July 19th, 2009
07:41 PM ET
14 years ago

Leahy on Sotomayor: 'Stop the racial politics'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor should be judged on the merits of her 17-year judicial record and the week of confirmation hearings that just ended rather than on suspicions about her racial allegiances.

“You had one leader of the Republican Party call her the equivalent to the head of the Klu Klux Klan,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Another leader of the Republican Party called her a bigot,” Leahy added, later explaining that he was making reference to comments by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Ranking Republican on the committee, referred to Sotomayor’s past involvement in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, Leahy again suggested that some Republicans were being unfairly critical of Sotomayor.

“I hope we don’t go back to the day when we used to have African-Americans up for confirmation and say ‘Yes, but you belong to the NAACP so, you know, we’re really suspicious of you,’” Leahy said CNN’s State of the Union.

“C’mon, stop the racial politics,” Leahy added.

Leahy remarks drew an immediate response from Sessions.

“Oh, c’mon, Pat. I’m going to disagree on that,” Sessions said.

“No but that’s the way it comes across . . . It comes across - if you belong to a group that tries to help Hispanics, help them in school, help them in other things, somehow you’re suspicious. The same arguments were used against Thurgood Marshall and others. I think it’s wrong,” Leahy said.

“I want to correct something,” interrupted Sessions. “No Republican leader said she was a bigot. You’ve overstated that. There’s nothing wrong with us asking her about the personal views about positions – legal positions – that she took as the member of an organization. That’s a normal thing to do. I don’t think that was unfair.”

soundoff (301 Responses)
  1. scott

    Everyone knows that the GOP are the descendants of the American Slave Masters. They have never left their plantation philosophies and most likely never will. You Either support their Far Right wing brand of totalitarianism or you are against it.

    July 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. brian in mesa

    Sessions... Where do the Republicans get these devisive people. I keep hoping for someone intelligent showing up in the republican party. I don't think they can recover until they completely collapse.
    We need more independants with real morals. Men and women who don't live in a "C-Street" brothal.

    July 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. Bruce

    Take a really good look at who Sen. Jeff Sessions is... look him up on wikipedia... this guy is something else! He is consistently on the side of divisive, oppressive and hate-filled political opinions that it is scary that he is still elected to office. He represents a real dark and evil side of American politics... the fact that someone such as him can still hold his opinions and public office at the same time is a deep shame.

    July 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. Alex

    How come this piece doesn't mention Jeff Sessions' past racial issues that in fact kept him off the federal bench in the 80's?

    July 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Ex-Republican

    They don't call them Repukes for nothing!

    July 19, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. mark

    It's amazing how terrible both parties are!

    July 19, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. barbara

    It never ceases to amaze me. I watch the news when I am not reading it and when I am not working. When my tv is on, so is the news. When my radio is on, so is the news. In the two years that I have been listening and watching these media outlets, I have never not once heard any Republican or Independent FIRST invoke race into any conversation about the candidates and or the campaigns/agendas. The ONLY time race has ever been mentioned, part or parcel, in a conversation/debate was when a DEMOCRAT first did so. The only reason why the Dems do this is because they really really really NEED the American people, namely minorities, to FORGET that the Democrat Party is the Party of Slavery,...always was and always will be. As long as they have a voice, they will continue to brainwash the uninformed and illiterate, the people that hear with one ear and only get abc, nbc and cbs on their tv's. As long as the Dems are in control they will contiue to control what 66 million people listen to and watch on tv. The next time we will ever hear two sides to the story and value the oppositions view will be in 2010.

    July 19, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  8. Soren

    The GOP is as always totally screwed up.
    They are a bunch of irrelevant, boring, out-of touch, compromised,
    unsophisticated, corny, southern bozos, that nobody wants to see,
    let alone listen to. Palin, Limbaugh, Mcconnell, Rove, Gingrich,
    Sanford, etc. Please go away.

    July 19, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  9. John

    The Republican's on the panel brought up race over and over again – it's amazing they're saying now they didn't. Disgusting.

    July 19, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. bimmer

    Nobody called the blacks racist for voting en masse for Obama. Because it t served their bias.

    And the bias is gender-based, unfortunately.

    A 1/2 black man is Ok but a woman? Not in 2008. In 3008. Maybe.

    July 19, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Mike Brooks

    Oh, right, the GPO is playing racial politics. Obama and the clowns in the Democratic Party have foisted Sotomayor off on us, a Latino woman, and that has nothing to do with racial politics. They shove a ruthless partisan hack like Holder as AG, who happens to be black, and that isn't racial politics. The justify outsourcing 40 million jobs, bringing in hordes of cheap Indian and Chinese IT workers that displace U.S. workers as a part of their mutlicultural-globalization nonsense and that has nothing to do with racial politics. When 80% of voters do not want any sort of amnesty granted to the 20 million or so illegal workers, want them, in fact, rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, the Democrats are dead set on thwarting the will of the voters and handing them our jobs because they think it will lock in the Hispanic voters and that has nothing to do with racial politics. Give me a break.

