Confirmation Kabuki: Durbin Channels Sotomayor To Answer Critics

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: After his meeting with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate emerged to speak, he said, for Sotomayor, and responded to critics about her 2001 Berkeley speech and whether it makes her, as Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh said, a racist.

Sotomayor, in the political kabuki of presidential nominations, can’t answer any criticism herself until she has confirmation hearings.

Sotomayor said in their meeting, according to Durbin, that her race is “one part of me. I am many different things.”

“Basically it means it’s a part of my life experience that I bring to my judge…”

“Maybe it means that with this background I’m a better listener,” he said she said. “But ultimately it’s not going to make any decision for me. The law is going to decide.”

Later, he reiterated: “What Judge Sotomayor said was this is part of what I am, this is who I am … but in the end it is the law that will be deciding.”

And he drew the comparison between Sotomayor’s Latina heritage and current Justice Samuel Alito’s Italian heritage.

“When I met with Sam Alito, he talked about his Italian heritage and how proud he was of that and he should be,” Durbin said.

On timing of a hearing for Sotomayor, Durbin dismissed the claims of Republicans who think her large history as a judge means she needs more vetting. Durbin took the opposite tack.

“This isn’t her first time to come before the senate judiciary committee, this is her third. She is not an unknown quantity,” he said.

And specifically on questions from some conservatives as to whether Sotomayor is a racist, Durbin said, “Consider the source.”

He said Gingrich and Limbaugh are part of the “extreme right” and “Most Americans understand that is an extreme reaction and undeserved,” said Durbin.

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