It is part of the game of politics that Republicans will attack Judge Sotomayor — heck, they attacked Obama’s nominee even before he announced who it was — but for Jeff Sessions, it is not a game, it’s personal. But the Republicans should know that when an attack gets personal, people make mistakes. And Senator Jeff Sessions pulled a whopper of a mistake today. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “Ouch!”.
In Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, Sessions brought up (for the umpteenth time) Sotomayor’s “Wise Latina” remark from 2001, and tried to contrast it with the view of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who “believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices.” Sessions then delivered his money quote: “So I would say to you, I believe in Judge Cedarbaum’s formulation.”
Who is this Judge Cedarbaum? Back in 1986, Sessions and Cedarbaum were both nominated by Reagan to the federal bench. Cedarbaum — a pioneering woman lawyer — was confirmed, but the nomination of Sessions never made it out of committee, with even his home state Senator voting against him. It is ironic that what got him in trouble back then were a string of racist remarks and jokes. Sessions once joked that the KKK wouldn’t be so bad but for their use of marijuana, and called the NAACP communist-inspired. How hypocritical is it that Sessions is the Republican leading the attack against Sotomayor, saying that her “Wise Latina” remark would prevent her from being an impartial judge.
But Sessions was about to get pwned. Sotomayor surprised Sessions by responding:
My friend Judge Cedarbaum is here. We are good friends, and I believe that we both approach judging in the same way, which is looking at the facts of each individual case and applying the law to those facts.
To make it even more embarrasing, Cedarbaum herself agreed:
I don’t believe for a minute that there are any differences in our approach to judging, and her personal predilections have no effect on her approach to judging.
UPDATE: Gail Collins in the NY Times has a hilarious fake transcript of the first two days of confirmation hearings. My favorite line is when Lindsey Graham asks Sotomayor for the umpteenth time about the “Wise Latina” remark and Sotomayor responds:
I appreciate that the man who once said he’d drown himself if North Carolina went for Obama has a special contribution to make when it comes to the importance of thinking before you speak.