    July 19, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Frankie the Demo

    Every time politicians in my declared party open their mouths, it gives me another reason not to vote for these clowns. Democrats have always been and continue to be the biggest, most offensive and consistent racists anywhere. Look at Obama-he used racism to get himself elected and look at the the fools that fell for it. Demos are typically the most hypocritical as well although the repubs aren't far behind. Let's see. Sen Bobby "KKK" Byrdie. Sounds pretty racist to me. If some of you demos out there had any brains then you would be dangerous. What have you done to my party!

    July 19, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Chris W

    I consider myself as much as a fire-breathing liberal as the next, and have flirted with communism in my personal life to offset the disgust pushed into culture by the GOP/BUSH era, so I'm of clear conscience when I say this Sotomayor brought it on herself. She made that speech,what did she expect. An over reaction from the Right Wing?.. why, that never happens....
    Obviously she's played the race card for her own benefit in the past so now others want their turn for their reasons and so on an on till the next generation, like myself, just look at all these people on both side and think what in the blankitiy blank wise Latina, Rush Limbugh/Imus livin nonsense are these people up to and when will it finally end? I'm so sick and tired of hearing about race, yeah us youngers owe a great debt , whatever shut up already, both Democrats and Republicans, you make yourselves out to be holy than thou on something NOBODY EVEN CARES ABOUT ANYMORE.

    July 19, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. troy

    After the Democratic Primaries, no party can claim to be racially tolerant. The Democrats dished it out with as much fervor, if not more so, than the Republicans. It's a good thing that I, as a black man, finally realized that people can say whatever they want; it only becomes meaningful if I recognize it. Learning to ignore stupidity and concentrate on living good has been a life-changing event for me.

    July 19, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. Mick

    It's still the "Swift-boat" campaign. Go after an opponent's strengths, not weaknesses.
    Imagine old Republican white guys from Dixie quoting Martin Luther King to an Hispanic woman who grew up in the projects in the Bronx.
    What's funny is that the Democrats in the South all became Republicans when the Civil Rights Movement raised its scarey head....


    July 19, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. Mike in NYC

    Strange, considering that today's Democrat party is the national repository of grievance politics. This is also the same Senator who said that to oppose Eric Holder for AG was to be on the wrong side of history.

    Contrary to liberal hysterics, the GOP usually has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the mildest exercise of identity politics. The difference here was that the Ricci case was such an egregious example of anti-White racism that the Repubs were forced to take a stand.

    Now if the GOP were to actually stand up for the interests of their working- and middle-class White base, things would get mighty interesting.

    July 19, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  17. lauren

    There's a nice, toasty spot in hell especially reserved for Jeff Sessions.

    Talk about the LAST person who should be bringing up anyone's racial affiliations...

    July 19, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  18. bob

    This is a side show to take our eyes off the real issue that will most affect ALL of us in the future. And that is that Obama's and the democrats budget tripled the deficit. We now spend 53 cents of every government dollar to pay off the national dept. Why would anyone under 35 ever vote democrat ( or republican for that matter).

    July 19, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. Tim

    Leahy is the one playing racial politics here.

    July 19, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. Andrew Metz

    So I guess it is bad now for the republican party to defend their point of view.

    July 19, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. ROBERT

    This is why America is fed up with group of racial bigots.

    July 19, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  22. Bill Perney

    The Republican party has dwindled down to simply the party of the rump confederacy. Hopefully, as the the old confederacy continues to shrink so will the backward Geezer's Old Party.

    July 19, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. joec

    Overall, it appears that most GOP lawmakers, and even some Democrats, have a rather low opinion of the people who voted them into office. I watched much of the Sotomayor hearings on CNN and I have to agree with Leahy. The sarcasm spewed by the GOP senators on the panel was embarrassing. Well, if they think that represents the people of this country, they'll find out when they next stand for re-election.
    I for one, who used to vote my conscience, will vote against the GOP next time around. And I suspect others will too.

    July 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  24. Paul Nelson

    The Republicans are trying to go to an old playbook, racial division, at a time in their history when fresh ideas are lacking. However, if they can move in a more libertarian direction and REAL small government, not the spin of small government while creating record deficits, they can have electoral success again. Ending the spending on building and maintaining an Empire, with bases all over the world, reducing the budget for militarism which now is more than the rest of the world combined, stopping the support of the global arms industry (which is a post WWII phenomenon) and heeding Ike's warning about the Military-Industrial-Complex, will make them a great party again. It will happen. The question is in two years or fifty. If they don't the Democrats don;t have to work very hard and that's always dangerous.

    July 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  25. Midnight Star

    Let's face it, Sessions is a redneck racist from way back, what makes him different is he is an educated redneck.

    July 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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