Ruth Marcus is a columnist for the Washington Post. By any standard, Marcus is left-of-center, not an Obama-basher, and not hostile to liberal causes. So when Marcus rejects the White House spin on Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” statement, it deserves attention:
Nice try, Mr. President, but I’m not buying the poor-choice-of-words defense for Sonia Sotomayor. “I’m sure she would have restated it,” President Obama told NBC News about his Supreme Court nominee’s now-famous 32 words: “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.” Said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, “I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor.”
You spin the speech that’s dealt you. But it seems clear to me that Sotomayor, to quote that great jurist Dr. Seuss, meant what she said and said what she meant. This was no throwaway line or off-the-cuff linguistic stumble along the lines of the judge’s other controversial comment about appeals courts making policy.
Rather, Sotomayor was deliberately and directly disputing remarks by then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that a wise old woman and a wise old man would eventually reach the same conclusion in a case.
I think Marcus has it right; the statement by Sotomayor was not a “poor” choice of words. Sotomayor was expressing the trite but common wisdom among critical legal thinkers and left-wing legal technocrats which pushes racial, ethnic and other identities to the forefront of almost any discussion.
Marcus does not believe the statement or philosophy should be a bar to Sotomayor’s confirmation. My sense is that to get confirmed, Sotomayor has to run away from this ideology during her confirmation hearings, which is why the White House already is setting the stage for an “I didn’t mean what I said” defense.
Otherwise, Sotomayor would put herself far outside the mainstream, which according to those who opposed Samuel Alito, including Barack Obama, disqualifies one from serving on the Supreme Court and justifies a filibuster.
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