This Week

I’m not nearly watching as much of the US Supreme Ct. confirmation hearings as I’d like. The Slate coverage/commentary has been pretty solid (ex., Emily Bazelon’s noting how Sotomayor goes into the context of her speeches – wherein she’s trying to motivate women and minority law students).

But from what I saw, I do wonder if the senators would ask some of these questions of a man (and how much all sides had to restrain themselves – Judge Sotomayor must have much patience not to roll her eyes at some of the patronizing attitude – like Bazelon, I would’ve have liked to have seen her attack right back at some of that attitude; some of the senators seemed patronizing (ok, maybe I shouldn’t be so presumptuous about Sen. Graham, but I do wonder if he’s never met a real bully – and judges can be bullies, just like anyone else, by virtue of they’re being human); maybe Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick‘s right – at least the anti-abortion protesters are consistent and up-front).

So, I guess it’s a good thing that Sotomayor handled herself real well, but I do wonder if these hearings could be less like plays.

I fell behind on this, but Bazelon’s interview with Justice Ginsburg was fascinating.

This Washington Post article about Sotomayor’s career development is fascinating about how mentoring can be very important.

Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson notes
good points:

The only real suspense in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is whether the Republican Party will persist in tying its fortunes to an anachronistic claim of white male exceptionalism and privilege.

Republicans’ outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor’s musings about how her identity as a “wise Latina” might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any “identity” — black, brown, female, gay, whatever — has to be judged against this supposedly “objective” standard. [….]

The whole point of Sotomayor’s much-maligned “wise Latina” speech was that everyone has a unique personal history — and that this history has to be acknowledged before it can be overcome. Denying the fact of identity makes us vulnerable to its most pernicious effects. This seems self-evident. I don’t see how a political party that refuses to accept this basic principle of diversity can hope to prosper, given that soon there will be no racial or ethnic majority in this country.

Yet the Republican Party line assumes a white male neutrality against which Sotomayor’s “difference” will be judged. [….]

There is, after all, a context in which these confirmation hearings take place: The nation continues to take major steps toward fulfilling the promise of its noblest ideals. Barack Obama is our first African American president. Sonia Sotomayor would be only the third woman, and the third member of a minority group, to serve on the nation’s highest court. Aside from these exceptions, the White House and the Supreme Court have been exclusively occupied by white men — who, come to think of it, are also members of a minority group, though they certainly haven’t seen themselves that way.

Judging from Monday’s hearing, some Republican senators are beginning to notice this minority status — and seem a bit touchy about it. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was more temperate in his remarks than most of his colleagues, noting that Obama’s election victory ought to have consequences and hinting that he might vote to confirm Sotomayor. But when he brought up the “wise Latina” remark, as the GOP playbook apparently required, Graham said that “if I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over.”

That’s true. But if Latinas had run the world for the last millennium, Sotomayor’s career would be over, too. Pretending that the historical context doesn’t exist — pretending that white men haven’t enjoyed a privileged position in this society — doesn’t make that context go away.

Yes, justice is supposed to be blind. But for most of our nation’s history, it hasn’t been — and women and minorities are acutely aware of how our view of justice has evolved, or been forced to evolve. Women and minorities are also key Democratic Party constituencies, and if the Republican Party is going to be competitive, it can’t be seen as the party of white male grievance — especially in what is almost certainly a lost cause. Democrats, after all, have the votes to confirm Sotomayor.

“Unless you have a complete meltdown, you’re going to get confirmed,” Graham told the nominee. He was right — Republicans probably can’t damage her. They can only damage themselves.