The Sotomayor Nomination: Part I

Barely a day has passed since Sonia Sotomayor's announcement and the media is already scavenging Capitol Hill to see which Republican would take the bait and publicly question President Obama's pick to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. At this rate, I think the Capitol press corps would even saunter over to the House side and see if they can tease Republicans there into disparaging her.

At first glance, the judge has a pretty strong record, along with a history of bipartisan support. She was appointed by Bush 41, and several Republicans still sitting in the Senate voted to confirm her to the post then. Her record of rulings has seemingly played it straight up the middle — and her rhetoric has fallen more in line as a strict constructionist than someone willing to bend the Constitution to meet a leftist agenda.

The leading Republican on the Judiciary panel in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) set the exact right tone yesterday on his morning round of talk shows. He didn't specifically name a shortcoming of Judge Sotomayor’s; let's leave that ugly part to the blogosphere and reporters. No, Sen. Sessions said we should all "take our time" and "look at her record fresh."

Those two phrases could do more damage to the Obama pick than anything else Senate Republican investigators could do on their own. Why? Let me name a few reasons: Tim Geithner, Bill Richardson, Kathleen Sebelius and so on. How many high-ranking officials currently in the administration were supposedly vetted with a fine-tooth comb by Obama's crack team? If past is prologue, the longer the administration is forced to wait, the more time is available for critics and others to scrounge for incriminating cases to question Sotomayor's previous rulings, and worse, her judgment.

That's why Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) jumped up moments after the announcement of her nomination and held a press conference calling for her approval by the August recess. All precedent is thrown out the door in the name of expeditious approval. Schumer affirmed what I just shared — time is the president's enemy here.

Discretion is the better part of valor for Senate Republicans. They have an opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights to "advise and consent" to the president's nominee, but how they choose to go about this process, at least for now, is more important than its ultimate outcome.


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