Opinion: Sotomayor hearings: Jeff Sessions turns Perry Mason

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Jeff Sessions just conducted what might be considered a cross-examination of Sonia Sotomayor, rapidly firing off what’s seen by some as the GOP’s greatest hits with regard to her Supreme Court candidacy -- the ‘wise Latina’ remark, gun rights, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In each case, he pushed Sotomayor to confess (a la Perry Mason), to admit that, basically, she is misrepresenting herself before the committee. And when she failed to admit that, he essentially said he didn’t believe her.

That’s the meme that’s emerging today -- the allegation by Republicans that basically Sotomayor isn’t being honest about herself, much in the same way that liberal groups accused John Roberts and Samuel Alito of hiding a secret agenda.

Some of it turns on distinctions that don’t make all that much difference: Sessions suggested that she was more involved in the litigation activities of the Puerto Rican fund than she had said she was (and she denied ever denying that she wasn’t involved, if you can follow that).


But Sotomayor, who was a board member of the committee, may or may not have reviewed particular documents, but those who worked with her at the time, more than 20 years ago, told the Los Angeles Times when she was nominated that Sotomayor was sympathetic to the fund’s mission.

And Sotomayor herself hasn’t said that she wasn’t. Her association with the fund is clear. What isn’t is whether that makes any difference now with regard to her judicial approach.

Sessions, along with Jon Kyl and other Republicans, also are doing what they can to make this nomination about gun rights and whether the right to own a handgun extends to the states, perhaps to scare moderate, pro-gun Democrats who hail from rural states who might be inclined to support the judge and who fear retaliation from the National Rifle Assn. and other gun groups.

-- James Oliphant

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