- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

ABORTION GAP

“Democratic senators have a problem. How will they handle the fact that Sonia Sotomayor’s position on Roe v. Wade is so far a big unknown?” Greg Sargent writes in the Plum Line blog at whorunsgov.com.

“That’s the question that needs to be asked in the wake of news reports [Thursday] morning saying pro-choice groups are worried she may not be a reliable vote to uphold Roe. Sotomayor has never directly ruled on whether the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion,” Mr. Sargent said.

“This gap in her record puts Dem senators in a bind. Pro-choice groups are mounting a campaign to press senators to insist at her confirmation hearing that Sotomayor clarify her position on Roe. If these senators punt, they’ll anger those groups and open themselves up to GOP charges of inconsistency. And if they do ask, they have to weigh how hard to press Sotomayor for full clarification.

“Even more dicey: the possibility that Sotomayor could give an unsatisfactory answer. While many have assumed she’s reliable on Roe, there’s precedent for surprising turns from Supreme Court justices, such as David Souter’s 1990s vote to uphold abortion rights. Indeed, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs conceded [Thursday] that Obama had not directly asked her in their interviews whether she supports the Roe ruling.

“No one expects Dem senators to not support Sotomayor. But if she does give an unsatisfactory answer to the Roe question, it could suddenly become a lot more dicey to do so. This one’s worth watching.”

CODE WORD

“Both President Barack Obama and Republicans get something they want from the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor,” Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“Mr. Obama said he wanted to replace Justice David Souter with someone who had ‘empathy’ and who’d temper the court’s decisions with a concern for the downtrodden, the powerless and the voiceless.

” ‘Empathy’ is the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want. It represents an expansive view of the judiciary in which courts create policy that couldn’t pass the legislative branch or, if it did, would generate voter backlash,” Mr. Rove said.

“There is a certain irony in a president who routinely praises America’s commitment to ‘the rule of law’ but who picks Supreme Court nominees for their readiness to discard the rule of law whenever emotion moves them.

“Mr. Obama’s pick also allows him to placate Hispanic groups who’d complained of his failure to appoint more high-profile Latinos to his administration. …

“Mr. Obama also hopes to score political points as GOP senators oppose a Latina. …

“The Sotomayor nomination also provides Republicans with some advantages. They can stress their support for judges who strictly interpret the Constitution and apply the law as written. A majority of the public is with the GOP on opposing liberal activist judges. There is something in our political DNA that wants impartial umpires who apply the rules, regardless of who thereby wins or loses.”

A NEW APPROACH

“Enter Robert George,” Fred Barnes writes at www. weeklystandard.com.

“A professor of politics (and a lot more) at Princeton - he holds an endowed chair once held by Woodrow Wilson - George wants to bring intellectual vigor to the Republican Party and the conservative movement, especially on social issues like pornography and marriage. ‘We need to connect our intellectuals with our activists,’ he says.

“George, 48, has founded the American Principles Project (APP) with an ambitious agenda that would change the face of conservative politics. And Frank Cannon and Jeffrey Bell, leading conservative strategists who run a public affairs firm in Washington, have joined him,” Mr. Barnes said.

“George, who created the popular James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, is no stranger to politics. He’s a pro-life, pro-family conservative who was appointed by the first President Bush to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and by the second to the Council on Bioethics. But his new venture will make him a major political player.

“The idea behind George’s leap in politics is twofold. First, he would publicize scholarship by academic intellectuals that buttresses the conservative case on issues from family breakdown to the ‘sexualizing of children’ and bring it to the attention of conservative politicians and activists. He calls this the ‘mobilization of scholarship.’ The aim is to change the view of Republican elites that social issues in particular are lowbrow, emotional, and to be avoided.

“Second, George wants to elevate issues that reflect conservative popular sentiment - again, notably social issues - and give them a prominent role in the national political debate.”

ODD TWIST

“It is now asked whether Sonia Sotomayor has empathy for Frank Ricci,” David Paul Kuhn writes at www. realclearpolitics.com.

“It’s a question larger than the first Latina nominated to the Supreme Court, larger than the first black president who selected her and larger than the case before the high court of a firefighter who did not get a promotion because he was white and male,” Mr. Kuhn said.

“Three personal narratives interlocked as Obama nominated Judge Sotomayor on Tuesday. Sotomayor, if confirmed, would be the first Latina and only the third woman of the 111 justices to serve on the high court.

“Sotomayor is a legal heavyweight. But she was also chosen, in part, because of her color and gender.

“In an odd twist of fate, the first Latina nominee now finds herself cast not as the discriminated but the discriminator.

“Sotomayor sits on the appellate court that decided against Frank Ricci, one of the more significant affirmative-action cases before the Supreme Court in decades. The case evokes issues of discrimination. It highlights whether we can see white men as victims, a half-century after affirmative action was first implemented.

“It was Obama who emphasized empathy as he discussed the makeup of his ideal Supreme Court nominee. And it was also Obama, in his acclaimed race speech during the presidential campaign, who noted that when whites hear ‘that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed … resentment builds over time.’ ”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected] .com.

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