Bench Warming

Friday, July 17, 2009

Transcript

During confirmation hearings for Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor, some senators were troubled by the revelation that judges are not, strictly speaking, umpires. As for the nominee, Slate senior editor Dhalia Lithwick says that answering questions is an elaborate calculus of how to speak at length without really saying anything.

Comments [17]

peter miesler from Durango, Colorado

In conclusion:

For me, watching Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor traverse the political mine-field these past months has put new substance behind the old adage: “Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty!” Kids, it has never been more accurate! I say this because if the level of questioning and thinking by Senators Sessions, Kyl, Grassley, Hatch, along with all too many others, including reporters, is any indication of how these people will meet our oncoming challenges, boy oh boy are you younger

Aug. 15 2009 06:17 PM
peter miesler from Durango, Colorado

Con’t 2/3 “...

“You can say the question is too broad so you can't answer it, you can say the question is too specific so you can't answer it Another question should have been: Why couldn’t Republican Senator’s come up with more meaningful questions? Why where we subjected to cynical simplistic ideological monologues, which were more reminiscent of old plow-horses endlessly plodding the same field with no conception of anything beyond their own furrow. (OK, there where some Republican exceptions, but not near enough.)

Another question for the Lithwicks: Why couldn’t any reporter put Judge Sotomayor’s reticence into perspective? The right wing and reporters act as though they expected Sotomayor to expound like some crony at a bar. But, think about it, she is a long standing honorable intelligent Judge. Weighing every word is second nature to her and has nothing to do with evasion. We expect nothing less from our judges. Tragically, our politically motivated Republicans would rather label this fine jurist an “enemy” and trash her ~ than allow her to share some refreshing insights.

More and more, Republicans are coming across as though they believe only they have “worthy” answers and anyone who thinks differently must be demonized no matter how many lies need to be fabricated. Why? By what right or justification? Haven’t Republican Senators been instrumental enough in heinous mistakes of judgement these past few years? Errors that have deeply harmed our country and future. What gives Senator Sessions, et.al., the gaul to act so condescendingly - if not destructively?

Aug. 15 2009 06:15 PM
peter miesler from Durango, Colorado

Messed up my sequencing - 3/3 should be at bottom, Sorry..
~ ~ ~ .
I know this is past the News Expiration Date - but stuff needs digesting. Besides, I'm a full time wage-slave, so have limited time for writing.
~ ~ ~
1/3
"Reflections On Justice Sotomayor’s Confirmation Process"

When President Obama nominated Judge Sotomayor for the US Supreme Court she sounded like a real ‘Mensch’ to me. I remember going on the web and doing some biographical searches on her. They reinforced my original ‘feel good.’ After that I scanned some of the usual right wing suspects to hear their take. Then, I looked up and listened to Sotomayor speeches that were available on YouTube.

I noticed the Republicans had no dirt on this lady. Thus, was surprised by the viciousness of their attacks and distorted fibs. Attacks manipulating a very few quotes from speeches. Quotes that to rational thinkers should have been starting points for a genuine discussion.

Ironically, the most vocal “anti-Sotomayor” Senators supported nominee Roberts who had a mere two years of judicial experience, having previously built his career on steam-rolling his extremely partisan goals. Yet, today, a nominee with more court room experience than any nominee in a century and no political involvement, someone with overwhelming positive support from her knowledgeable peers ~ is told she’s not worthy because she is willing to recognize and discuss complex aspects of being a person? What’s up with that! Whatever happened to ‘fair-play’?

When the Sotomayor Judiciary Committee Hearings began, the News reporting was dismal. Typical of the coverage was WNYC’s ‘On The Media’ who broadcasted: “As for the nominee, Slate Senior Editor Dhalia Lithwick says the hearings served as an elaborate calculus of 19 different ways to answer a question at length, without saying anything.

Aug. 15 2009 05:26 PM
peter miesler from Durango, Colorado

3/3...
Another question should have been: Why couldn’t Republican Senator’s come up with more meaningful questions? Why where we subjected to cynical simplistic ideological monologues, which were more reminiscent of old plow-horses endlessly plodding the same field with no conception of anything beyond their own furrow. (OK, there where some Republican exceptions, but not near enough.)

