President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Second District Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, began taking hits from the right as her nomination was announced Tuesday morning, with top conservatives describing her as a hardline liberal who would impose her personal agenda on the Court.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called Sotomayor’s appointment “the clearest indication yet that President Obama’s campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric.”
(And by the way, kids, he didn’t even get her name right when he started bitching and moaning about her. He called her Maria.)
“Sotomayor comes from the far left,” Huckabee said in a statement. “The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the ‘feelings’ of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.”
(No word if Chuckleberry said the same of Samuel Alito when he was up for confirmation.)
Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, blasted Sotomayor as “a radical pick that divides America.”
“She believes the role of the Court is to set policy, which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the National Abortion Control Board,” Yoest said.
The Judicial Confirmation Network circulated a memo from its counsel, Wendy Long, calling Sotomayor a “favorite of far-left special interest groups” who will “indulge … left-wing policy preferences instead of neutrally applying the law.”
(Wendy Long is on Hardball right now. She’s an idiot! She would have no problem with just white guys on the Supreme Court.)
“Sotomayor readily admits that she applies her feelings and personal politics when deciding cases,” Long charged, citing as evidence Sotomayor’s ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano, a Connecticut-based case about racial preferences, and a 2002 speech the judge delivered at Berkeley.
Writing in POLITICO’s Arena, Roger Pilon, the vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute, echoed Long’s assessment and pointed to the same case – Ricci – as an example of judicial activism.
“President Obama chose the most radical of all the frequently mentioned candidates before him,” Pilon said.
Some Republican officeholders were more tentative in their reactions, vowing to apply rigorous scrutiny to Sotomayor’s record.
“Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele released a restrained statement, declaring: “Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views.”
A spokesman for Mitt Romney sends over his statement:
The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is troubling. Her public statements make it clear she has an expansive view of the role of the judiciary. Historically, the Court is where judges interpret the Constitution and apply the law. It should never be the place “where policy is made,” as Judge Sotomayor has said. Like any nominee, she deserves a fair and thorough hearing. What the American public deserves is a judge who will put the law above her own personal political philosophy.
MIAMI — Caller after caller to a radio show popular in Central Florida’s booming Puerto Rican community gushed Tuesday over President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate one of their own to the nation’s highest court.
Even the Republicans.
“I thought partisan lines would prevail, but they did not,” said the show’s host, Fernando Miguel Negron, who endorsed Obama last year but has supported Republican candidates.
The overwhelming response during Negron’s four-hour show to Sonia Sotomayor and her inspiring story — from Bronx housing project to Yale Law School to federal appellate judge — illustrates the challenge her nomination poses for the Republican party, which is struggling to make up the ground lost with Hispanic voters during heated battles over immigration reform.
Though conservative groups assailed Sotomayor as a “liberal” and an “activist judge,” most Republican leaders in Florida and nationwide treaded gingerly.
Sen. Mel Martinez, who backed former President George W. Bush’s more conservative choices for the Supreme Court and was considered a potential nominee for an earlier opening, said he hoped for a “fair and thorough” confirmation process.
Miami’s Ninoska Perez Castellon, a frequent and fierce Obama critic, said of Sotomayor on her Spanish-language radio show: “Only in America.”
“As a Cuban you have to feel proud,” Perez Castellon, a founder of the conservative Cuban Liberty Council, said in an interview.
But there were some who were conspicuously and uncharacteristically quiet…
Miami’s three Cuban-American Republican members of Congress — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart — were silent on the nomination.
And many national and state party leaders held their fire in what is typically a fierce political battle.
“For today, we congratulate Judge Sotomayor on this accomplishment and look forward to the coming weeks as members of the United States Senate face the daunting task of carefully analyzing Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications and experience . . .” said Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Republicans were divided over Sotomayor when she faced Senate confirmation in 1998 for a seat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Among the 25 Republicans backing her was then-Florida Sen. Connie Mack.
Gov. Charlie Crist, the leading Republican candidate to replace Martinez in the Senate in 2010, said of Sotomayor’s nomination: “I’ll take a look at it.”
The only prominent Florida Republican to issue a statement critical of Sotomayor was former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is aggressively courting the party’s conservative wing as he challenges Crist for his party’s nomination.
“Judge Sotomayor deserves a fair hearing and respectful treatment, but there is much in her legal background that is troubling and demands scrutiny and honest discussion,” Rubio said.
Carlos Curbelo, chairman of the state party’s Hispanic Leadership Council, noted that Democrats blocked Bush’s potentially historic nomination of a Hispanic to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The filibuster of Honduran-born Miguel Estrada was the first ever to be used against an appeals court nominee.
Unlike the Cuban-American community in South Florida, which has long standing ties to the Republican party, the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida is known for its political independence. Obama’s investment in the Orlando area paid off when Hispanic voters statewide favored the Democratic presidential nominee for the first time in decades.
“The party already made those gains, and now it’s a matter of keeping them,” said Democratic state Rep. Darren Soto, the only Puerto Rican member of the state Legislature, who said he would hit Orlando-area radio talk shows this week to promote Sotomayor.
Another Florida factor: Sotomayor’s mother, Celina Sotomayor, now lives in Margate, a suburb north of Miami, in a condo she bought in 2001, acccording to property records.
(For the record, Margate is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale not Miami.)