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Bailing Out Sotomayor

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Hard as it may be, we should always refuse the temptation to get cynical about politics. No matter how many times we have failed, we should always expect and demand honesty, justice and fairness from our leaders. In that spirit, the American people must insist that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) stop his groundless, senseless crusade to rush through President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

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It seems clear now that the Democratic leadership want to do with the nomination of Judge Sotomayor the same thing they did with the infamous bailout bill. The bill was thousands of pages long yet they demanded Senators vote on it, even without having a chance to read it. Yes, that is the same bill that contained those million dollar bonuses for AIG employees, as we discovered later on.

It worked then, so why not “bail out” Sotomayor?

Last week, Sen. Leahy announced on the Senate floor that the hearings on Judge Sotomayor would start on July 13th. Reasonable requests to hold the hearings after the August recess or at least the end of July were thrown back in the face of Republican Senators. We later found out that Sen. Leahy did not even have the decency to tell Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary committee, beforehand. Sen. Sessions was attending a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery and apparently, Sen. Leahy could not wait until Sessions got back before he made his grand announcement.

But we heard this before when the cries of “the bailout must be signed now. It is urgent. We are loosing jobs. ” Yes, we continue to loose jobs after the bailout but don’t be cynical.

Sen. Leahy apologized to Sen. Sessions: “I apologize in not being more diligent in trying to reach you,” he said at the committee’s weekly markup. Does that mean Sen. Leahy will show some understanding and grant more time so those concerned can have the time needed to review Judge Sotomayor’s record? Come on now, what did I say about cynicism? But you are right, the answer is no. And if you are thinking the apology does not really amount to much, well you are right, but you keep focusing on the wrong thing. It is urgent!

The reality is that there is no reason for Sen. Leahy’s unreasonable behavior –unless there are some “bonuses” in Sotomayor’s record that they are trying to hide. Whether the hearing is held today, or July 13th, or July 27th, or after the August recess, Judge Sotomayor will start on the next Supreme Court term in October. So why not allow those Senators who have some legitimate concerns about her record enough time to address those?

Sen. Leahy understood this back when the Senate was considering the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts: “We need to consider this nomination as thoroughly and carefully as the American people deserve. It’s going to take time,” he said at a press conference. He told CNN, “We’ll sit down; we’ll do our due diligence. I expect to spend a lot of the month of August in my home in Vermont reading all of judge Roberts’ opinions and writings, as well as the background material about him so that sometime in September we can have thorough and open hearings.”

The amazing thing is that for Chief Justice Roberts there were only 327 cases to review. For Judge Sotomayor we are talking about more than 3,600.

No reasonable person can deny that there are things in Judge Sotomayor’s record that could raise serious concerns in a reasonable observer. And as her record is examined, more and more questions seem to surface.

We all know about her statements that the “court of appeals is where policy is made.” Also widely known are her statements that ethnicity and gender “may and will make a difference in our judging.” She said, “I would hope that 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.”

In light of those comments, the Ricci v. DeStefano case has to be troubling to everyone. In that case Judge Sotomayor upheld a discriminatory practice that affected firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, who were denied promotions because not enough minorities scored high enough on a racially neutral test. She later voted to refuse rehearing that case and did not even think the case was worthy of a published opinion. That is perhaps the most troubling part of it considering the Supreme Court decided to hear the case and will announce its opinion at the end of June.

We now know that the Sotomayor questionnaire the White House bragged about submitting to the Senate in record time contained some glaring omissions. Sen. Sessions said, "The White House was determined to get the nominee's questionnaire to the Senate in a hurry, and there were a number of cameras crews and press releases that went out when boxes were delivered. But in many ways the questionnaire was incomplete -- the result, I think, of that kind of rush."

Why not take the time to do it right? Why not stop and listen to the concerns raised and really make a good faith effort to respond in a careful manner? Why the rush? It really makes you think they are afraid of something. “Oh no, don’t be silly. We’re trying to save the economy here.”

Sotomayor’s visits with Senators raised other concerns. A big red flag has been raised about her view of the Second Amendment. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) said after her visit with him that she “was unwilling to say the Second Amendment protects a fundamental right that applies to all Americans, which raises serious questions about her view of the Bill of Rights."

Also, Sotomayor has now put the issue of life in play. She has not heard many cases concerning abortion and therefore groups like Concerned Women for America (CWA) that fight for the rights of the unborn have been very careful to be fair and evaluate her on her record alone, without creating a straw man or jumping to conclusions. But I guess for the same reason, the pro-abortion advocates were very concerned with her, so she has apparently made an effort to assure them of her allegiance.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said, "I was very pleased that the judge indicated that in the past that she has had a great respect for precedent and that Roe v. Wade is established law." On the precedent established by Roe v. Wade Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) said, "I believe she has a real respect for precedent and . . . if that is really true then I will agree with her, and I believe it is." [Wink, Wink] She’s one of us.

Sotomayor’s pro-Roe confidence campaign even included former law firm associate George Pavia who said, "I can guarantee she'll be for abortion rights."

In light of all these issues, is it unreasonable for the American people to insist that considerable time is given to carefully examine her record? You would think after the bailout debacle they would be more than willing to take the time now so we don’t end up paying for any more million dollar spa retreats.

The more Sen. Leahy and his cohorts want to rush this nomination through, the more suspicious it looks. The American people should therefore demand their Senators use every tool at their disposal to ensure that enough time is given. To let the Democratic leadership get away with this because it is “urgent” and “they have the votes to confirm her” is unacceptable.

No more bailouts please. We already know what those are really about.

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