Another question for the Lithwicks: Why couldn’t any reporter put Judge Sotomayor’s reticence into perspective? The right wing and reporters act as though they expected Sotomayor to expound like some crony at a bar. But, think about it, she is a long standing honorable intelligent Judge. Weighing every word is second nature to her and has nothing to do with evasion. We expect nothing less from our judges. Tragically, our politically motivated Republicans would rather label this fine jurist an “enemy” and trash her ~ than allow her to share some refreshing insights.

More and more, Republicans are coming across as though they believe only they have “worthy” answers and anyone who thinks differently must be demonized no matter how many lies need to be fabricated. Why? By what right or justification? Haven’t Republican Senators been instrumental enough in heinous mistakes of judgement these past few years? Errors that have deeply harmed our country and future. What gives Senator Sessions, et.al., the gaul to act so condescendingly - if not destructively?

For me, watching Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor traverse the political mine-field these past months has put new substance behind the old adage: “Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty!” Kids, it has never been more accurate! I say this because if the level of questioning and thinking by Senators Sessions, Kyl, Grassley, Hatch, along with all too many others, including reporters, is any indication of how these people will meet our oncoming challenges, boy oh boy are you younger generations in trouble.

Aug. 15 2009 04:27 PM
Kevin McKenzie from Memphis, TN

Was it really about race?
I think Associate Justice Clarence Thomas proves for all time that you can't judge a justice by his or her race.
There is strength in diversity, it's about time that the Supreme Court looks more like this nation, and it's clear that she is qualified to sit on that bench.
We will stumble in terms of becoming aware of stereotypes that we've harbored for generations. That's one of the greatest benefits of diversity.

Jul. 22 2009 07:34 PM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

An earlier comment mentioned a Federal Judge Test. There is no such test. The only test is in the appointment power of the President. The closest thing to it is Senator Kennedy's standard set of questions asked of nominees on judicial temperament. And in Senator Kennedy's own insistence that judges display the paramount of calm and jurisprudential behavior on the bench The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary clearly shows her lack of qualification on that count. Someone male or female nominated by a Republican that had the same record would never even get a hearing... what a canard.

Jul. 21 2009 08:59 PM
Richard Leland from Hoboken, NJ

I think that you and your guest missed the point about the Senate confirmation hearings by criticizing Judge Sotomayor for not answering questions directly. The hearings have nothing to do with what the nominee's views on legal and social matters are or may be. In fact, they are not about the nominee at all. Rather, they are an exercise in political theatre - calculated to allow the minority party to remind its base that its members are true believers. Judge Sotomayor's confirmation has been a foregone conclusion since the day that she was proposed. The hearings simply allowed Senator Sessions and others to expound on their beliefs in a public forum that people will actually watch or listen to.

Jul. 20 2009 05:48 PM
John F. Heenehan from Madison, NJ

While Eli Wallach played a Mexican bandit in The Magnificent Seven, he might be better know for his role in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where he was cast as … another Mexican bandit, the “ugly” Tuco. In fact, Wallach named his autobiography, "The Good, The Bad And Me: In My Anecdotage."

Wallach masterfully played both bandits, even as he occasionally slipped from a Mexican accent to his native Brooklyn accent.

Brooklyn is a lot closer to both the Bronx and Puerto Rico than to Mexico. I bet Wallach could dazzle us today in the role of someone of Puerto Rican descent, raised in the Bronx, and ready to take a seat on the Supreme Court – this time as The Good, armed with both judicial wisdom and empathy.

Jul. 20 2009 05:32 PM
LB from Freeport NY

-Wallach's Calvera gets off a number of great lines that should be on more people's list of memorable bandito quotes:
Speaking of the villagers that Calvera's band regularly "fleeces," Calvera says:
"If God didn't want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep."

About the fact that he is NOT going to have an easy time stealing from the villagers this time:
"Generosity... that was my first mistake. I leave these people a little bit extra, and then they hire these men to make trouble. It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed."

Calvera on "modern" religion:

"Calvera: Last month we were in San Juan. Rich town. Sit down. Rich town, much blessed by God. Big church. Not like here - little church, priest comes twice a year. BIG one. You'd think we'd find gold candlesticks. Poor box filled to overflowing. Do you know what we found? Brass candlesticks. Almost nothing in the poor box.
Sidekick: But we took it anyway.
Calvera: I KNOW we took it anyway. I'm trying to show him how little religion some people now have."

Calvera on cross-border relations:
"[as the seven are about to leave the village]
Calvera: You'll do much better on the other side of the border. There you can steal cattle, hold up trains... all you have to face is sheriff, marshall. Once I rob a bank in Texas; your government get after me with a whole army... whole army! One little bank. Is clear the meaning: in Texas, only Texans can rob banks. Ha ha.
[they look at him in silence]
Calvera: Adios!"

