July 19, 2009

WHAT DID HIS APPOINTMENT OF HER HAVE TO DO WITH LIBERALISM?:

Little for Liberals in Confirmation Hearings: As Sotomayor and White House Avoid Ideology, Some on Left See Wasted Chance (Amy Goldstein and Paul Kane, 7/18/09, Washington Post)

The hearings were a moment of history that liberals had awaited for 15 years: an opportunity for a Democratic president's Supreme Court nominee to inject into the public dialogue fresh ideas about the Constitution and the law, beginning to recalibrate a court that has gravitated to the right.

Yet Sotomayor did not articulate such a vision. In answering Cardin, and in scores of other times during four intense days in the witness chair, she eluded efforts of Democrats and Republicans alike to draw out any statement of liberal thought.

Sotomayor's inscrutability last week has raised fundamental questions: about the Obama administration's approach to future nominations, the direction of the court, the way Senate Democrats are using the benefits of their majority and the influence of the American left.

At the heart of those questions is another one, which has ignited a debate among legal scholars, advocates and members of Congress. Did the hearings reveal a true absence of liberal ideas in the 55-year-old judge President Obama chose to fill his first Supreme Court vacancy? Or did they reflect sheer political pragmatism by someone, coached by White House staff members and following the model of other recent nominees, seeking to maximize support by avoiding controversy?

Either way, Sotomayor's reticence, if not her nomination, has disappointed legal thinkers on the left. The hearings "did serious damage to the cause of progressive thought in constitutional law," said Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago Law School professor who was dean there when Obama joined its faculty. Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal think tank, called them "a totally missed opportunity. . . . The progressive legal project hit rock bottom [last] week."


What should scare them is not just that she has no ideas, but that she has no family or social network. She's not unlikely to be adopted by Justice Scalia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 19, 2009 6:46 AM
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