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President Obama Tries To Play “Rope-the-Dopes” With Judge Sotomayor

Wednesday, May 27, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Michael Barone has his usual excellent take on the nomination of Judge Sotomayor. Key conclusion: “[S]she clearly meets the minimal standards for the job. Republicans are unlikely to prevent her confirmation.”

That doesn’t mean that Republican senators and conservative analysts should sit by and applaud politely. They should and must ask the nominee serious questions about her judicial philosophy, especially on the subject of a color-blind society and the law’s presumed blindness to the race, gender, ethnicity and religious background of those who appear before the courts or the larger government. There are other areas as well where an extended series of questions –numerous, short questions from the senators (no Republican Bidens please) and long answers from the judge– will prove riveting while providing an education to the country as to the difference between President Bush’s nominees and President Obama’s first selection.

But Judge Sotomayor will almost certainly prove to be sharp and charming, intelligent and witty –because that’s what federal appeals court judges are trained to be, and she has been on the bench a very long time. Cryptic references to her temperament by retired clerks eager to be “in the mix” are the worst sort of gossip-dressed-up-as-journalism, and simply lower expectations which she will easily meet and exceed. The judge is obviously a bright and accomplished professional with an enormously appealing personal story which resembles that of Justices Thomas and Alito. This is a great country that allows anyone who works hard to rise, and some to rise spectacularly as has Judge Sotomayor.

All of which is a way of saying that the GOP must be true to its originalist principles without being churlish or even curt. Some on the right will want to use the occasion of President Obama’s first nomination to raise money through direct mail appeals, even though there is literally almost no way to stop Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. Activists upset with the recharging of the liberal bloc on SCOTUS should send their money to the Senate campaigns of Rob Simmons in Connecticut, Rob Portman in Ohio, or Bob Beauprex in Colorado, should he declare. Conservative interest groups should spare us the histrionics and work on increasing the number of Republicans in the upper chamber. President Obama will almost certainly have more SCOTUS appointments. Any hope of serious opposition to a nominee requires more Republican senators pure and simple.

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