Calvera on, perhaps, the philosophy behind Republican-devised bailouts:
"Calvera: We have a saying here: a thief who steals from a thief is pardoned for one hundred years."

Jul. 19 2009 05:28 PM
LB from Freeport NY

The confusion about Eli Wallach's character Calvera delivering the line "We don't need no stinkin' badges" rather than Bedoya's character in Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a common one. Both actors/performances are superb. It's perhaps a credit to Wallach's ability as a Brooklyn Jewish Actors' Studio-trained actor that so many have him in mind as the quintessential Hollywood Mexican bandito.

A couple of other observations:
--Bedoya does NOT say the line as above, which is how the line is most often quoted. "Gold Hat" actually says:

"Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

...as good as Wallach is, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Bedoya's briefer performance is way more authentic and chilling.

[MORE ON NEXT POST]

Jul. 19 2009 05:28 PM
jerry

You caught yourself making a potentially racial remark. Good of you.

But last week, Dahlia Lithwick made some bigoted attacks on Frank Ricci based on his use of the courts and her diminishing his disability (and that of all dyslexics) and her bigoted opinion that "whites" should not avail themselves of the court. She did this in a piece that was explicitly a piece to support Sotomayor. Her piece was pretty bad and made the gross assumptions all court use was the same, so that Ricci's claim of specific discrimination against him (he passed the test, he said he was dyslexic, they didn't promote him) was the same as New Haven's claim of fear of a lawsuit justifying their claims.

You didn't call Lithwick on her bigotry or poor reporting. Bad of you.

And you then allowed Lithwick to represent herself as some neutral objective reporter of the Sotomayor hearings. Terrible of you.

Jul. 19 2009 04:27 PM
Jimmy J. Cone from Austin, TX

ALFONSO BEDOYA played the Mexican bandit (Gold Hat) with the line "We don't need no stinkin' badges' in the 1948 John Huston film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
You erred in attributing the role and line quote to Eli Wallach. Wallach did play a mexican bandit (Calvera) in the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven.
You weren't insinuating all Mexican bandits are alike, were you?

Jul. 19 2009 02:32 PM
Robert from NYC

Absolutely nail on the head, talking about race and thinking they weren't talking about race, stating at one point that she didn't agree with another judge and "he is Puerto Rican too!" Oh m'god what does that mean? She should have agreed with his opinion because he "too" is Puerto Rican?!!

Jul. 19 2009 10:13 AM
Robert from NYC

Jeff Sessions never fails to show just how absolutely stupid and biased he is. That a man who failed the federal judge test has become the top republican on the judiciary committee makes a statement in itself. What do the Rs have to offer! Nothing much, really, very little, and I'm being generous.

Jul. 19 2009 10:10 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, Virginia

Calling Balls and Strikes is exactly what Supreme Court Justices do when they judge in fidelity with the US Constitution. To do otherwise undermines the US Constitution and the checks and balances between branches of government as well as the fundamental Rule of Law.

Based on Judge Sotomayor's answers at the Confirmation hearing she is one of three things: a judicial super computer, a justice in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts, or a super legislator that will apply progressive policy proscriptions to the legal cases that come to the Supreme Court. Two of the three seem very unlikely...

Welcome to the Supreme Court Madam Super-Legislator

Jul. 18 2009 09:25 AM
Opal S from New York City

Re the Sotomajor hearings, the Judge was brilliant. Her job was not to eludicate the Law--her job was to succeed in getting appointed to the Court. The Republicans were trying to trip her up and she evaded their questions. One question particularly stood out to me. Sen. L. Graham asked her about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. He asked whether she iwould impose her personal feelings on the public. This from Senators and politicos in general who try to impose their feelings on issues such as abortion and same sex marriage on the public.

Jul. 18 2009 07:38 AM
Kahlid

It's really a stretch to call any 2 of the nine "lock-step". Avid Court watches have seen some very interesting splits on some very big cases during the past two terms.

Such as Thomas & Stevens in discent with Scalia & Ginsburg in the majority. More to the point, Alito and Roberts have split more than once and on very huge cases. Your analyst, Dhalia Lithwick, should have brought that fact out.

I can see Sotomayor joining Scalia or any of the others on a case by case basis.

Jul. 17 2009 10:01 PM

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