This is some novel reporting, and better than a lot of other Senate/Court coverage out there right now.

In the polite but white-hot world of confirmation
hearings, senators and witnesses don’t always say what they want to
say. So they speak in code.

Here’s a translation of what was said in Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing, and what the players actually meant:


WHAT SHE SAID: “If I introduced everybody that’s family-like,”
Sotomayor said with a strong voice and a smile, “we’d be here all

WHAT SHE MEANT: I may not look like all of you but, trust me, I’m no
different from every other family-loving American. I’m surrounded by
people who love me.


WHAT HE SAID: “Judge Sotomayor’s journey to this hearing room,” said
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., “is a truly American

WHAT HE MEANT: If you love America, you’ll love Sotomayor — or at least vote for her.


WHAT HE SAID: “The confirmation of Justice Louis Brandeis, the first
Jewish-American to be nominated to the high court, was a struggle ripe
with anti-Semitism,” Leahy said. “Likewise, the first Catholic nominee
had to overcome the argument that, as a Catholic, he’d be dominated by
the pope.”

WHAT HE MEANT: Criticize Sotomayor at your own risk. You don’t want to sound racist.


WHAT HE SAID: “Let no one demean this extraordinary woman,” Leahy said.

WHAT HE MEANT: Criticize Sotomayor at your own risk. You don’t want to sound sexist.

Good stuff. Creative thinking in that room packed with media and politicians.

WHAT HE SAID: “I expect this hearing and resulting
debate will be characterized by a respectful tone, a discussion of
serious issues, a thoughtful dialogue and maybe some disagreements,”
said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the committee’s senior Republican.

WHAT HE MEANT: This is a lifetime appointment, folks. We’re not going to roll over and play dead.


WHAT HE SAID: “Politics has no place in the courtroom,” Sessions said.

WHAT HE MEANT: Democratic politics has no place in the courtroom.

Read it all, and use it as a translation key for this week’s events.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....