How did Judge Sonia Sotomayor do it? She sat there – and that broken ankle had to be aching – as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee engaged in the usual political posturing and speechifying, appealing to their bases and the cameras. And they asked a question here and there.
On Monday, Sotomayor had to smile and nod her head when facing both compliments and complaints.
, she got to talk back, when she could get a word in.
1) I didn't realize how many times the words "wise Latina" could be used in a sentence. Senators asked Sotomayor if she would let her feelings and her background overrule her consideration of the law. Her answer was always the same: Look at my cases. They (and by "they" I mean Republicans Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Jon Kyl of Arizona, in particular) parsed every word in speeches she has given to students. Kyl even offered suggestions on how she could have rewritten her speech; I'm sure she took notes.
Did Sessions actually scold Sotomayor for not agreeing -- about the summary judgment in Ricci -- with her colleague Judge Jose Cabranes
, who Sessions pointed out is also
Puerto Rican? I'm pretty sure not all Puerto Ricans think alike.
3) Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from Sotomayor's home state of New York, used a tactic that was interesting and off-putting. The Sotomayor supporter listed case after case of minorities whose cases the judge ruled against to show she doesn't let her background or her assumed sympathies influence her decisions. Is this the test for a minority's neutrality? You're judged fair only if you rule against every minority that comes before you? I don't recall any white male judges having to prove their neutrality by listing all the white guys they ruled against.
4) Sen. Lindsey Graham's lecturing tone was patronizing and kind of creepy. "I like you," the South Carolina Republican assured Sotomayor, before beginning his lesson. He is all for more women in office in the Middle East, and "more women and minorities in the law to make a better America," but hates Sotomayor's infamous speech. "You've got to watch what you say," he told her. Then, the quiz continued: What did 9/11 mean to you? "Do you believe we are at war?" He's glad we live in a country where a person gets a second chance, he said, telling the experienced Sotomayor to realize how lucky she is to even be considered for a spot on the Court. He even gave her homework, to bone up on the law of war. The exam will not be open book.
5) "Temperamental, excitable and seems angry" – Graham used the quotes pulled out of anonymous evaluations – and advised Sotomayor to reflect on the criticism and become a better person. Wow. Current Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is not known as a shrinking violet. Does a tough woman face more criticism than a tough guy? And how much does the stereotype of hot-blooded Hispanic fit into the picture? Maybe he was confusing Sotomayor with Anita in "West Side Story," and was waiting for her to break into a chorus of "A Boy Like That."
6) Making government may be like making sausage, but I can't help gaping at every bloody moment.