In introducing his choice to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama touted Judge Sonia Sotomayor's biography. He noted her humble beginnings: she grew up in a housing project in the Bronx; a child of Puerto Rican parents; a father who died when she was nine; a mother who worked six days a week as a nurse so she and her brother could go to Catholic school.
If these humble beginnings mattered, as they relate to Sotomayor's view of the Constitution, Clarence Thomas should have sailed through his confirmation hearings instead of being subjected to "a high-tech lynching," as he famously put it. Clarence Thomas also came from humble beginnings (as did George W. Bush's Hispanic Attorney General Alberto Gonzales), but biography matters only if you're a liberal. If you evolve into a conservative, it is irrelevant, at least to the elites.
President Obama says a main criterion for selecting someone for the court is that the person be empathetic to people and to the consequences of legal decisions.
In a 2002 speech at Berkeley, Calif., Judge Sotomayor said she believed it is appropriate for judges to consider their "experiences as women and people of color" when they make decisions, adding that such things should "affect our decisions."
That statue above the Supreme Court -- the one of a woman wearing a blindfold and balancing scales in her hand -- is meant to depict the law as blind to one's gender, race and personal circumstances. Obama wants that blindfold removed and the law tailored, like a suit, to fit the individual. This is the classic liberal view of the law, or as Judge Sotomayor has put it, "(the courts) are where policy is made."
None of this matters, because Democrats have the votes in the Senate to confirm her. Moderate and even some conservative Republicans will cower at the prospect of being labeled racist, sexist and anti-Hispanic. Plus, it is a one-for-one exchange, swapping the liberal Souter for the liberal Sotomayor, so not all Republicans will want to put up a fight. They should, if for no other reason than to train for the next nomination, not to mention standing on principle.
There are not many personal indiscretions that could torpedo this nomination. While tax avoidance sank Tom Daschle's nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary, tax problems didn't stop his successor, Kathleen Sebelius, or Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. And we seem to have gone beyond the avoidance of nanny taxes that derailed previous nominations for lesser positions. So what should the Republican strategy be?
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