The XX Factor

Sotomayor on Taking Obama’s Big Call

In her first TV interview since being nominated to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor talked to Susan Swain of C-SPAN and gives the skinny on getting the Big Call from President Obama. Excerpts from the interview transcript:

SWAIN: I’m wondering if you would mind, for history, telling us the story of when you got the telephone call?

SOTOMAYOR: I was told that Monday that the President would-I had been told all weekend that the president would be making up his mind, making his decision sometime on Monday, and I had been sitting in my office from 8:00 that morning waiting for a phone call. …

It’s now nearly 7:00 in the evening, and I call the White House and say, ‘Well you’re getting my family to Washington, have any of you given any thought about how I’m going to get there?” And they stopped and said, ‘Oh I guess we should figure that out, shouldn’t we?’ Literally that was the response. What I was told was that the president had gotten distracted with some important other business that was going on at the time, and that he would call me at about 8:00 p.m. but that I should go home and pack to come to Washington, and that they would prefer that I didn’t take a plane.

[Sotomayor asked a friend to drive her to Washington.]

And he came, or was on his way, and at 8:10 p.m. I received a call at my - on my cell phone. The White House operator tells you that the president is on the line. … I actually stood by my balcony doors, and I had the - my cell phone in my right hand and I had my left hand over my chest trying to calm my beating heart, literally. And the president got on the phone and said to me, ‘Judge, I would like to announce you as my selection to be the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.’

And I said to him - I caught my breath and started to cry and said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ That was what the moment was like.

SWAIN: And then what?

SOTOMAYOR: He asked me to make him two promises. The first was to remain the person I was, and the second was to stay connected to my community. And I said to him that those were two easy promises to make, because those two things I could not change.

[And then banality returned: Sotomayor got lost on the drive to D.C., after a rain storm knocked out the car’s GPS device.]