on the SAT because it is culturally biased."

Really? Algebra is culturally biased?"

While it's true that pure math transcends cultural bias, it is also true that it is only one aspect of the SAT. The same cannot be said of language arts and history. Sotoymayor was referring to SAT tests she took decades ago, but as someone who works in the field of education with a diverse group of students, I can tell you that, despite sincere efforts to eliminate bias of any kind, most standardized tests do contain questions that show cultural bias. Without seeing students' reactions, it's difficult for someone who has not grown up as a member of a minority to discern the subtle differences. Sometimes it's just a matter of vocabulary, sometimes perspective. And it's not just about ethnicity, but income. Studies show that children from low income families are significantly more likely to come to school with very limited vocabularies than those from middle to upper income homes. That's why there is now so much emphasis on pre school education. It's not to dumb down the tests, but to try to level the playing field long before the student sits down to take the SAT's. The irony in this whole debate is that research has shown that a student's SAT performance is not a reliable indicator of success in college, nevertheless in the real world upon graduation, which is why many colleges have stopped requiring them for admission.

Everyone's perspective is shaped by their experiences and to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

Posted by: Koko3 | July 15, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

“Good Morning Judge Sotomayor”.
“We represent the white man in America. We Southern Republican male Crackers on this committee are used to having power. This is our country. We are used to having and the advantage of being a white man in America. We are afraid of you having power. We are having a problem with folks saying you are temperamental. I found a few folks you worked with over the last 17 to 20 years who say this about you. Also, we are concern you might be a radical judge sympathetic to other Hispanics and not sympathetic to whites. We think you are a racist. We are racist, but that's different because we are white and this is our country. Besides, if we made a statement like you did, you know the wise Latina woman, we would be out of office. We know after listening to the entire statement , we know what you mean, after all Alito said this but he’s a white man, you are not. Never mind the NAACP statement. Since we are white men, and this is our country, its ok. We are worried about reverse discrimination. After all, if not for racism, there would be no reverse discrimination. But we whites are not supposed to be discriminated against and this worries us. Also, you made speeches championing more women and minorities on the bench to change legal outcomes .We are white men goddarnit. We are afraid our way of living is in jeopardy. Oh, even though we had many opportunities to change Rove vs Wade we did not. You see, we don’t ever want to make abortion illegal but we use this as a wedge issue, kind of like a Ace in the pocket when we are in a tight spot and need the right wing nut job votes. Judge Sotomayor , are you familiar with the position that the fund took regarding taxpayer-funded abortion? The briefs they filed? PRLDEF is a radical organization whose briefs were often co-signed with kindred groups including the World Workers Party, a leading communist organization, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. This is un-American like the NAACP and LaRaza.
Our boss, Rush Limbaugh, told us to vote against you or he will scold us. Bill O'Reilly and FOX tells us to circle the wagons. In the more than 200 years of Supreme Court justices, you are the first one we considered racist so, I am afraid we will have to vote against you serving on the Supreme Court.”
“Thank you for coming”.

The Republican Party is toast.


Posted by: sherardg | July 15, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"Judge Sotomayor makes the perfectly honest and perfectly reasonable point that "wise old men," typically white, middle-age attorneys, will likely never have faced discrimination of any variety in this country. As such, they MAY be poorly situated to fully recognize the negative effects, much less the inherent wrongness, of such discrimination, and that inability may color how they apply the 14th amendments protections. Women and minorities, ...."

Blah, blah, blah. What about poor white kids who have been negatively affected by being poor and uneducated for generations? Will she take their problems into consideration? Probably not. Race has no place on the bench. Apply the law and be done with it.

Posted by: supersonic1 | July 15, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse


It just cracks me up when a woman from an ethnic minority talks and acts like a white man, some whites take offense.

Ever hang out at your local country club?

I'm white. You hear this kind of crap from some privileged "Tripp" all the time. At least I understand that most white males are so privileged and pre-placed for success, they have no idea how much so.

