I was reminded this week of Paul Cellucci’s prostration in 2001 before Jesse Helms, who stood in the way of his timely escape from the pressures of Beacon Hill to a very soft landing in Ottawa. Cellucci was forced to pledge to curtail any efforts to expand homosexual rights in Canada if confirmed as ambassador, and pledge he did. It was an inglorious political moment.
Listening to clips of Sonia Sotomajor’s testimony, I felt she was also saying exactly what she needed to say – in an admirably disciplined way, mind you – to ease her passage onto the Court:
Not only did she back away from and express regret for her “wise Latina” comments, but the official said Republicans were also pleased that she seemed to repudiate President Obama’s formulation that a judge needed to have empathy for those who came before the court.
And the Republicans lapped the genuflection right up:
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has discussed supporting her, told Sotomayor that her “record as a judge has not been radical by any means.”
“You have been very reassuring here today and throughout this hearing that you’re going to try to understand the difference between judging and whatever political feelings you have about groups or gender,” he said.
Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who has voted in favor of every Supreme Court nominee in his 29 years in the Senate, said that Sotomayor’s answers were effective but that he is trying to decide whether she was “pandering” to the committee’s conservatives.
“I still got a big question mark about whether or not I really know her,” Grassley said in an interview after the hearings.
If I’m being unfair and she showed more spunk than I perceive, let me know. Perhaps all SCOTUS nominees genuflect or exercise extreme discretion during confirmation hearings.