Debra J. Saunders

How will the GOP react to President Obama's pick to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court? Who cares? It doesn't matter what Senate Republicans think of Sonia Sotomayor. The GOP does not have the votes to stop her. Only Democrats -- or Sotomayor herself -- can torpedo the admission of Sotomayor to the Big Bench.

The fascination with the GOP's response to Sotomayor illustrates that Democrats are desperate to make Republican criticism, not Sotomayor, the issue. It's true: Republicans can raise questions about Obama's nominee, but only Democratic answers will determine her fate. So far, they seem to be standing by Obama's preference for a justice with "empathy" -- probably because voters don't see empathy as a bad thing.

And what's not to like in a compelling against-the-odds personal success story? Me? Of course, I would rather not see a very liberal judge on the team, but I also think that a duly elected president has won the power to pick Supreme Court justices. A nominee with Sotomayor's credentials should be assumed competent. The Senate should reject only clearly unfit candidates for this lifetime position.

Now, that's not what Obama thought when he was a senator. "I would support the filibuster of some" of Bush' picks for the federal bench," he wrote in his memoir, "The Audacity of Hope," "if only to signal to the White House the need to moderate its next selections." And: "It behooves a president -- and benefits our democracy -- to find moderate nominees who can garner some measure of bipartisan support."

His support for moderation notwithstanding, Obama voted against Chief Justice John G. Roberts (who won 78 Senate votes) and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. (58 votes). Ditto Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, who complained that she did not know where Roberts stood on abortion. Be it noted that top Democrats have voted against qualified candidates.

Veep Joe Biden wrote in his memoir, "Promises to Keep," that he felt he could fight the (ultimately failed) nomination of Robert Bork because, "An ideologically driven nominee who was chosen for his willingness to overturn settled precedent would invite a divisive and unnecessary fight."

Let the record show that top Democrats recognize the legitimacy in opposing overly ideological judges on the Big Bench.

Debra J. Saunders

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