Leave the poor woman alone, she's vetted, she's good. No wonder there's so much mediocrity in government if you have to endure such a ridiculous gauntlet.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | July 15, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you, her comment is perfectly defensible. If the white male is Jeff Sessions, A wise Latina would certainly make better decisions than a white male if the white male was Jeff Sessions. Senator Sessions, remember, would be careful not to use anything his 63 years experience of life has taught him: that would be wrong.

The Republicans also think it would be wrong for Judge Sotomayor's decisions to be influenced by her political views. They want her decisions to be guided by their political views.

Posted by: Alexis3 | July 15, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

David Duke, Sotomayor....to the left only one is offensive....

To real Americans, both are.

Posted by: georgedixon1 | July 15, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Dionne missed the point here as do many of the individuals who have posted comments here. This isn't about Judge Sotomayor expressing the fact that her life experiences and struggles help guide her in her decision-making. It's about the fact that as a latina woman with the "richness of a latina woman's experience" she makes better decisions than a white man. That comment is clearly racist and is rooted in a generalization that seems to be widely accepted among Democrats - that white men have all grown up with privileges and have not experienced hardships and poverty in their life. As a white man in his late 20s from a lower class background, who worked his way through high school and college and grew up in the age of affirmative action, I can't help but feel that our country is misguided and out for revenge against "the white man" or at least the idea of what society thinks a white man is. As a young white male, I have experienced racism in the college admissions process and in the corporate world in the form of affirmative action. Maybe with the "richness" of my own experiences I am more qualified to make decisions. By the way, when my Irish ancestors arrived in this country 150 years ago they were victims of much worse discrimination than Judge Sotomayor ever experienced as a self-proclaimed product of affirmative action. "Irish need not apply" was frequently included in job descriptions and it was common for landlords to refuse to rent Irish to tenants. Racism in the United States is a sad reality of our history and has been experienced by many groups at many different levels - the only solution is equality for all regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Policies that Sotomayor will surely support do not get us any closer to equality and will only further perpetuate racial tensions.

Posted by: dchilo1013 | July 15, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The GOP seems to be perturbed that Sotomayor is not saying what they want her to say by confessing her sins for being a "reverse racist".



Perhaps Sessions and the other Republican senators should simply waterboard Sotomayor. They would probably get her to say whatever they want her to say. Of course, it wouldn't be the truth, but since when did that matter?

Posted by: labman57 | July 15, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

As a wise Latina, SS knows you don't have to accept the invitation to every fight to which you're invited.

Posted by: lionlady_pa | July 15, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

EJ you are clearly a moron. As stated by Senator Graham on day one, if I made such a statement, I would not have a job. Everyone with active brain cells believe that statement. So where is the double standard?
It is clear the future SCOTUS will say whatever it takes to get on the bench and her mea culpa on the “better” statement is disingenuous.

Posted by: FormerNewYorkerNo9 | July 15, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The problem is not that she cited her heritage as a support of making a decision.

The problem is that she stated that her heritage would make her reach a better conclusion than someone from another background.

In that case, we should let white men judge white men, black men judge black men, Hispanic women judge hispanic women etc... Can you imagine how stupid this process would be?

Posted by: trumeau | July 15, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I am always personally amazed at what bias can do to intellect. Sotomyer did not say ,"my background and experience will have some effect on my judgement" what she said was " my background, experience and race makes me a superior judge".

I do believe she will make a fine supreme court judge but she said what she said and no other nominee in history said it.

Posted by: clarity007 | July 15, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

DOps said: "If we have learned anything from New Haven, it is that equality is exactly that. There is no reparation allowed. And our guard has got to be up all the time to make sure that the same standards we have fought so hard to establish and enforce will be defended dilligently."

It is pure ignorance to think that everyone in our country grows up in the same environment. When tests like the SATs, for example, are skewed to white middle class students, the rest of the kids taking the exam are working with a handicap. We're not talking "reparation" here, just leveling the playing field.

Posted by: lionlady_pa | July 15, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Of course as one factor for choosing Sotamayor is she is Latino. But, she is more than qualified too. On a political angle, Obama knew these racist neo-con good old boys would do exactly what the are doing. So there goes the Hispanic vote. The party will never get many African Americans. And after the hateful treatment by King and FOX and Friends of Michael Jackson's death and their hateful statements on the day of his funeral, the nail is on the coffin are far as the youth vote and the woman's vote..

