The Media Treatment Of Sotomayor
I didn't address the New York Times' Sotomayor temperament story yesterday. I think you could probably talk your way into believing that this was a perfectly legitimate area of concern, as Adam Liptak did. And I generally like Liptak as a reporter. But I also sympathize with Christy Hardin Smith's take.
You want to know why those opposing Sotomayor keep raising this issue of "she's a bitch on the bench?" (And how often have you seen this tack with a man. Honestly.)
It's because they know that a Heathers campaign is media catnip.
The titillating nature of junior high anonymous gossip mongering is so much more amusing and more easily understood by political reporters who don't bother trying to comprehend legal intricacies.
I think Liptak can get away with saying that Sotomayor's demeanor and style of questioning might be of legitimate interest if he didn't allow a bunch of anonymous sources to characterize it as "difficult" and "nasty" off the top. He did give voice to perhaps the best rebuttal of this line of argument, however:
Judge Guido Calabresi, a former dean of Yale Law School who taught Ms. Sotomayor there and now sits with her on the Second Circuit, said complaints that she had been unduly caustic had no basis. For a time, Judge Calabresi said, he kept track of the questions posed by Judge Sotomayor and other members of the 12-member court. “Her behavior was identical,” he said.
“Some lawyers just don’t like to be questioned by a woman,” Judge Calabresi added. “It was sexist, plain and simple.”
He said Judge Sotomayor’s forceful and lucid arguments had persuaded him to reconsider his position in a number of instances. “And I’m a tough act,” he said.
Actually, I think Sharon Theimer's AP article, accusing Sotomayor of hypocrisy because she grew up in poverty but now accepts her salary as a federal judge instead of living in a Bronx tenement, would warrant much more criticism.
There's no doubt that the media is treating this pick differently because Sotomayor is a woman, so driven are they by conservative frames and narratives.