Politics & Media
Jul 15, 2009, 12:13PM

I just plain don't like her

"Exactly who anticipated fireworks" in the Sotomayor confirmation hearings?

Sonia Sotomayor has a set of views that could not offend or even interest anybody. Or Sonia Sotomayor has had the intensive standard course of media training. Or Sonia Sotomayor has been skillfully medicated.Why oh why do we persist in having these hearings? Or why do we persist in believing—or hoping against hope—that these hearings will be revelatory (or at least great theater and politics)?“Still, for all of the buildup, the second day of her confirmation hearings produced few of the anticipated fireworks…” says the Times.Exactly who anticipated fireworks?This hypothetical anticipation comes partly because the conservatives have, with little credibility or even seriousness, made the case that she is a Puerto Rican firecracker. Liberals have defended her on this charge in a way that suggests they hope she really is a wild card, rather than the tried-and-true bureaucrat that everything about her career suggests she actually is.The closest we’ve gotten to the firecracker or wild card is the analysis of her hearty laugh (which, clearly, is practiced, too).Anyway, nobody anticipated anything near fireworks. Quite the opposite, everybody’s anticipated an easy and inevitable confirmation. Though maybe, on the way to this certain end—here’s hoping—we thought she might get huffy when the conservatives speak to her in this incredibly condescending and patronizing way they’ve adopted. But no, that’s what the drugs are for. And, indeed, they patronize and she feeds them nice-lady bromides back.Historically we are here, and theoretically paying attention, because of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. That hearing provides at least an example that something out of the ordinary, and revealing, can happen. That hearing also made it essentially impossible for anything meaningful to ever happen in a hearing again. All parties understand exactly what to avoid—and who not to nominate.Still, rather pathetically, we are here because we actually want to know something. We are about to give this person, unknown to the nation just a few weeks ago, a serious job for, likely, the next two or three decades of her life. Which is nuts.On the basis of her scant, wishy-washy, and wholly unilluminating judicial opinions, her charm-school appearances before members of Congress, and this stage-managed hearing, no reasonable person should vote to give her such a job. All we really have to go on here is that the president wants her—and it would be egg on his face if he didn’t get her. It used to be, several political generations ago, that presidents at least put their buddies on the court (JFK appointing his friend Wizard White; Johnson trying, and failing, to appoint Abe Fortas, his lawyer) or, even, their adversaries, to get them out of the way (Ike appointing Earl Warren)—at least they had some idea about whom they were hiring. But the president knows hardly more about Sonia Sotomayor than we do.This is a silly system and we ought to reform it. The Supreme Court ought to work like the Federal Reserve Board with fixed terms. People live too long for lifetime jobs.

  • I'm not crazy about Sotomayor, but Obama could've done much, much worse in his selection. I do agree, however, that Supreme Court Justices ought not to have lifetime appointments; that's a holdover from a long time ago when people didn't live as long. The same could be said for Congress. It was absurd, for example, that Strom Thurmond, barely able to keep awake, was allowed to remain in the Senate until he was nearly 100.

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  • That's obviously not true: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Justices_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States#Justices_appointed_before_1800 With the exception of the very first appointments, the majority of justices have served for a rather substantial period of time -- a decade or more -- which is why there's only been 110 in the last 220 years. John Adam's appointment as Chief Justice, John Marshall, served 34 years and lasted through 5 presidencies so I'm not buying the "holdover from a long time ago when people didn't live as long" argument. And Strom Thurmond wasn't ALLOWED to remain in the Senate, he was repeatedly re-elected by the voters of SC. So what's that got to do with it?

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