The white male leadership of the Republican Party displayed in these hearings showed the world once and for all that its cronyism, corruption and discrimination completely outweighed any shred of competence. And that it can no longer count on white votes to carry its divisive, prejudiced agenda, both because there are proportionately fewer white voters, and because outside of the Deep South and Appalachia, white voters are increasingly disgusted by the Republican Party. GOP leaders, not all stupid, have seen this coming for some time now, as one predominantly white suburb after another has fallen to the Democrats. And so for years they have been hanging their hopes on the perceived social conservatism of African-American and, especially, Latino voters. Well its too late for that after this Sotomayor display. It is no coincidence that at the same time, the GOP has shriveled into a more uniform party than at most times since the 1960s. Like a restricted country club that would rather die than change, the Republican Party is marginalizing itself for the sake of the white men who run it.

Posted by: sherardg | July 15, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

... There is also no reason for a single sentence taken out of the larger context of a speech should keep someone from attaining the Supreme Court when the rest of her career indicates that she belongs. However, she was right to back down from the assertion that her upbringing makes her intrinsically better than a white male judge. The problem is not that she acknowledged her heritage, it was that she claimed that her heritage made her superior. That is the kind of racial preference that this country has been struggling against for centuries. Please Justice Sotomayor, acknowledge and celebrate your culture, just don't believe that it is necessarily better than any other.

Posted by: cls28 | July 15, 2009 2:14 AM
****************************

In an otherwise intelligent response, I'm afraid I have to challenge your assertion that her statement means what you say it means. As you point out, context is critical. It's abundantly clear that she was challenging, in a rhetorical way, the old saw (attributed to Justice O'Connor) that wisdom is not a function of gender.

But, Judge Sotomayor asked in the Berkeley speech, if that's true, how do we explain unjust rulings by historical "wise men" of the Court, like Holmes or Cardozo? Her statement, that she "would hope" (an important and subtle word choice) a Latina's heritage MIGHT bridge that gap, at least in instances of cases with race at their root, is thought-provoking and profound.

She is patently NOT saying she thinks Latinas are superior jurists; that claim is absurd. She's clearly saying she "would hope" that heritage might contribute to this prized attribute called wisdom.

Posted by: abqcleve | July 15, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The problem is not that she cited her heritage as a support of making a decision.

The problem is that she stated that her heritage would make her reach a better conclusion than someone from another background.

In that case, we should let white men judge white men, black men judge black men, Hispanic women judge hispanic women etc... Can you imagine how stupid this process would be?

Posted by: trumeau
************************

No. I'm sorry. The real problem is people who insist on this reading of her statement are incapable of subtle thinking about the law. Anyone who asserts that Sotomayor "clearly said" that her heritage makes her, ipso facto, a better jurist, disqualifies him or herself from the discussion as being incapable of thoughtful argument.

Posted by: abqcleve | July 15, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Apologetics work if both; the party deserving of the apology is forgiving enough to receive the apology, and the offending person understands that he is guilty of an offence. Judge Sotomajor is not in offence enough deserving of an apology. What maybe in offence is public attitude, kind of like a bad smell.

Posted by: edtroyhampton | July 15, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

If the law were just a series of formualas and each legal decision could end QED like a mathermatical proof, we'd live in the world the Republican Senators suggest is normative. But legal decisions are always a matter of judgment, and that means judges differ on how they view both the facts and the law. How else to explain split judicial opinions? So how do judges come to differ in how they interpret and apply the law? It's not a matter of whim, it a matter of how they think, which is a mysterious process that must draw upon their personal experiences at the most basic levels. That those antagonistic to Sotomayor's nomination to the court seem incapable of grasping this simple truth is stupifying.

Posted by: gratianus | July 15, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I am always personally amazed at what bias can do to intellect. Sotomyer did not say ,"my background and experience will have some effect on my judgement" what she said was " my background, experience and race makes me a superior judge".

I do believe she will make a fine supreme court judge but she said what she said and no other nominee in history said it.

