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On Monday, the New Republic's prominent legal analyst Jeffrey Rosen published a rumor-filled assessment of Obama Supreme Court short-lister, Sonia Sotomayor.  And by Thursday, as ThinkProgress reported, what Glenn Greenwald deemed Rosen's "anonymous smears" and "a model of shoddy journalism" were being parroted throughout the media.  But as to why Rosen took a tabloid approach to evaluating Sotomayor, his motivation may be simple.  Jeffrey Rosen may be trying to compensate for his early cheerleading for - and subsequent buyer's remorse over - John Roberts.

Years before concluding, "The most consistent concern [from former clerks] was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was 'not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,'" Rosen portrayed Bush nominee and Chief Justice John Roberts in almost hagiographic terms.

In his 2007 PBS series and accompanying book, The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America, Rosen anticipated betters days for institution of the Court under Roberts' calm direction. Rosen painted a promising picture of Roberts as a worthy successor to the first Chief Justice, John Marshall, whose collegiality and search for consensus and unanimity strengthened the Court during its turbulent formative years.

"Those of us who supported Roberts never denied his conservatism. The question was: Who among the candidates President Bush was plausibly inclined to appoint as chief justice would be most likely to avoid the radicalism of Scalia and Thomas and try to unify the Court? In his first term, which began in October 2005, Roberts entirely vindicated these hopes."

In a January 2007 interview with the George Washington University professor, Jason Harrow of SCOTUSBlog observed about Rosen's book and Atlantic article ("Roberts' Rules"), "it's hard not to notice how often you compare the current Chief to the great John Marshall." Rosen responded:

"I was impressed by the new Chief's familiarity with the legacy of his greatest predecessor - and his determination to resurrect it...As for the question of whether it's as important to achieve unanimity as it was in Marshall's day: Roberts argued that it's just as important: if the justices continue to behave like law professors and to issue lots of separate opinions, they may squander the reserves of legitimacy that Marshall built up... Whenever the Court gets dramatically out of step with the public, and issues intensely controversial, narrowly divided opinions, all of that carefully hoarded legitimacy can go out the window. That's why I'm persuaded by Roberts' argument that resurrecting Marshall's vision is all the more important in a polarized age."

And then Jeffrey Rosen was mugged by reality.

As I first detailed in July 2007, rather than displaying greater unanimity and continuity, the Roberts' Court during the previous term casually tossed aside precedents and produced a fractured bench repeatedly hinging on the swing vote of the prima donna Anthony Kennedy. Rosen's buyer's remorse was clear on the pages of the New Republic. Roberts' butchery of the meaning of Brown v. Board of Education in the Seattle schools race-based admissions case drew the ire of Rosen and his fellow editors. And in the same July 23rd issue, Rosen aired his disappointment in a piece titled, "Will Roberts Ever Get Better?"

"Although Chief Justice John Roberts began the term by calling for greater consensus, a third of cases were decided by five-to-four votes, the highest percentage in more than ten years. The polarization inspired the four liberal justices to write some of their most passionate, incisive, and memorable dissents."

Echoing Rosen, New York Senator Chuck Schumer groused that his Democratic colleagues were "too easily impressed with the charm of Roberts" and concluded, "There is no doubt that we were hoodwinked."

TNR's Jeffrey Rosen probably feels the same way.  Burned by his overeager comparison of Roberts to the legendary John Marshall, Rosen apparently doesn't want to make that mistake again.  In turning to gossip and innuendo to question her "temperament," Rosen decided that Sonia Sotomayor will pay the price.

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:30 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  well as a Hispanic American woman (5+ / 0-)

      I am greatly offended by the insinuations of "laziness" ie. the stereotypic view of  the Hispanic person as lazy and not a good worker.
      And then the sexist view that she is "doesn't play well with others" / "she is a bully" because she is an assertive woman.
      First of all, as a Hispanic American woman, you do not get to be all this because you are lazy and obnoxious.  
      from wiki...

      Sonia Sotomayor graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. She earned her A.B. from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1976, where she won the Pyne Prize, the highest general award given to Princeton undergraduates.[5] Sotomayor obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Sotomayor then served as an Assistant District Attorney under prominent New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, prosecuting robberies, assaults, murders, police brutality, and child pornography cases. In 1984, she entered private practice, making partner at the commercial litigation firm of Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation.[1][4][6]
      [edit]Federal judicial service

      Widely considered a political centrist by the American Bar Association Journal[6][7] and others, Sotomayor was nominated on November 27, 1991, by President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated by John M. Walker, Jr. (the president's cousin). She became the youngest judge in the Southern District[11] and the first Hispanic federal judge anywhere in New York State.

      plus remember that old saying about how much harder  a woman has to work to to be considered for a position.  Also think about the uphill climb she had, to get to where she is from without a Dad with connections.  If you are not a bit pushy you will not get anywhere. Americans are pushy. That is who we are.

      come and get your Evolution goove on... be there or be square.....

      by TexMex on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:51:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even without this research, I was (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        disposed to support Justice Sotomayor for the court.  Anyone the right is making  such ridiculous, stereotypical charges against must be considered a threat to their distorted view of America.  

