Last night, Rachel Maddow dug into the day of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's hearings, which she characterized as being far more revealing about Sotomayor's GOP interlocutors than about the nominee herself.
First revelation: The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee love Miguel Estrada the way Rachel McAdams once loved Ryan Gosling. And they still ache over the rain-swept kiss they were denied by the Democrats' 2003 filibuster, which was deployed to prevent the GOP to line-up a pandering-to-Hispanics SCOTUS pick of their own. Anyway, Sotomayor had to sit through all sorts of love sonnets to Estrada.
And, the second revelation was Sen. Jeff Sessions' now famous "don't all you Puerto Rican judges vote alike and weren't you guys in Menudo together" highlight.
But my favorite piece of insight came from guest Dahlia Lithwick, of Slate, who saw the opposition's attempt to boil down the whole of Sotomayor's experience into her now-well known "wise Latina woman" quotation:
LITHWICK: I was surprised, actually, how many times we heard the "wise Latina woman" thing come up. I thought, maybe, you know, we'll go to that well once, maximum twice, but we went there many, many times today. And many, many times, what we were told is, "Sure, you have this impressive, seventeen-year record as a judge, and we can't find much to complain about, but here's what we know: we know that your speech, your "wise Latina" speech, somehow gives us a truer sense of who you really are than that entire record. So it was always trying to bifurcate who she was holding herself out to be and who she really is, because of this one sentence...it's sort of a way of framing it as "this is the real issue" and the rest is just wallpaper.
Lithwick went on to describe the way in which Sens. John Kyl and Orrin Hatch hilariously seemed to invert standard GOP judicial talking points in a weird demand for Sotomayor to demonstrate a stronger sense of judicial activism, but her first point is the more critical. As my earlier post on Pat Buchanan reveals, the continued insistence that Sotomayor is some sort of relentless force that exclusively threatens the primacy of white people is entirely divested from Sotomayor's actual record.
The political realities of these hearings are simple: Sotomayor is going to be confirmed. But while there's very little opportunity for the GOP to forestall the nomination, it's still stunning to see them make so little of the opportunity that they do have, which is to elucidate a competing judicial philosophy. In fact, what they are elucidating is going to prove to be counterproductive if the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee, having for so long been the avatars of "Constitutional constructivism," keep criticizing Sotomayor for being insufficiently activist as a judge. But, as their weird take on Sotomayor's record indicates, the GOP is quite simply detached from reality at the moment, and, like Maddow says, the only thing they are making clear is that it's not Sotomayor who is obsessed with race.
Oh, also? I am going to call Sen. Lindsey Graham "Buttermilk Smile" from now on!