Monday, July 13, 2009

Sotomayor Avoids Controversy In First Day of Hearings

Despite protesters' best efforts to derail the first day of Sonia Sotomayor's hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, her path to become a Supreme Court Justice appeared clear.

The first interruption was by Norma McCorvey, better known as "Jane Roe" in the Supreme Court abortion case, Roe v. Wade. Since the landmark 1973 case, McCorvey has switched her views on abortion and become staunchly anti-abortion. As new Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota began his opening statement Monday, McCorvey started yelling, "You're wrong Sotomayor!"

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., tried to gavel the room to silence. But as the Capitol police officers moved to arrest McCorvey and another anti-abortion protester, nine people sitting in seats reserved for the public and clad in black sweat suits unzipped their jackets, pulled out guitars, violins, trumpets, a vihuela, a flute and a guitarron and started playing Cielito Lindo, a popular mariachi song.

It was not immediately clear the intent of the group and whether the musical interlude was intended as a sign of support or opposition for Sotomayor. But another member of the public, apparently unrelated to the group, yelled mockingly, "Is that the kind of music you listen to, oh, wise Latina?"

The mariachi band was soon escorted out, as was the unidentified male referencing Sotomayor's controversial remark that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Some conservatives have used that remark to label her a "reverse racist" and charge that she engages in identity politics.

As senators switched from opening statements to questions -- with Democrats asking laudatory rhetorical questions and Republicans skeptical rhetorical ones -- new members in the public seating section suddenly stood up and started chanting, "You can't mend it so end it!" Clad in pink, they were easily recognizable as members of anti-war group Code Pink.

Sotomayor has not ruled on any cases involving the Iraq War, but Code Pink has been disheartened by Obama's slower-than-hoped for withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the increased military presence in Afghanistan.

The nation-wide audience for the Sotomayor hearing proved irresistible to the group, as it did to two men in the last half of the hearing, who stood up on chairs and started kissing and groping each other. Although Sotomayor's back was to the PDA-inclined couple, a visibly distracted Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican of the Judiciary Committee, interrupted her testimony and demanded that the two men cease their inappropriate behavior.

One staffer for Leahy was heard to sigh to an aide to Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., "Great, someone trying to make a point about gay marriage."

But the motivation turned out to be primarily commercial. After being physically pulled out of his liplock, Sacha Baron Cohen yelled effeminately, "Everybody, come see my fabulous new movie Bruno!"

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