Here’s Rosen’s defense, as reported by NPR:
By writing about her legal intellect, Rosen tells NPR, he was exploring whether she rose to the level of judicial and tactical brilliance one might want in a Supreme Court Justice. Rosen says he wasn’t questioning her fundamental intelligence or skill as lawyer.
“I was appalled by the misrepresentation of my article by conservatives along those lines,” Rosen says. “The article said nothing of the kind. It quoted positive things about her. It quoted concerns about her temperament. It’s a willful misrepresentation of the piece to caricature it in that way.”
This, with all due respect to Rosen, is ridiculous. Most of the “positive things about her” in Rosen’s article are from Sotomayor’s own former clerks, and of course one would expect ex-clerks to be enthusiastic about their former boss who is now headed to the Supreme Court. So that tells us nothing of interest.
The real news in Rosen’s piece was this:
I’ve been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York…. The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,” as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. “She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren’t penetrating and don’t get to the heart of the issue.”
Note that, according to Rosen, this is not just one person’s opinion. This is “[t]he most consistent concern.” So, Rosen would have us believe, a whole lot of people who are deeply familiar with Sotomayor’s work think that her intellect is nothing special, and that she lacks what most would call “judicial temperament.” And Rosen’s not done:
Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees…. Some former clerks and prosecutors expressed concerns about her command of technical legal details.
So her work is generally “competent,” but nothing more than that, and in many cases less, because she missed subtle points of law that, presumably, a more able intellect would have picked up.
Having published this hatchet job — which, by the way, consists entirely of anonymous quotations — Rosen is actually surprised that a conservative commentator might write something like this:
Oof. So she’s dumb and obnoxious. Got it.
Frankly, that strikes me as a pretty fair assessment of what Rosen wrote. After all, Rosen wrote not that just one disaffected ex-clerk thought that Sotomayor was “not that smart,” but that her apparently wanting intellect was “the most consistent concern” about her. Well, either her lack of smarts, or that her opinions are sloppy and don’t always get the details right. Either way, Rosen (who after all is a lawyer and former Appeals Court law clerk himself) should have recognized that stuff like this would be a bombshell, and dripping red meat for anyone looking to trash Sotomayor. If he really didn’t see that coming, then it’s not Sotomayor who we should worry is “not that smart.”
Rosen told NPR he’s learned his lesson:
He won’t be blogging any more. He wants to spend more time with the material before hitting “send.”
In other words, maybe next time he won’t just pull something out of his ass in a misguided effort to be first to get something published. Well, great. Thanks for nothing, Jeff.