- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Colin L. Powell, one of the nation’s most prominent blacks, is going after people who attacked Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor because of her stand in favor of affirmative action.

Mr. Powell, who like Judge Sotomayor is from the Bronx neighborhood in New York, said she should face “a spirited set of hearings” in the Senate. But he said the federal appeals court judge, who would be the first Hispanic justice, should not be condemned for ruling against white firefighters who contended they suffered reverse discrimination.

“What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor … called a racist, a reverse racist and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her,” Mr. Powell said in an interview broadcast Sunday on “State of the Union” on CNN.

Mr. Powell made it clear that he was referring to critics outside the Senate.

“Fortunately, the senators who will sit on this hearing in the Judiciary Committee, after a few days of this kind of nonsense, said, ‘Let’s slow down, let’s examine her qualifications in the way we’re supposed to at a confirmation hearing.’ ”

The committee begins hearings July 13.

Mr. Powell said Judge Sotomayor has “an open and liberal bent of mind, but that’s not disqualifying.”

“But she seems to have a judicial record that seems to be balanced and tries to follow the law,” he said.

Mr. Powell, a Republican who nonetheless supported Barack Obama, a Democrat, for president, said his party still is not sensitive enough toward minorities.

He noted that Mr. Obama had a significant advantage with Hispanics and blacks in the November election. He criticized Republicans who are not elected to office and “immediately shout racism” against Judge Sotomayor, while accusing Mr. Powell of supporting Mr. Obama because both men are black.

“We still have a problem,” he said.

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has called Mr. Powell “just another liberal,” said he should become a Democrat and charged that Mr. Powell endorsed Mr. Obama based on race. Mr. Powell said Sunday that Mr. Limbaugh “doesn’t decide who I am or what I am, no more than I decide who he is or what he is.”

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last Monday that white firefighters in Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race. The justices threw out a decision that Judge Sotomayor had endorsed as an appeals court judge.

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