Several GOP Senators, including Hatch, Kyl, and Sessions, attempted to faze Sotomayor through some pretty insistent questioning about her views on race. Sotomayor, for her part, was unmoved: Her calm, staccato delivery never wavered. Her composure made Lindsey Graham's reading of Jeffrey Rosen's laundry list of anonymous complaints about Sotomayor's temperament almost surreal--it's completely at odds with her performance in the hearings. Under prolonged questioning that suggested she was racist or biased, that her record as a judge was tainted by racial prejudice, or, in Graham's case, scolding her as a "bully," Sotomayor's tone of voice and calm expression never betrayed single flash of anger. She is, like the president who nominated her, not easily shaken.
Yet, it's pretty clear that the right is feeling triumphant about the Republican Party's performance in these hearings. I'm not really sure why--I think the GOP is wearing some pretty serious demographic blinders here. They're immersed in a like-minded crowd that takes satisfaction from the white male identity politics being played in these hearings, but they're unable to see how this plays to a larger, more diverse audience. I'm guessing a lot of professional women watching the hearing recognized Graham's gendered, patronizing "advice" ("Maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection”) to Sotomayor regarding her "temperament." That's just not a tone of voice you using when speaking to an adult.
Despite what Graham seems to believe, Sotomayor isn't going to give the GOP of the satisfaction of losing her cool, which is probably the only thing that would draw attention away from their aggressive and occasionally rude questioning. Which leaves only the spectacle of a posse of graying Senators sounding like a Rick Lazio cover band.
-- A. Serwer
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