Posted by: clarity007
**************************

I'm sorry, this is just about the most fatuous lie I've read today. Aside from the subtle intellectual skills necessary to interpret context accurately, skills apparently lacking in this instance, one must start with correct facts. She did NOT say "my background, experience and race makes me a superior judge". What the heck is your source for that, Rush?

She said "Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

If you're going to challenge someone's quote, do yourself a favor and try to find the original source before you embarrass yourself needlessly.

Posted by: abqcleve | July 15, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

abqcleve - are you really that obtuse?

"She said "Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

"She did NOT say "my background, experience and race makes me a superior judge".

Okay - really? Then just what the hell do you think she meant by her comment?


Posted by: Snowdog | July 15, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

vtduffman wrote: "No she didn't. She said she hoped her gender and ethnicity would help her come to a better decision in dicrimination cases. There's a difference between that and "a better judge."

This is, I believe, the exact quote: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

I take your point that she did not say: "I'm a better judge than a white man because I'm latina." She didn't say that. But I think implying that "more often than not" you would make better decisions than a white man is tantamount to saying you would be a better judge than a white man. If your conclusions are more often than not better, what else could you be?

I have to say that as a life-long Democrat, who is well disposed toward Sotomayor's nomination, I remain confused why so many people feel compelled to defend a remark that she herself has said was ill-conceived.

I have now read dozens or more defensible interpretations from fellow liberals of what Sotomayor really meant. After watching her yesterday, it is clear that she is articulate enough to express anything she cares to. But she said what she said, and she's acknowledged it was unfortunate. Why are so many reluctant to accept that?

Posted by: dwatson01 | July 15, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"A perfectly good case can be made that those who see life from the bottom up might see things more clearly than more privileged people who gaze at the world from the top down."

I agree that those at the bottom might see things DIFFERENTLY -- but why necessarily more clearly? Aren't those at the bottom influenced by their own self-interests as much as those at the top? So why the assumption that they are somehow smarter or less self-interested?

Posted by: elfountain | July 15, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a Supreme Court nominee would appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and make the following statement.

"I believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The United States was designed by the Founders to be, not a democracy, but a constitutional republic, a political system under which government is limited and citizens are free.

“The Declaration of Independence says that ". . .all men . . . are endowed . . . with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness." The Founders said that this was self-evident. (Note: in later versions the right to property was removed because of conflicts over the status of slaves. Slaves should have been freed. The right to property should not have been removed.)

“Further, the Declaration says, "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted . . . ."

“In other words, all men have unalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. The sole function of government is to protect those rights.

“If I am confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court, I intend to enforce laws that protect individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.

“I intend to declare as criminal and punishable any violation of these rights be it by individuals or governments, local state or federal. Further, I will hold that any law enacted by Congress or the Senate or any legislative body of any state, county or city that violates these rights to be unconstitutional.

“And further, I will hold that any edict or order, whatever it is called, issued by the Executive branch of the Federal Government that violates these rights is also unconstitutional.

“I will vote to accept all challenges to existing laws and to amendments made to the Constitution since it's inception where those laws and amendments are in violation of the individual rights the government is instituted to secure.”

Unfortunately, I don’t believe we will hear anything remotely resembling this from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Instead, we will hear evasive and vague answers to questions, denials of previous statements and claims that we just didn’t understand what she said.

Substituting empathy and Latina ethnicity for objective judgement she has clearly disqualified herself from not only sitting on the Supreme Court, but from sitting on any court.

In her opening remarks, she made a fundamental error. She said that fidelity to the law should be the guiding principle in making judgements. The correct principle is fidelity to the Constitution. Otherwise, how would you declare a law to be wrong if the law is the standard?

Recommended reading list:

Man’s Rights by Ayn Rand*
The Nature of Government by Ayn Rand*

*Both essays may be found in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand.

Posted by: 4joewright | July 16, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Eugene Robinson bitter??? What a hoot! He is an extremely forgiving and positive thinker: one of the wisest--and kindest--persons to come out of South Carolina.

Posted by: amymeganemily | July 16, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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