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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Wise Latina" in Redux

Liberal blogger, Greg Sargeant, reports that Judge Sotomayor's wise Latina comment is nearly identical to another comment she made in 1994.

Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes the line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion

(Full text here) The spin meisters are already in full effect. Sargeant claims that this will hurt the Republicans because they didn't raise the same issue in 1998 since they then had a copy of this speech. Conservative bloggers are of course saying that this undercuts the idea that "wise Latina" was a poor choice of words since these words are almost identical to this speech. It also raises more questions about their vetting process. Why would they adopt this line if she has said it more than once? It's very likely the administration didn't know about this speech when they made these statements.

Truthfully, all sides will be hurt, though, Sotomayor much more than anyone. Most likely, Republicans didn't read this speech the first time. The due diligence in vetting a Circuit Court judge is infinitesimal compared to a Supreme Court judge. Most likely, while they were given this speech, no one noticed the phrase. Maybe, they did notice and didn't care. So, they would be "exposed" as hypocrites or lazy or both. That's frankly not a shocking revelation about a politician. More than that, no Republican is up for the nomination. The idea that we should all dismiss this new revelation because it shows Republicans to be lazy, hypocritical or both is silly.

I won't call this a game changer because it isn't. It is however an important revelation. It can be used effectively by Republicans to continue to make the point that Sotomayor is driven by racial and identity politics. It undercuts the defense that it was a poor choice of words. It boxes her in to fewer explanations when this comes up in the hearings. It also could prove very damaging depending on how she has explained the comment to Senators so far. If she has adopted the "poor choice of words" line in private meetings, her credibility is undercut with this revelation.

The bottom line is that this is a boon for Republicans. It reinforces the very same narrative they have been drilling since the beginning. The Republicans need to merely augment their message to include something like this "if this was merely a poor choice of words, why did we recently find out that Judge Sotomayor made similar statements in 1994". It gives them even more ammunition and if they use it wisely, it will contribute to a big political victory with this nomination.

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