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.