The Spectacle Blog

Re: Biography Over Brains

By on 5.27.09 | 10:08PM

Even if some non-conservatives are making that charge, I don't think questioning Sonia Sotomayor's intelligence is a productive way for conservatives to oppose her nomination, becuase it's a rather subjective and arbitrary standard that can easily be refuted by her defenders. Sotomayor came from a poor background in the South Bronx and not only attended Princeton but managed to graduate with the highest honors there and go on to Yale Law School. Even with affirmative action, she could not have achieved what she has in her life if she weren't a smart person. Put another way, I don't think her biography would have been possible if she didn't have brainpower. Conservatives barked when Clarence Thomas, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, etc. were portrayed as dumb out of ideological spite, and I don't think the right should go down that path with Sotomayor.

Some may grant that Sotomayor is smart by most normal standards, but not super brilliant in the way we have come to expect of Supreme Court justices. Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley, for instance, said her decisions demonstrated a "lack of intellectual depth" and warned liberals that her record does not suggest she would be the intellectual equal of Scalia. But if this turns out to be true, isn't that a good thing from a conservative perspective? Would conservatives have preferred that Obama appoint a really brilliant and pursuasive liberal who could go toe-to-toe with Scalia, flip Kennedy on key votes, and write decisions that would profoundly shape the Court?

As for Jennifer Rubin's suspicion that, "it won't be an easy confirmation," I really don't see what would give her that impression based on what we know now. Senate Republicans, who only control 40 seats to begin with, have been publicly deferential since the pick was announced and there's no reason to believe Democrats are wavering.

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