Sotomayor promises to stick to the lawIs Supreme Court Justice-designate Sonia Sotomayor going to have to eat her words and forget her past to win a seat on the high bench? That would apparently appease some of her right-wing critics, who are grasping at straws in their campaign to try to derail the Hispanic woman’s nomination — or, at least, try to rough her up a bit.
By: Helen Thomas, Hearts Newspapers, The Jamestown Sun
WASHINGTON — Is Supreme Court Justice-designate Sonia Sotomayor going to have to eat her words and forget her past to win a seat on the high bench?
That would apparently appease some of her right-wing critics, who are grasping at straws in their campaign to try to derail the Hispanic woman’s nomination — or, at least, try to rough her up a bit.
Does she have to be a narrow constructionist and interpret the law their way? Let’s hope not — conservative jurists have had their way for too long on the high court.
If she wins Senate confirmation, Soto-mayor will be the third woman appointed to the court and the sixth Catholic on the current court. She would be moving up from a judgeship on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Fearful of the Republican onslaught, White House aides have asked Sotomayor to retract or rephrase some past statements that her critics have seized upon.
Take, for example, her comment in a 2001 speech at the University of California at Berkeley.
“I would hope 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 said.
The way her critics have chewed on this one sentence shows how desperate they are.
Because she thrived amidst family poverty and hardship, it seems obvious that she would have a more sympathetic and perceptive decision-making role than a judge who came from privileged circumstances. All of us reflect our history.
But White House aides are running scared. They say they wished she had used “different words.”
Those trying to pick a fight over her comment exude phony umbrage. They include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and broadcaster Rush Limbaugh.
Gingrich — so hungry to be back in the political swing after his fall from grace on Capitol Hill — called Sotomayor a “Latina woman racist.” (He later retracted the word “racist.”)
Limbaugh branded her a “reverse racist.”
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo said she “appears to be racist.”
It’s sad they are forced to resort to name-calling.
It’s ironic that Judge Sotomayor — who is of Puerto Rican descent and undoubtedly has experienced racial and gender discrimination — must fight accusations that she is biased.
As others have noted, she has a compelling life story. Her father died when she was 9 years old. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 8 years old. She and her brother, a physician, were raised by a single mother, a nurse.
Sotomayor’s academic record is impressive. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, which she attended on a scholarship, and from Yale Law School. She also has taught at New York University and Columbia Law School.
She is currently making the rounds on Capitol Hill, trying to win the hearts and minds and votes of senators.
She also has to promise her detractors she will not be an activist justice like those on the liberal Warren Court that brought our country into the 20th century — especially on the question of civil rights.
She told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that “ultimately and completely she would follow the law” — more than her life experiences.
She is being asked to bring nothing to the high court from what she has learned and experienced in her life.
Hah! Just like the others on the court!
(Helen Thomas can be reached at 202-263-6400 or at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org).
(c) 2009 Hearst Newspapers
Distributed by King Features Syndicate