July 18, 2009

All show, no tell

There is much not to envy about the US political and legal system, one aspect of which appears to have become nothing more than a charade.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor turned up for her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, for three days straight, answered nearly 600 questions, said nothing, and disowned a number of her own and the President's opinions - opinions that could and should have been defended quite easily.

It was more like a beauty contest, except there were no bikinis and Sotomayor didn't offer that she yearned for world peace or a cure for cancer.

It has taken a couple of decades, but the lesson for confirmations appears to have been learned a little too well, with Sotomayor perfecting the persona of intellectual blandness.

Her history as a judge is one of almost total reliance on precedent, with no intellectual flourishes offered to illuminate her devotion to past rulings and interpretations.

Even during the hearing she stuck like a mindless barnacle to droning recitation of precedents.

In truth, Republicans need have few fears, since it's improbable that Sotomayor will suddenly become an intellectual leader when she arrives on the Supreme Court. Of course, intellectual timidity and hiding behind bookish knowledge isn't really what any country requires for their Supreme Court.

One of the fireman who testified in relation to the tossing out of test results that saw more white and Hispanic firemen promoted, an action that Sotomayor upheld - basically on the grounds that it wasn't her jurisdiction and the Supreme Court could decide these things, if need be (strange that she didn't see herself as the right person to overturn it, deferring to the very court she will now be appointed to!) - noted his objections to that decision, but in front of the hearings he had nothing to say about Sotomayor, he had no opinion. I can see why.

When asked what the hearings revealed about Judge Sotomayor’s legal views, the Harvard Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe, a longtime adviser to President Obama who supports her confirmation, had a simple reply: “Nothing.”
There was nothing to see and nothing said.

Intellecutal timidity and disowning one's own opinions is hardly an impressive benchmark for women in high places. A missed opportunity. Again.

A nominee on display, but not her views

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