Sonia Sotomayor Schools Senators (and Us)

As I said before, I still don't feel as though I've learned many new things about Sonia Sotomayor this week, even though her Senate confirmation hearings just ended. I have, however, learned more about the law and our constitution and that is all thanks to Sotomayor's measured, thoughtful and yes, "wise" responses to the questions posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sotomayor exemplified grace under pressure. The hearings were an exercise in restraint and I believe everyone watching was probably able to learn a bit about how to deal with highly stressful and uncomfortable situations from Sotomayor's handling of the hearings. In many instances, the senators took their questioning periods as opportunities to be condescending, patronizing and more often than not, self-aggrandizing. A recent examination of the word count at the hearings revealed that Sotomayor was out-talked two to one. Conclusion? Those in charge of the "hearing" actually did more talking than listening.

Throughout it all, Sotomayor never once raised her voice, got defensive or belayed any extreme emotion. And boy were there some instances in which she would have be completely justified doing so. Here's just a short list of things that happened over the last week that made us realize what a historic and rarefied moment we are witnessing with the nomination of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. Because no matter who is in office, many of these Senators made it painfully clear how alive and well racism and sexism still is in America. The awards for the most offensive moments at Sonia Sotomayor's Congressional Hearing go to:

  1. Day one goes to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who when speaking about the Ricci reverse discrimination case declared, "Had you voted with Judge Cabranas, himself of Puerto Rican ancestry, had you voted with him, you could have changed that case." Because, you know, all Puerto Ricans think alike.
  2. The prize for the second day has to be given to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for his invocation of Desi Arnaz. Yes, he actually told Sotomayor,  "You'll have lots of 'splainin' to do" in reply to a hypothetical situation Sotomayor set up in order to illucidate her views on gun control.
  3. And the award for the most a-hole behavior on the last day of questioning goes to newly minted democrat Sen. Arlen Specter (Penn.) for his irritating habit of cutting Sotomayor off in mid-sentence and not allowing her to fully articulate her answers.