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Obama Stands Up to Sotomayor Critics — and Picks an Unknown on Executive Power

The reports this morning that President Obama intends to nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter suggest that, while not exactly going out on a limb, President Obama was willing to stand up to the unfounded criticism of Sotomayor as a far-left liberal who’d take an expansive reading of the constitution and bully the lawyers who appeared before her.

As I wrote earlier, Sotomayor — who was originally nominated by the first President Bush for the district court, then elevated by President Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York — has been pilloried by right-wing critics of the Obama administration who have been eager to portray his first Supreme Court pick as unqualified ideological leftist. Drawing largely on a twisted reading of her role in a controversial reverse-discrimination decision — and on anonymous comments cited in a much-criticized piece in The New Republic by Jeffrey Rosen — conservative critics sought to torpedo the nomination of Sotomayor early on. As a highly accomplished Hispanic woman who rose from inner-city poverty to a seat on one of the most prestigious courts in the country, Sotomayor was an obvious choice for President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee.

Although I speculated just yesterday that perhaps Obama would lean toward Solicitor General Elena Kagan based on her previous statements suggesting she’d endorse an expansive view of executive power, it seems that he has wisely chosen not to choose the next justice based on self-interest. If the news reports this morning are correct, we’ll hear the president announce why he chose Sotomayor very soon.

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