Muscle-Bound
06-01-2009
As you would expect, it was wall-to-wall Judge Sotomayor on the Sunday morning chat shows over the weekend. I counted no less than a half-dozen Republican Senators stating that they found various statements by Judge Sotomayor to be troubling. As I discussed in a recent post, deployment of the word troubling is Senate confirmation-speak for potential opposition to the nominee. Not to be left out of the action, a few of the possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates have also gotten into the mix; I heard both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee roll out the t-word to describe their views of the Sotomayor nomination at several points during the past week.
 
On the Democratic side, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Pat Leahy of Vermont used his appearance on Meet the Press to needle his Republican colleagues a bit. With the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions, sitting at his side, Senator Leahy made repeated (and somewhat gleeful) reference to, “leaders of the Republican Party like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.”
 
Sessions had surprisingly little to say on this in response, and I also noticed that on several other shows Republican guests continued to be muted in their criticism of Gingrich and Limbaugh, falling back on free speech arguments when asked directly about the duo’s depiction of Sotomayor as a racist.  One notable exception has been Texas Senator John Cornyn, who, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also has to consider the electoral impact of any confirmation battle.
 
All of this is reminiscent of what journalist Howard Fineman has called the real RNC, comprised of Rush, Newt, and Cheney (first letter of each name, in case it’s not obvious). In the context of his original piece, Fineman was referring to their aggressive criticism of the Obama Administration as providing the Republican Party’s true muscle. But like a lot of Democrats, Leahy apparently sees this as a double-edged sword, hence his intentional linking of Republican leadership with two of the more controversial conservative voices in the party.


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