In the press conference President Obama held this morning to
announce Sonia Sotomayor as his pick for the Supreme Court, he
introduced her with an account of her amazing and inspiring life story.
When she was very young and her father passed away, her strong and
determined mother worked to give her children the best education she
could at Catholic schools in New York.
I wondered at the moment why Obama has chosen not to support school
vouchers to give similarly disadvantaged children the same chance, but
that’s another story…..
Since that press conference, the press has been churning and the air
waves burning with stories and analyses of Sotomayor and Obama and the
Republicans and Democrats. Much more to come on all that.
The spin started immediately. Key phrase in this WaPo piece by Howard Kurtz is
“the administration’s determination to frame the narrative…” That’s
what everything has been about for this team from the beginning of
Obama’s presidential campaign through every day since he took office.
Less than an hour after President Obama announced his
Supreme Court nominee yesterday, two “senior administration officials”
began holding forth for reporters on the virtues of Sonia Sotomayor.
Several journalists in the Roosevelt Room briefing protested, saying
there was no reason the officials couldn’t speak on the record. One of
the briefers, senior adviser David Axelrod, would be making a similar
case on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and PBS within hours. But Press Secretary
Robert Gibbs stood his ground: No names could be attached.
The effort to buttress the appeals court judge’s nomination from
behind a curtain of anonymity highlights the administration’s
determination to frame the narrative, even as cable news pundits and
bloggers were alternately praising and criticizing Sotomayor.
“We protest in the strongest terms the Obama administration’s
frequent use of briefings done on a background basis . . . especially
when the same officials briefing often appear ubiquitously on
television shows with similar information,” said Jennifer Loven of the
Associated Press, president of the White House Correspondents’
Association. She said this was particularly true on a Supreme Court
nomination, “when the issue does not involve sensitive material such as
national security information.”
So, even the press pool is getting annoyed with this game they have willingly played for so long.
The White House briefers — Axelrod and Ron Klain, Vice
President Biden’s chief of staff — found themselves discussing
questions about Sotomayor’s temperament, raised by sources — also
unnamed — in a widely quoted New Republic piece.
That would be this one, which got a lot of attention today.
NRO’s Bench Memos had some interesting posts today. Ed Whelan points out that Sotomayor expressed
“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” when each is acting in a judge
“in deciding cases.”
And he quoted National Journal’s Stuart Taylor with this response:
So accustomed have we become to identity politics that
it barely causes a ripple when a highly touted Supreme Court candidate,
who sits on the federal Appeals Court in New York, has seriously
suggested that Latina women like her make better judges than white
Any prominent white male would be instantly and properly banished
from polite society as a racist and a sexist for making an analogous
claim of ethnic and gender superiority or inferiority.
True. It dovetails nicely, however, with Obama’s stated “empathy”
standard for a Supreme Court justice today, as Whelan noted in another
post. When Obama explained his decision to vote against John Roberts’
nomination to be Chief Justice, Obama ventured that about 5 percent of
cases before a court will require more than legal precedent and rules
of statutory or constitutional construction. He said:
That last mile can only be determined on the basis of
one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives
on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy…
In those 5 percent of hard cases…in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart
But Kathryn Jean Lopez came up with this, and it’s very interesting. Whatever paper trail there may be on Sotomayor and business cases,
there’s nothing on the all critical issue of abortion. And that’s the
litmus test for any Court appointee. Lopez found that some abortion
advocates may be worried, and they’re playing the ‘empathy’ card in their favor.
“It is critical that any new Justice empathize with the
true plight of women to not only recognize when those protections are
being violated, but to take steps to safeguard them. We encourage the
Senate Judiciary Committee to engage Judge Sotomayor and any future
nominees to the Court on their commitment to the principles of Roe v.
Wade. Anything less threatens not only a woman’s constitutional
rights, but her life and health.”
Judge Sotomayor has not ruled on the constitutional right to
abortion. However, in 2002, she authored an opinion in a case brought
by the Center for Reproductive Rights (at that time the Center for
Reproductive Law & Policy), challenging the reinstatement of the
Global Gag Rule or “Mexico City Policy,”
…(abortion advocates refer to the Mexico City Policy as the Global Gag Rule in their newspeak)…
which prohibited overseas organizations that received
U.S. funds from providing abortion services or engaging in speech
intended to ease restrictions on abortion.
How did Sotomayor rule (and author the opinion) in that case? Against the plaintiffs.
The opinion focused on the application of legal
precedent and did not express a view on or discuss the impact of the
Global Gag Rule on abortion law reform efforts around the world.
This is going to be a very interesting summer.