Sotomayor and the Reaction

I’m fascinated watching the right wheel out its opposition to President Obama’s candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. The current designated target, online at least, seems to be her putative “experience” gained from having overcome various difficulties in her life, something President Obama made a point of praising. The worst argument raised against this aspect that I’ve seen so far has to be that by Thomas Sowell in the National Review Online:

Much is being made of the fact that Sonia Sotomayor had to struggle to rise in the world. But stop and think.

If you were going to have open-heart surgery, would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who was chosen because he had to struggle to get where he is, or by the best surgeon you could find — even if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had every advantage that money and social position could offer?

It’s too daft, really, to merit much deconstruction. But I’ll go a couple of paces into it here. First, there’s the tacit assumption that there are only two qualities at issue, life experience and appropriate skill or ability. Then there’s the unjustified opposition of the two: if you’ve struggled you aren’t skilled. And third — most illicit perhaps — is the equation of judging and surgery, occupations with skill sets that are… rather different, shall we say.

Somehow it’s more depressing for me to read bad arguments when they’re in connection with judging and the law — as though the context ought somehow to infect commentators with its ideals of reasoned argument and evidence.


  1. Which is why I cringe every time I see our appointments system creep closer to that of our neighbours. We really don’t need any more partisan rhetoric when it comes to judicial appointments.