In defusing the controversy over the “wise Latina” comment, Democrats sought to put the spotlight back on Sotomayor’s extensive legal career, assure the public she was committed to following the law and is not an activist judge.
Typically senators are largely mum about their private conversations with high-profile nominees. But Democratic senators, after watching Sotomayor get ripped for the past week by conservative commentators, chose to reveal much more of their conversations from Tuesday’s closed door meetings.
“What she said was of course one’s life experience shapes who you are,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who Sotomayor cleared to give her first public response on the controversy. “But ultimately and completely … as a judge you follow the law.”
Moving forward, the Democrats are likely to stay on a new message and that message is that Judge Sotomayor will apply the law fairly and evenly to everyone. This makes sense to me at least. I would bet that internal polling showed the Democrats that "empathy" wasn't a winning description.
It's rather interesting because the Democrats are describing a judge that a conservative Republican would likely choose. In fact, this new message implicitly rejects President Obama's whole idea for what he looks for in a judge, which is someone that will stand up for the little guy.
It's also one that Republicans can defeat. In fact, if Republicans show some serious political acumen, they can score real political points with this battle. (even if ultimately she is nominated) Ultimately, the "wise Latina" line speaks for itself. There is no amount of walking back, clarification, or explanation that will change it. The Democrats can claim that it was taken out of context but the statement is clear in meaning.
Furthermore, the idea that she wants to apply the law equally to all persons in all situations flies in the face of her decision in Ricci. Was she really applying the law fairly and evenly to everyone when she denied 16 white firemen the right they earned to a promotion?
In fact, Republicans only need to maintain the message they have been hammering since she was nominated. The "wise Latina" comment is "troubling". The decision in Ricci is further proof that Sotomayor's decisions are colored by race and gender, and these two things fly in the face of the assertion that Democrats make that she will apply the law fairly and evenly to all.