Today's big story was Barack Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of David Souter. Predictably, America's punditry had plenty to say about this. We've sampled some of the prominent voices on the left and the right and compiled them for you.
Obama had some truly outstanding legal intellectuals and judges to choose from-Cass Sunstein, Elena Kagan, and Diane Wood come immediately to mind. The White House chose a judge distinguished from the other members of that list only by her race. Obama may say he wants to put someone on the Court with a rags-to-riches background, but locking in the political support of Hispanics must sit higher in his priorities.
Sotomayor's record on the bench, at first glance, appears undistinguished. She will not bring to the table the firepower that many liberal academics are asking for. There are no opinions that suggest she would change the direction of constitutional law as have Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, or Robert Bork and Richard Posner on the appeals courts. Liberals have missed their chance to put on the Court an intellectual leader who will bring about a progressive revolution in the law.
The argument is going to be out there that this isn't irrelevant, but I think to a normal person something that immediately leaps out about Sonia Sotomayor is that for someone who has all the usual qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice, she also has an unusual life story. She's been on the Appeals Court and before that the District Court, and she went to Yale Law School. But she also grew up in a housing project in the Bronx, after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico.
It's the kind of story that makes you feel good about America and that still resonates as quintessentially American even though social mobility in the United States isn't quite what we like to think.
In picking the candidate whose name surfaced within hours of first leak about Justice David Souter's retirement, Obama is also demonstrating the same profile in caution that has colored previous big decisions, such as who to name as his running mate.
George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr called her "a liberal mirror image of Samuel Alito" - a child of the meritocracy with a resume that is big on credentials and low on controversy.
It's hard to be breathtaking and boring, but Obama somehow finds a way.
TNR's legal analyst Jeffrey Rosen, one of Sotomayor's most vocal critics to date, is throwing her his tepid support while voicing displeasure over conservatives twisting his words to suit their cause:
Conservatives are already citing my initial piece on Sotomayor as a basis for opposing her. This willfully misreads both my piece and the follow-up response. My concern was that she might not make the most effective liberal voice on the Court—not that she didn't have the potential to be a fine justice. Questions of temperament are often overlooked, but history suggests that they are the most relevant in predicting judicial success. (Justice Scalia may be a brilliant bomb-thrower, but has failed in his attempts to build coalitions and bipartisan majorities.) Now is the time to think more broadly about the role Justice Sotomayor is likely to play on the Supreme Court, and I look forward to doing that in the weeks ahead.
She will, presumably, be a reliable liberal vote — nothing more, nothing less. Conservatives could have done much worse, but we're getting a liberal Harriet Miers instead of a liberal Alito. The real danger for conservatives is that Sotomayor becomes a Hispanic icon who's seen as being unfairly maligned by Republicans. That could further alienate Hispanics from the party and do lasting damage to the conservative revolution in ways that Sotomayor herself never could.
Obama is sending a few different messages to a few different audiences. To liberals, the pick sells itself — a progressive superstar with fantastic academic credentials. Obama is addressing conservatives only because he wants to get his judge confirmed by a wide margin. To the rest of the country, the Sotomayor pick will embody Obama's judicial philosophy — going beyond theory to, as the talking points say, "ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts."
"I strive never to forget he real world consequences of my decisions," Sotomayor said today.
On Thursday, Obama was in a jaunty mood after he interviewed Sotomayor. A few groups of reporters were meeting in the West Wing with senior officials, and the President decided to stop by. He was an in expansive mood and riffed about the direction of the court. He did not tip his hand about the interview or the identity of his pick, and he asked that his musings be shared off the record. But it was clear that he was excited about how his pick would energize the court.
She is the embodiment of the criticism of a judge or a justice who is all wrong for the highest court in the land. So of course the Republican Party should go to the mat on this because in the process of doing so, the American people will find out more about Barack Obama and who he really is; what he really believes in. And her choice, this choice helps to tell the real story of Barack Obama. This is a debate worth having...Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he's appointed one.
