July 5th, 2009
10:44 AM ET
5 years ago

State of the Union: Powell on Sotomayor, affirmative action


WASHINGTON (CNN) – One of the country’s most prominent African-American Republicans says the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor should not be derailed because of her ruling in a high-profile case that raised the issue of affirmative action.

“What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor, who is announced, and based on one simple, tricky but nonetheless case that the Supreme Court has now decided, have her called a racist or a reverse racist, and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her,” Powell said Sunday in an interview that aired on CNN’s State of the Union.

“She seems like a very gifted and accomplished woman,” Powell also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “She certainly 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. And so I hope we do have a spirited set of hearings.”

“And, she ought to be asked about everything from both the left and the right,” Powell said of the woman who would become the first Latina on the nation’s highest court if confirmed by the Senate.

Pointing to his own life, Powell also weighed in on the issue of affirmative action more generally – an issue likely to be a focus of Sotomayor’s upcoming confirmation hearings.

“You don’t have an obligation to bring in anybody who’s not able to do the work. You should always have qualifications. But once you have those qualifications, is there something wrong with a taxpayer-funded institution not making sure that it is representing the entire public, the entire population? And I think that’s a good rule for private institutions as well.

Call it affirmative action. Call it diversity. It goes under lots of different names.

“I have a hunch that maybe 55 years ago, somebody took a look at my rather mediocre high school grades, but at the same time thought ‘maybe this kid can make it.’ And they let me in the City College of New York.”

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Yes, Ricci was simple. There was absolutely nothing "tricky" about it–it was a very straight forward case of a government unconstitutionally discriminating against a group of people based on nothing more than the color of their skins.

    That Sonia Sotomayor judicially endorsed an unconstitutional act is more than sufficient grounds to deny her a seat on the Supreme Court.

    July 5, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Simmy

    Supreme Court Justice-to-be Sotomayor is an intelligent, qualified Hispanic female.....Since labels and stereotypes are sewn within the fabric of America, she unfortunately, can't break through the glass ceiling yet......But one day change will truly come......

    July 5, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  3. bill sayre

    Secretary Powell and President Obama both share a love of country.
    It is important that the Obama agenda be accomplished this year, if it is to be accomplished at all. It is imperitive that our now debtor nation not overspend in any area. I truly would appreciate honest debate and decisions - in our best interests. It would be be great to see Obama and Powell as the key players in this battle as I believe that both have the interests of the people above the political interest. Bring it on–get the best thinking on the critical issues on the table-let the Congess, the Court and the People decide. Just the facts "Jack".

    July 5, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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