Sotomayor Sticks to Her Guns

Senators showed deference to a martial arts expert of sorts.
Senators showed deference to a martial arts expert of sorts. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For those thinking about opposing Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation, be forewarned: The woman knows her nunchucks.

The first to learn of this potential peril during yesterday's questioning of the Supreme Court nominee was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "Doesn't your decision in Maloney mean that virtually any state or local weapons ban would be permissible?" he asked.

"Sir, in Maloney, we were talking about nunchuck sticks," the judge explained.

"I understand," said the senator.

"Those are martial arts sticks," Sotomayor added.

Hatch did not want to appear to be a ninja newbie. "Two sticks bound together by rawhide or some sort of a --"

"Exactly," the nominee said. "And when the sticks are swung . . . that swinging mechanism can break arms, it can bust someone's skull."

"Sure," Hatch agreed, breezily. He wasn't about to get into a fight with an expert in martial arts.

The nominee wore a red jacket and a walking cast over her fractured ankle, but the members of the Judiciary Committee couldn't have shown her more deference if she stood before them in a black mask, pointing a sword at them.

Democrats fawned. "If there's a test for judicial temperament, you pass it with an A-plus-plus," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) announced.

Republicans stepped gingerly. One of the toughest questioners, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), raised the question of whether Sotomayor is "a bully" who has "a temperament problem" -- but also made sure to announce that "I like you" and "I may vote for you."

The nominee and her questioners know that her confirmation is a sure thing unless she makes a dreadful mistake during the hearings -- and the cautious Sotomayor was in no danger of doing that yesterday. She blunted criticism that her most controversial claim -- that a "wise Latina woman" should have superior judgment to a white man -- was in error: "The words I chose, taking the rhetorical flourish, it was a bad idea."

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