Ann Althouse, who likes the pick, thinks that Republicans can learn a lot and in turn do some good for the future of their party by acting like mature adults through the upcoming confirmation process:
If confirmation is about agreeing with the ideology, then Republicans might want to vote against Sotomayor. But confirmation should not be about ideology, and conservatives ought to want to prove that principle by their votes. Use the confirmation hearings to delineate what liberal judicial ideology is and why people ought to reject it. Then get a good presidential candidate for 2012 and make Supreme Court nominations an issue. Is that too hard? Does that take too long? Too bad! You say you want a Justice who will tell the truth about what the Constitution means. But here's something about what the Constitution means: The President has the appointment power.
This is a powerful message, a powerful message of hope and opportunity through this appointment, just like there's a powerful message sent when an African-American is elected president or an African-American or a Hispanic is appointed as attorney general of the United States. It's a powerful message that a president listens to. And this president obviously did.
Some people with low incomes manage to scrimp and save (I always think of my grandmother), and some people with high incomes spend most everything they earn.
Apparently, the new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is an example of the latter. The Washington Post reports that the 54-year-old Sotomayer has a $179,500 yearly salary but
On her financial disclosure report for 2007, she said her only financial holdings were a Citibank checking and savings account, worth $50,000 to $115,000 combined. During the previous four years, the money in the accounts at some points was listed as low as $30,000.
My grandmother would have been shocked and appalled to see someone who makes so much save so little.
Mankiw's critique is a bizarre on several levels. For one thing, while a $179,000-per-year income is quite a lot wherever one lives, it doesn't go as far in New York City as in almost any other place. State taxes in New York are pretty high for the upper income brackets, and New York City also charges a city tax of 3.648%. As a single filer, Sotomayor's income tax burden, counting her federal nut, is probably something like $65,000.
In addition, New York City is an expensive place to live: particularly on the Island of Manhattan, and even more particularly in the West Village neighborhood where Sotomayor has her apartment. The average price of a two-bedroom rental apartment apartment in a doorman building in Greenwich Villiage is $5,396 per month, or about $65,000 per year. (Sotomayor, from what I can gather, in fact still rents her space). So considering her tax bill and the cost of her apartment, Sotomayor is down to "only" about $50,000 in disposable income per year. A single person can certainly live very well on that sort of income — even in Manhattan — but would probably not live what we'd ordinarily consider an extravagant lifestyle. It would be quite easy to spend a good chunk of that $50,000 on utilities, transport, groceries, and extra medical care (Sotomayor is diabetic); throw in a couple of nice meals out every month, tickets to a dozen Yankees games each year, and maybe a week's worth of vacation, and you're not going to have a whole heck of a lot left over. And of course, if one is generous with one's friends, or gives money to one's extended family or to charity, the money will go even faster. Sure, it's a pretty full life. But it's not likely that Sotomayor is downing bottles of Cristal and snorting coke in the bathroom every Friday at Hotel Gansevoort, or having four-martini lunches with the Sex and the City girls at Bryant Park.
What The Sonia Sotomayor Pick Says About Barack Obama [Politico]
Sotomayor: No Threat to the Revolution [Weekly Standard]
Empathy Triumphs Over Excellence [John Yoo]
Rush Limbaugh Advises Republicans to "Take It to the Mat" [Ann Althouse]
GOP Must Go to Mat on Sotomayor to Tell Real Story of Barack Obama [Rush Limbaugh]
Alberto Gonzales: Sotomayor Pick Gives Hope [CNN]
Obama's Pick, From the Start [Marc Ambinder/Atlantic]
The Sotomayor Nomination [TNR]
The Sotomayor Story [Matthew Yglesias]
SCOTUS Appointee is a Spender [Greg Mankiw]
Grandmother of World's 23rd Best Economist Posthumously Offeneded by Sonia Sotomayor's Spending Habits; Will Obama Withdraw Nomination? [FiveThirtyEight]