I just caught the tail end of the announcement, which you probably know by now.
President Obama announced on Tuesday that he will nominate the federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, choosing a daughter of Puerto Rican parents raised in Bronx public housing projects to become the nation’s first Hispanic justice.
Judge Sotomayor, who stood next to the president during the announcement, was described by Mr. Obama as “an inspiring woman who I am confident will make a great justice.”
The president said he had made his decision after “deep reflection and careful deliberation,” and he made it clear that the judge’s inspiring personal story was crucial in his decision. Mr. Obama praised his choice as someone possessing “a rigorous intellect, a mastery of the law.”
But those essential qualities are not enough, the president said. Quoting Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mr. Obama said, “The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience.” It is vitally important that a justice know “how the world works, and how ordinary people live,” the president said.
She isn't Pam Karlan or a darling of the left. She was nominated for her first judgeship by Bush 41, in fact. But in many ways, this is the sharpest pick Obama could have made. The Village tried to Swiftboat her a few weeks ago, and Obama ignored it. Jeffrey Rosen basically called her a dumb broad, and picked up anonymous whispers to do it. And a couple weeks ago, the entire Village got very interested in a New Haven firefighter's case, likely to be reversed, where Sotomayor participated in an opinion striking down a promotions test showed no advancement for African-Americans. Chris Matthews put a figurative hardhat on and imagined himself an Irish tough getting passed over for a job, and we had a weeklong debate about affirmative action in the most empty way possible. Obama dismissed it.
We're going to hear a lot from the right about these two quotes:
Judge Sotomayor has said her ethnicity and gender are important factors in serving on the bench, a point that could generate debate. “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,” she said in a 2002 lecture.
She also once said at a conference that a “court of appeals is where policy is made,” a statement that has drawn criticism from conservatives who saw it as a sign of judicial activism. Judge Sotomayor seemed to understand at the time that she was making a controversial statement, adding that, “I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don’t make law.”
It doesn't appear from her case law that she has a liberal record, but on the thin reed of these two quotes, expect a whole mess of shrieking. Obama couldn't care less.
He made his own decision based on his own best belief of who would make the best Justice. He didn't curry favor with anyone, and certainly not the right or the DC establishment. In fact, he really stuck it to the latter. Good for him.
...Sotomayor appears to be an open book when it comes to executive power, sitting on an appeals court that simply didn't hear very many cases of that type. Given that Obama has gone a bit too far, for my taste, in executive power, and the Supreme Court will certainly hear many of such cases, and the Court is closely divided on these issues, it will make a tremendous impact.
...Christy Hardin Smith has more. This Ricci case (the affirmative action case in New Haven) is going to be the MOST IMPORTANT JUDICIAL OPINION EVAH before we're done.