Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- Followers of Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings were witness to a now-familiar phenomenon. Women are treated differently than men in such settings.

To wit: Questions posed to Sotomayor about her temperament -- is she a bully? -- wouldn't likely be posed to a similarly qualified man.

Judicial temperament is a legitimate concern, of course. But watching Sotomayor take questions about her moods from the nearly all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, one couldn't help wondering how those same fellows would hold up under similar scrutiny while a roomful of women took aim at their ... fortitude.

Obviously, we're talking about Republican chaps. Democrats were practically tossing raiment over puddles as they lobbed loving little queries her way.

It's hard to figure what Republicans could have been thinking. It's nearly a foregone conclusion that Sotomayor will be confirmed. Essentially attacking her personality is, at minimum, bad political strategy. The first Latina to rise to the highest bench with a record of accomplishment few can match isn't the best person for target practice when Hispanic voters are the golden means to a political future.

Senators also hammered Sotomayor about her ethnic identification and whether she could rule fairly without undue influence from her gender or political preferences. Wait, let me guess, you're White Guys! Are we to infer that males of European descent are never unduly influenced by their own ethnicity, gender or political preferences? Can anyone affirm this assertion with a straight face?

When your party looks like a Wonder Bread convention during flu season, picking on ethnic identity and sex seems an un-brilliant way to proceed. Yet, these same gentlemen don't understand how Sotomayor could have expressed the thought that she, as a Latina, might be able to reach a wiser decision than a white male?

Sotomayor's explanation about that unfortunate remark, distorted in importance through endless repetition, seemed reasonable enough. She was trying to inspire her audience of mostly minority women. Anyone who has given hundreds of speeches -- or even dozens -- will wind up saying something regrettable.

But a few random comments extricated from the contexts of time and place, not to mention audience, is evidence unbecoming a fair judge in assessing another's character and body of work.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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