White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that the president would say that Sotomayor’s word choice in her suddenly- infamous Berkeley speech was “poor.” It’s maddening that the White House is now taking this line. Maybe they mean to take the air out of it, but I bet it will accomplish the opposite, and give everyone license to talk about it again all weekend. This was a published speech, after all, not an off-the-cuff remark, and presumably the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal allows authors to edit copy, like everyone else.
It wasn’t the best choice of words, but I would downgrade that to “poor” only because it is likely to be taken out of context when, eight years later, she is nominated for the Supreme Court. As we have hashed out here and here , Sotomayor was talking about sex discrimination cases, in which there is actual evidence that having a woman on a panel of judges actually does make a difference. Her speech was actually much more nuanced than the right made it out to be, which Gibbs got to in the second half of his speech:
She was simply making the point that experiences are relevant to the process of judging. Your personal experiences have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts and certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding.
But I’m betting all we’re going to hear from that speech is that word “poor.”