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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sotomayor's Confirmation is No Lock

Yesterday, for the first, the White House acknowledged that Judge Sonia Sotoymayor's comments in 2001 in Berkeley when she remarked that she, a Latina female, would make a better judge than a white male were a political liability. Here's how Robert Gibbs characterized it.

I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor.”

“She was simply making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging, that your personal experiences . . .have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts in certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding.”


Here's the president speaking about it.

Yesterday, prior to the White House's trackback, I surmised that this comment could be used as part of a strategy to build a narrative of a Judge that views the world in racial terms and makes decisions from the bench as such. It still can and all Republicans need to do is pivot slightly. In fact, if the Republicans are politically savvy, they can constantly stay a step ahead of the White House on this. So far, they have in fact been winning the public relations battle. After all, the White House wouldn't even have addressed the comments at all if they didn't see them as a political liability. They did so only because Republicans were getting traction out of them.

Here's the reality. If these comments truly were a poor choice of words or taken out of context, Judge Sotomayor should have walked back from them years ago. It is rank political opportunism to eight years later now claim that they were chosen badly. If that's the case, Judge Sotomayor should have said so long ago. If I am Republicans, that is the way I characterize things now. I would continue to use the term "troubling" in characterizing the comments themselves. I would say that the White House now stepping back from them is merely a sign that they recognize that the comments are a political liability. Furthermore, it is awfully convenient that only now are they saying these comments were poorly chosen and that smells of rank opportunism.

What really helps the Republicans in this whole thing is the custom that the nominee not speak to the media until hearings. Ultimately, the best person to clarify what they meant is Judge Sotomayor herself. Yet, she isn't allowed by custom to speak until the hearings. That could be two months or more from now. Until then, the Republicans continue to have a message that they can stay on point with. Meanwhile, to rebut this narrative, the Democrats will have to send in surrogates like both Gibbs and President Obama. Surrogates are of limited value. In order for this controversy to really die down, the nominee herself must fully explain what she meant and she can't do that until the hearings.

In the meantime, the Republicans should continue to build the case that her comments raise troubling issues that question whether or not she will treat all races the same from the bench. This view is reinforced by her decision in Ricci and the White House's sudden admission that these comments were merely a poor choice of words is really nothing more than rank opportunism. If this is the case, that's something that would have been acknowledged years ago when it wasn't politically expedient.

In order to derail the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the Republicans need to get the public to see that these comments are no different than if they were flipped around and said by a white male. In order to do that, they need to stay on message and continue to say so over and over. It's no doubt that they White House will attempt to walk her back from them over and over. The way I see it though is that it is too late. There is no longer any walking back. Sotomayor had eight years to do that. Now, the Republicans only need to adjust their message slightly as the White House engages this to respond to anything they may say. The overriding narrative they need to build remains the same. These comments reveal a world view of a judge that doesn't treat all races equally. That world view is reinforced by Ricci (not to mention her membership in La Raza, the Race, though I wouldn't necessarily focus on that if I am a Republican) and any attempt now to walk back is pure political opportunism.

11 comments:

xformed said...

And no different than those of a Senator making a comment about another senior senator should have won and election, which, had no racial words attached, but it was the "attachment" of the long past views of the senior senator that ended the political career of the other one.

Here, we have the person themselves making the directly offensive remarks, and there are those who stand to defend it as a joke.

Anonymous said...

I think the GOP is way too PC on this one.

She made a point that -- while not very PC -- had a lot of truth to it. Like it or not.

Republicans need to man up, support or oppose her, and stop wringing their hands about offending people. They might as well write off the Hispanic vote anyway; it's us REAL Americans that matter, not "ethnic" ones.

mike volpe said...

I don't which part of her statement had any truth to it. As for real Americans, Hispanic Americans are real Americans, and so your assertion is no less racist than her own comments.

Anonymous said...

Hispanic Americans are NOT real Americans.

For the most part they are either illegals or children of illegal invaders. One in five children in MY America is Hispanic. That is a tragedy to any REAL American.

Political correctness on this nomination and worrying about the "Hispanic vote" will be the death of us. We SHOULD be alienating them. Most of them are illegal invaders and/or welfare queens anyway.

mike volpe said...

Your statement is patently racist and frankly I shouldn't have even allowed it. Even by your own words, four in five Hispanics are legal citizens. They make up about one in six voters or so.

You are making a totally racist statement and it is totally wrong.

Anonymous said...

You are calling me and millions of devoted conservative Republicans racist, then.

God help us.

mike volpe said...

No, just you, you don't speak for millions but for yourself. I don't think that most Conservatives or Republicans would say

"Hispanic Americans are NOT real Americans.

For the most part they are either illegals or children of illegal invaders. One in five children in MY America is Hispanic. That is a tragedy to any REAL American."

That's just plain racist and hopefully any reasonable minded person would condemn it like I have.

Wario said...

You're way off base here; the Republicans aren't winning any public relations battle, and aren't going to be able to derail her confirmation by these inane racial tactics; Rasmussen shows that the president's ratings have gone up since she was nominated, and other polls show that the public overwhelmingly are in favor of her nomination. The fact is these comments of hers, in relation to discrimination cases, are very similar to remarks Scalia had once made in how his experiences as an Italian-American might affect his adjudication processes in discrimination cases. If the Republicans keep up trying to fan the racial flames, they aren't going to win over anyone on this point except mostly people already determined to be against Obama, like yourself, and racists like the previous poster you had to deal with. Their arguments won't be broadly persuasive to whites in general, and in the mean time they will just continue to alienate Hispanics more.

mike volpe said...

I didn't say they were winning the PR battle per se. I said that the WH has inherently acknowledged that this comment is becoming a problem by walking back from it. Earlier, they didn't comment on it to begin with.

I also didn't say they were winning but rather the playbook for them to win.
The President's approval ratings are irrelevant. This isn't about whether or not the President is popular. This is about whether or not the public thinks Sotomayor is qualified. That battle remains to be waged, and I merely gave the Reps the playbook to win.

Simon said...

"So far, they have in fact been winning the public relations battle."

Really???

So you did say they are winning the PR battle.

You are DREAMING if you think it is a good idea to play this angle.

Perception is reality and the democratic political machine will paint the Repubs' as the party of the old rich white male once again.

Choose your battle wisely. This isnt one of them

When are you going to learn?

mike volpe said...

Way to take the comment out of context. When I said this I was talking specifically about the comment itself and the Reps have been winnimg the PR battle around this comment. That's why the wH has walked back from it. They haven't been winning the PR battle as a whole, but surrounding this comment they have.