By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 30, 2009 10:23 AM
President Obama warned against "attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games" during the consideration of his nominee to the Supreme Court, urging Congress to begin considering the nomination without delay.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said he expects a continuation of what he said has already occurred in the few days since he chose Circuit Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the Court -- "pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture."
"But I am confident that these efforts will fail; because Judge Sotomayor's seventeen-year record on the bench ¿ hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself ¿ speak far louder than any attack; her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased, and dedicated to the rule of law," he said.
The choice of Sotomayor has already prompted fierce opposition from some conservatives, especially those who belong to advocacy groups outside of Congress. Republicans in the Senate have been far more cautious in their criticism, saying only that they will rigorously examine her record and qualifications.
In his address, Obama said he expects "nothing less."
But Obama said that "what I hope is that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this process, and Congress, in the past. Judge Sotomayor ought to be on the bench when the Supreme Court decides what cases to hear this year and I'm calling on Democrats and Republicans to be thorough, and timely in dealing with this nomination."
In the address, the president described Sotomayor's legal background as a prosecutor and a judge. He also talked about her personal story -- something he said in announcing her was a key part of why he chose her. Obama has talked about the need for "empathy" in a justice. He has said her experiences and life story will help inform her decisions as a justice.
"As a Justice of the Supreme Court, she will bring not only the experience acquired over the course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated over the course of an extraordinary journey ¿ a journey defined by hard work, fierce intelligence, and the enduring faith that, in America, all things are possible," Obama said, adding:
"Her father was a factory worker with a third grade education; when she was just nine years old, he passed away. Her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to provide for her and her brother, buying the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood and sending her children to Catholic school."
Sotomayor's religion -- and her lack of a record on abortion rights cases -- has helped spark some concern among liberal interest groups that she may not be sufficiently pro-choice for some of them. The White House on Thursday offered strong, if vague, reassurances that she would support abortion rights.
But the president did not say anything one way or another about her views on abortion.