Commentary Magazine


The Problem with Nomination by Biography

Sonia Sotomayor is being sold to the public on the basis of her biography and some vague sense of “empathy” — otherwise known as ” the ability to make sure Democratic Party interest groups prevail in court.” The problem with the former, as it often is in these cases, is that the spin doesn’t quite match the reality.

Richard Cohen writes:

With the nose of a trained columnist, I detect the whiff of elitism-cum-racism emanating from the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The whiff does not come — Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich notwithstanding — from Sotomayor’s own statements; nor does it come from her controversial decision upholding race-based affirmative action. It comes, instead, from the general expression of wow about her background. Imagine, someone from the projects is a success!

Moreover, this is someone who went to private schools and eventually the Ivy League for undergraduate and law school. (In that regard she is not unlike the president and his wife.) She later became a partner in a successful boutique law firm. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not exactly the rags to riches triumph it is made out to be. More like an Ivy League graduate getting a lot of breaks in life.

And then the small lies unravel. No, she didn’t save baseball. And she actually doesn’t follow the game.

All of it leaves one feeling that the hucksterism is unfounded and unwise. And why is it needed after all? Well, when one elevates biography above all else it needs to be really compelling, right? Otherwise, it’s all about a mediocre judge who has some radical views on ethnicity and the judiciary. Not even Nancy Drew could figure out why such a person deserves a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.