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The Sotomayor hearings were hardly 'oversight'


Fri, Aug 7th, 2009
Posted in Commentary



Over four days of hearings into the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her 583 questions. Yet when they were done, we knew little more of importance than we did at the beginning.

To be sure, everyone did his or her job. Senators asked good questions about weighty issues facing this country, from gun rights to how far the executive branch can go in terrorism surveillance. Judge Sotomayor herself laid out the complex history and reasoning behind some notable Supreme Court decisions. Everything went smoothly, there were no headline-grabbing catastrophes, the Obama administration was pleased - in short, for the political establishment these were successful hearings.

Yet I found them singularly unsatisfying, and for a simple reason: despite senators' obvious preparation and repeated attempts to learn more about Judge Sotomayor's views, they failed to illuminate the things we really need to know about her.

This was in no small part due to Judge Sotomayor's masterful adherence to a formula perfected by several nominees before her, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Samuel Alioto and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is an approach designed to advance an agenda shared by the nominee and the White House - to get confirmed with a minimum of fuss. It includes:

• avoiding direct responses to questions on legal issues while showing a firm command of the considerations involved;

• carefully articulating relevant precedent while declining to reveal how one feels about it;

• taking care to be unflappable and polite, answering each senator as if his or her question were the most important of the hearing;

• and claiming the high road of not answering abstract or hypothetical questions while construing as many questions as possible as falling into this category.

Above all, Judge Sotomayor - like any number of nominees before her - adhered to two myths that senators have historically been reluctant to puncture.

The first is that judges do not legislate from the bench. The truth is, judges of all persuasions do this all the time. When the law is not clear - and as a former member of Congress, I can tell you that a lot of legislation is not clear, because one of the ways Congress reaches consensus is by leaving language ambiguous - then a judge has to decide what it means. And that's making law .....
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One moment, please... The Economy - Part 1

Fri, Jul 31st, 2009
Posted in Commentary

It goes without saying that the state of our economy has impacted the lives of many, my immediate family included.

Within my own family, people have lost their jobs, taken on second jobs due to underemployment as a result of company cutbacks ..... 
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Health Care Fatigue Syndrome

Fri, Jul 31st, 2009
Posted in Commentary

I fear we may all die from an overdose of health care discussions. It would be good to die from it because if we just get sick from it, there remain 48,000,000 of us without health insurance.

This endless conversation with no agreement about ..... 
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Our responsibility: sacrifice now for a better future

Fri, Jul 24th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

A few weeks ago on June 26 the US House of Representatives narrowly passed the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454). It is formally dubbed "The American Clean Energy and Security Act," which concentrates on energy efficiency, conservation and the replacem ..... 
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Healthcare swan song

Fri, Jul 17th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

It's pretty frustrating to be interested in health care reform and live in Southeastern Minnesota. Minnesota has been one of the most progressive states in giving its citizens health care safety nets. I feel like I'm preaching to the choir while the ..... 
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One Moment Please: Don't ruin a good thing for families

Fri, Jul 17th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Congratulations to Harmony for their outstanding July 4th parade! I especially enjoyed the cavemen of Niagara Caves -- very creative and entertaining.

Probably the only thing that was a concern was while I was videotaping the entire parade t ..... 
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Judicial appointments

Fri, Jul 17th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

As we know, the Untied States Senate has the responsibility to advise the president and consent (or not) to his nominations of federal and Supreme Court judges and other officials. When the judicial candidates testify before the Senate Judiciary Com ..... 
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Yards of food and flowers

Fri, Jul 10th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Over the years that my husband and I lived in the Big Woods, our mowed lawn decreased in size. We gave up gardening after the first five years because we didn't want to fend off the deer and other creatures. We loved the encroaching trees, shrubs an ..... 
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Climate change and energy bill

Fri, Jul 10th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

The House Agriculture Committee concluded its first public hearing to review the Waxman-Markey climate change and energy bill (H.R. 2454) on June 11. Dubbed "cap and trade," it would impose new energy taxes on all American energy users, raising the ..... 
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