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Dems Offer Differing Retractions on Sotomayor

John on May 31, 2009 at 11:45 pm

From Politico:

In the past few days, supporters confronted with the remark have offered a range of divergent tactics and tones, offering explanations that span from apologetic to defiant to suggesting Sotomayor may have been joking.

President Obama himself addressed the bubbling controversy, which is emerging as among the leading GOP lines of attack against Sotomayor, asserting on Friday Sotomayor “would have restated” the comment if given another chance.

But that message – which reaffirmed the official White House spin articulated earlier the same day by press secretary Robert Gibbs – did little to build consensus among Sotomayor supporters, who took to the Sunday show circuit with a cacophony of explanations for the comment, which Sotomayor made during a 2001 speech at the law school of the University of California, Berkeley.

In the speech, which was later published as a law review article, Sotomayor, a federal appellate judge who is of Puerto Rican descent, said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat with a large Puerto Rican constituency, refused to concede that Sotomayor chose her words poorly, predicting on ABC’s “This Week” that “she’ll stand by the entire speech. I think that she will show that the speech, when you read it, says rule of law comes above experience,” said Schumer, who as a member of the Judiciary Committee will participate in Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. Pressed by host George Stephanopoulos, Schumer added “the specific sentence there is simply saying that people’s experiences matter and we ought to have some diversity of experience on the court. And I think that’s accurate.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a fellow Judiciary Democrat, suggested the debate over Sotomayor’s statement may be taking it more seriously than she intended it, though Feinstein herself seemed torn between defending it or apologizing for it.

“I’d say that one statement, probably made with a sense of a smile, you know, that ‘here I am, I can do better’ – I don’t have a problem with it. It’s not – it’s not the right thing to say. It’s not the right thing, but I don’t think she meant it that way either,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. She also called Sotomayor’s word choice “inartful,” though, telling host Bob Schieffer “there’s one word, Bob, in the statement. It’s the word ‘better.’ That a Latina woman who has gone through these experiences – that her views would be better. And without that one word, it’s a perfectly fine statement. And I understand what she meant by it.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, whose recent party switch makes him the junior-most Democrat on Judiciary, played down the comment. He told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace it “didn’t stand out all that much in context” of the speech. And his interpretation of its meaning echoed Sotomayor’s controversial phrasing. “I think she meant that somebody with her experience has something to add,” he said. “The diversity and the point of view of Latina woman is significant. It adds to the mix.”

Schumer is a fool if he thinks she’ll be able to let this pass. But then…Schumer is a fool. She’s going to have to retract this, probably in the way Specter is trying to, i.e. she was just making a statement about diversity. Of course, as Feinstein notes, that’s not all she said. If it was, we wouldn’t be talking about it now.

It seems like the Dems are truly stunned at how much trouble this is giving them. It’s amusing to be sure, but doesn’t change the outcome. I’ve already given my suggestion for how Republicans should proceed.

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