If Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was a white man, do you really think they'd question whether a male nominee could treat blacks, Latinos and women fairly?
But she is Latina and based on some of the speeches given in the start of the Senate hearing today they are going to ask her over the next few days if she can treat white men fairly. She's Latina but can she be objective?
I think these questions are fundamentally unfair.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, noted at the start of the hearing that other nominees have faced similar questions, which he called "embarrassing."
Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, was asked if he could treat whites in the South fairly.
The first Jewish nominee, Justice Brandeis, was asked about the Jewish mindset and his nomination was bitterly opposed for his liberal viewpoints.
A Catholic nominee was asked if he would be dominated by the Pope.
"We're in a different era," Leahy said.
But are we really?
I'm fully expecting more of these kinds of embarrassing questions and comments to come in the next few days. Sotomayor is also a first and some politicians don't know how to handle that.
Already several of the senators have made clear in their
opening comments that they doubt her ability to separate her ethnicity
and her empathy (now made a bad word since President Obama used it)
from her judicial decision making.
"Call it empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever
it is, it's not law," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, said. "In truth, it's more akin to
politics and politics has no place in the courtroom."
During a break, Sessions told reporters broadcast on CNN that a judge "should be absolutely committed to objectivity."
This is code for him saying she can't be objective because she is
Latina. That in itself is racist. Would he dare think a white male
judge couldn't be objective when deciding cases that impact blacks? Of
course not. Why use this flawed logic in discrediting
Several of the senators noted her comment about "a wise Latina woman" from an old speech.
"If I'd said anything like that my career would be over," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.
I can't wait for Sotomayor to explain those comments and that she was talking about cases of segregation.
But as I blogged before Justice Rehnquist once wrote an opinion
supporting segregation and Justice Roberts once made jokes about blacks
and women when he worked in the White House. This is far more severe
and they still were confirmed.
Leahy criticized anybody who would create a "caricature" of Sotomayor.
"Let no one demean, this extraordinary woman, her success, her
understanding of the constitutional duties she has performed for the
last 17 years," Leahy said.
Shortly, we will get to hear what she has to say in her opening remarks.