        I would love to have a Justice who has seen this country from a different perspective, who is strong enough to say Bullshit in chambers, and who has demonstrated a solid understanding of the law to back up her arguments.

        Hate, lower taxes for the rich, increased profits for corporations, love of the flag image,and guns; what else do Republicans stand for?

        by Blogvirgin on Thu May 07, 2009 at 12:22:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Only 20 More Years of Roberts Court Reversing (4+ / 0-)

    settled law and clauses of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    By that time we stand a very good chance of breaking W's majority.

    Assuming we're in office then. Usually, we're out.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:32:24 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating narrative (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    regarding Rosen's attitude toward Roberts.  Thanks for the info.

    However, you might want to be a bit clearer that the motivation you attribute to Rosen in the present case is pure speculation.

    Lou Dobbs makes me puke tears of blood (and not the good kind).

    by cardinal on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:38:56 AM PDT

    •  Fair Point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I did try to make clear that I was speculating on Rosen's motives by the use of words like "motivation may" and "Jeffrey Rosen may be trying" and "Rosen probably feels the same way" and "Rosen apparently doesn't want."

      That said, you're right that the case I present is limited - and speculative.

  •  John Jay is gonna be pissed (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vico, serrano, st minutia, maryabein

    about losing his place as the first Chief Justice.

    I just pray no fellatio was involved in the torture regime or there is going to be hell to pay. Digby

    by DaNang65 on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:39:51 AM PDT

  •  Rosen's been rightly ripped for that post (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    itskevin, frandor55, serrano, sydneyluv

    It's really something when a journalist criticizes a judge's professionalism while admiting that he hasn't done the research.

    Seat Al Franken! Boot Arlen Specter!

    by Paleo on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:41:03 AM PDT

  •  I don't buy it (0+ / 0-)

    This doesn't make any logical sense to me the way you explain it.

    I think that Sotomayor doesn't fit the Villager ideal of what a SCOTUS justice looks like, and so she must be destroyed.

    Hopelessly pedantic since 1963.

    by admiralh on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:44:26 AM PDT

  •  There are better arguments. (0+ / 0-)

    What about a counter narrative.  Rosen is a sexist pig who touts white males as the true keepers of the constitutions.  Hispanic women are inehrently suspicious right - they are tempermental and emotional and not really rooted in Anglo-Saxon law.  This makes more sense to me than saying Rosen is lashing out at Sotomayer.  More likely he is doing dirty work for someone else - like his brother in law who stands to become solcitor general if the current solicitor, Kagan, gets the job.  My god our country will eventually be run by a cacaphony of catholic MCPs and jewish liberal ladies.  No room for the fastest growing population group in the country (members of who preceded everyone else here except for native Americans.)

  •  Hoodwinked???? (0+ / 0-)

    Were you fucking paying attention?  

    If us lowly peons could see Roberts for who he was, then certainly a Senator should have.

  •  Ah, The New Republic (0+ / 0-)

    Just another institution that makes me long for the George Soros of myth and legend. He of the magic open checkbook for all things to annoy the far Right.

    The New Republic as an unapologetically liberal and activist progressive magazine would have ten or twenty times the subscriber base the current magazine has, and would put the kibosh on one of the biggest sources of 'even the liberal x says' Rightwing talking points.

    Rosen crafted a vapid burn-book entry on Sotomayor worthy of 40 year old junior high school kids... and then he pretty much admits he doesn't know what he's talking about because he hasn't done any of the research to know what he is talking about.

    But it doesn't matter, because he's "serious" and the Village loves a good take-down.

    If the blogs didn't exist, she wouldn't have a chance at getting enough pushback to negate this kind of crap.

    Ten years ago, today's headlines would've been items in The Onion.

    by LeftHandedMan on Thu May 07, 2009 at 10:48:41 AM PDT

    •  Also, anybody who claims (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      doinaheckuvanutjob, maryabein

      to have been "hoodwinked" by Roberts or Alito is just delusional or a liar.

      The far Right has been trying to engineer a 'Sure Thing Movement Conservative' pipeline to the courts for four decades. I don't care if its a Democratic Pol or a Villager, you can't be in DC for years and act/pretend like that isn't so. Bush was a hack Movement Conservative whose brain was rightwing thinktanks, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove. If Bush put a name forward, it was an in-the-bag MC hack.

      If the judge in front of you comes from the halls of The Federalist Society she or he comes from the Movement Conservative farm team, vetted by Scalias for Scalias, to prevent anymore David Souters get in and Robert Borks get stopped.

      If John Roberts wasn't a wingnut, and the fix wasn't in on his Movement Conservatism, then Bush/Cheney/Rove wouldn't have picked him.

      Democrats who couldn't wait to vote to confirm Roberts were scared shitless by the Fox News to Drudge addicted media and the far Right that it would be an electoral disaster to start a fight.


      Ten years ago, today's headlines would've been items in The Onion.

      by LeftHandedMan on Thu May 07, 2009 at 11:00:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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