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Walking Sotomayor Back into a Corner

What's the first rule of holes, Robert?

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday began the Obama Administration’s walkback of controversial comments made by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. At the daily press briefing, the perpetually over matched Gibbs attempted to explain away Sotomayor’s comment that a “wise Latina” would necessarily make better judicial decisions than a “white male” judge because of her gender, ethnicity, and life experience. But Gibbs never learned the first rule of being in a hole, and his explanation raises more uncomfortable questions for the nominee.

“I think she’d say her word choice in 2001 was poor. She was simply making the point that experiences are relevant to the process of judging. Your personal experiences have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts and certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding.”

The only facts that a judge has any business considering, of course, are the facts at issue in the case before the court. Gibbs’ assertion is an admission that the Administration wants judges who will decide cases not based upon the facts and the law, but on their personal preferences.

But Gibbs wasn’t done digging, and used a quote from Justice Samuel Alito to try and bolster his position.

“When a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant…I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position…. I do say to myself, ‘You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country.’…When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.”

The obvious differences between Alito’s quote and Sotomayor’s, however, is that Alito did not assert that he was a better judge because of his family’s experiences. Alito did not allege that because of his family’s story that he would reach more just conclusions than a Latina woman. And Alito did not say that say that his decisions were based in part on his personal history. Sotomayor did all those things in her remarks.

President Obama also defended Sotomayor today, calling the criticism of her remarks, “nonsense.” But the fact that the White House is talking about this, and trying to explain it away, proves that the controversy is anything bu nonsense. The Administration knows it could have a real problem with Sotomayor’s nomination if it does not move to stem the growing backlash against her for those statements. Gibbs’ botched defense is the first crack in the White House’s management of Sotomayor’s nomination.

Cross posted at Mark on the Right.

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