- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Congressional Democrats in recent days have been busy defending President Obama’s handling of Iran, countering Republican calls for more vocal support of street demonstrators in Tehran and other Iranian cities protesting the contested presidential election.

“This president, I believe, has set the right tone here. And what’s important is a lot of Republicans have said that as well, Republicans like [Indiana Sen.] Richard Lugar and others,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, on MSNBC. “The fact is, we stand with these demonstrators … and I think the president’s been clear on that.”

Echoing Mr. Obama, Mrs. Boxer said the U.S. government must be sure not to give Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “the excuse to say that Barack Obama and America is meddling in this. So it’s this fine line. And I think he’s doing it.”

Some Republicans are, in fact, taking a pass on criticizing the White House over Iran. When Sen. Richard C. Shelby was asked on MSNBC for his view on the administration’s handling of the Iran crisis, the Alabama Republican took a pass.

“We all know it’s very volatile, and it’s kind of sad that we see what’s happening there,” Mr. Shelby said. “A lot of people killed, a lot of people injured because they’re trying to voice their basic rights and contesting the election. And, of course, that is a very suppressive society there, as we all know.”

Mr. Shelby’s comments were a sharp contrast to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s remarks Sunday, when he called the president’s early statements on Iran “timid and passive.”


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - like many congressional Republicans - isn’t enthralled by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.The Kentuckian on Tuesday accused the appeals court judge of being biased in favor of women and Hispanics, and questioned her ability to be neutral on the bench.

President Obama “has said repeatedly that his criterion for federal judges is their ability to empathize with specific groups,” Mr. McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “He said it as a senator, as a candidate for president, and now as president. I think we can take the president at his word about wanting a judge who exhibits this trait on the bench. And based on a review of Judge Sotomayor’s record, it’s becoming clear to many that this is a trait that he’s found in this nominee.

“Judge Sotomayor’s writings offer a window into what she believes having ‘empathy’ for certain groups means when it comes to judging. And I believe that once Americans come to appreciate the real-world consequences of this view, they’ll find the empathy standard extremely troubling as a criterion for selecting men and women for the federal bench.”

The minority leader said a review of Judge Sotomayor’s writings and rulings illustrated his point, including her 2002 article in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal that he says shows “her troubling assertion that her gender and ethnicity would enable her to reach a ‘better’ result than a man of a different ethnicity. Her advocates say this assertion was inartful, that it was taken out of context. We’ve since learned, however, that she has repeatedly made this or similar assertions.”

“Other comments Judge Sotomayor made in the same law review article underscore, rather than alleviate, concerns with her approach to judging. She questioned the principle that judges should be neutral. And she said that the principle of impartiality is a mere aspiration that she’s skeptical judges can achieve ‘in all or even in most cases.’

“I find it extremely troubling that Judge Sotomayor would question whether judges have the capacity to be neutral in ‘even most cases.’ ”


But Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing back at Republican accusations that Judge Sotomayor wouldn’t be an impartial member of the nation’s highest court.

On Tuesday, Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, joined representatives from the National Latino Peace Officers Association and the Hispanic National Bar Association at a news conference in support of the nominee.

“Judge Sotomayor’s nomination is proof that the ‘American Dream’ is in reach for everyone willing to work hard, play by the rules and give back to their communities, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic background,” said Mr. Menendez, who - like Judge Sotomayor - was born in New York City of Hispanic parents.

“It’s further proof of the deep roots the Hispanic community has in this country. But let’s be clear. We get to be proud of this nominee because she is exceptionally qualified. We get to be proud because of her vast knowledge of the law, her practical experience fighting crime, and her proven record of dedication to equal justice under law. Those are the reasons we’re proud, and they’re the reasons she should be confirmed without delay.”

Hispanic National Bar Association President Ramona Romero added that Mr. Obama’s nominee “has demonstrated intelligence, integrity, strength of character and a commitment to excellence.”

“If confirmed, she will bring these same qualities to her role as a Supreme Court justice. The confirmation of Judge Sotomayor will be an historic moment for all Americans to celebrate.”


While transportation safety experts were still investigating the cause of Monday’s deadly Metro subway crash that killed at least nine, James Ridgeway, blogging for the liberal magazine Mother Jones, is pointing to what he says is one link to the problem: Congress.

“The D.C. Metro has to contend with something that other urban mass-transit systems do not - the United States Congress, which has a hand in everything that goes on in the District, especially when it comes to funding,” Mr. Ridgeway writes.

“At least when there are problems on the New York City subway, whether they be deadly accidents or daily delays, New Yorkers can look to their own democratically elected officials for redress. Here in the nation’s capital, our lives are in the hands of 535 men and women from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Hawaii, South Carolina, and 46 other states - most of whom travel to Capitol Hill each day in limousines at the taxpayers’ expense and never set foot on the Metro.”

Mr. Ridgeway also said he takes exception to the argument that the 33-year-old train system’s age played a factor in the crash.

“An aging system? The Washington Metro began operation, after numerous delays, in 1976, and to date at least a dozen riders have been killed. (Three died in a 1982 derailment.) The New York City subway - which operates 24 hours a day and carries more riders than all other U.S. rail mass-transit systems combined - has been running since 1904, with about 30 riders killed in 105 years, only seven of them since 1976.”

• Sean Lengell can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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