Even before yesterday excusing the 32 words from Sotomayor’s 2001 Berkeley speech as some type of slip was not holding up well. It was a “slip” or a “misstatement” or a “poor choice of words.” But Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus spotted the silliness of that spin — it was after all presented to a law school gathering and reprinted months later for a law review article. Maybe it was a joke, offered Paul Krugman.
Then word came on Wednesday that the speach was given in similar form some seven years earlier. Greg Sargent quotes this paragraph from the earlier version:
“Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes the line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.”
Well, it’s not exactly the same — it’s a statement of gender rather than ethnic superiority. And she doesn’t add the final dig at white males which appears in the 2001 version. But yes the sentiment is vaguely the same.
Did the Senate “miss this” for her Second Circuit confirmation hearing? Perhaps, or perhaps the 1994 version left out the more egregious sentiments found in the 2001 speech. But the Senators know about it now. And the woman is nominated for the Supreme Court. Everything matters a lot more. What we now know is that the speech or some version of it appeared to be near and dear to her heart — a sentiment that stuck with her and was worth repeating as the years passed. And was worth reprinting for a law review article. One thing is for sure: the Democrats need to go back to the drawing board for some new excuses.