Let the Supreme Court fight begin.
President Obama is on the hard sell for his nominee, federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, whom he announced on Tuesday.
"Let me just tell you a little bit about this woman," he said Tuesday night at a Las Vegas fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "This is a woman who will bring more experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court had when they were appointed. She graduated the top of her class at Princeton, editor of the Law Journal at Yale, prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office, corporate litigator, six years as a trial judge on the US District Court, her 11th year on the U.S. Court of Appeals, the second-highest court in the land. Nobody can say she’s not qualified to be on the Supreme Court."
"But as impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor’s sterling credentials in the law are, her extraordinary life journey is even more exceptional," the president added about the woman who would be the first Hispanic on the high court.
"Sonia Sotomayor’s life is proof that all things are possible. And when she ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court of the land, America will take another important step towards realizing the ideal that’s chiseled above its entrance: Equal justice under the law," Obama said.
"So I’m inspired by her. I’m honored to nominate her. And I know that Harry Reid and others in the Senate will make sure that she is confirmed as our next Supreme Court Justice."
As part of its sales job, the White House organized a conference call with reporters with a group of friendly legal luminaries.
They include Martha L. Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School; Stephen L. Carter, a professor at Yale Law School; Paul M. Smith, a partner at Jenner & Block; William P. Marshall, professor at University of North Carolina School of Law; Kevin K. Russell, a partner at Howe & Russell; and Evan H. Caminker, dean of the University of Michigan Law School.
In a new TV ad, a liberal coalition uses Obama words of his selection criteria over photos of Sotomayor and her resume. The spot is from the Coalition for Constitutional Values, which includes the Alliance for Justice, People for the American Way, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
“This spot introduces the American people to Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Every aspect of American life is affected by our justice system,” Wade Henderson, co-chairman of the coalition and president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said in a statement. “It’s important that they understand her fair-minded approach to the law, which is grounded both in her eminent legal qualifications and her life experiences.”
On the other side, the Judicial Confirmation Network is up with a web video that questions Sotomayor's fairness and impartiality by trying to capitalize on some of her remarks.
In a 2001 speech at the University of California at Berkeley, she talked about a judge's background and how that might color their work. "I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society," she said, adding: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
In 2005 at Duke law school, Sotomayor said that the "court of appeals is where policy is made." "I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don't make law. I know," she quickly added in the speech. "I'm not promoting it, I'm not advocating it."
"Equal justice under law, or under attack?" the announcer concludes in the video. "America deserves better."
Obama wants her confirmed by the Senate before it goes on a month-long recess Aug. 8, so that she can hit the ground running when the court begins its new term Oct. 5.
But some Republicans are saying not so fast, though there's no serious talk as yet about a filibuster (which given the 59 Democratic votes would be difficult to pull off).
"The nominee has serious problems," Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, said this morning on NBC's "Today" show.
"But I would think that we would all have a good hearing, take our time, and do it right," added Sessions, who voted against her confirmation to the appeals court in 1998. "And then the senators cast their vote up or down based on whether or not they think this is the kind of judge that should be on the court."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.