David Gergen | Bio
CNN Senior Political Analyst
To watch the first African-American President from a broken family promote to the U.S. Supreme Court an Hispanic woman from a broken neighborhood was one of those moments that Americans will long savor. In his announcement today of his first nominee to the Court, President Obama quickly brought back memories of why the country elected him.
I was in the White House in 1981 when President Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to join the Court, and I can remember greeting her in Chief of Staff Jim Baker’s office just before the announcement. It was Reagan’s first nomination, too – a highly symbolic occasion – and enormous pride flowed through every one of us present that day.
President Obama’s announcement stirred those same, overwhelming feelings. It is said that a president campaigns in poetry and governs in prose. Today was almost all poetry. It is likely to be remembered as one of the President’s finest hours.
From the start, it was obvious that at least on paper, Sonia Sotomayor possessed the best resume of all the candidates Obama was considering – her story of lifting herself by her bootstraps (with great help from her mom), her education at top universities, her years as a prosecutor and commercial attorney, her elevation to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush on a recommendation from the revered Democrat Sen. Patrick Moynihan, her elevation to the Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, her long record of liberal-leaning but often pragmatic decisions. All that - and the fact that the Court has never had an Hispanic Justice and has had only two women - sang out for this nomination.
Tonight on 360°, protests from coast to coast after California's Supreme Court upheld a
ban on same-sex marriages today that voters passed in November. The fight isn't over.
We'll bring you the latest.
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/26/sotomayor.bio/art.bio.gi.jpg caption="Sonia Sotomayor says the nomination is the 'most humbling honor' of her life."]
President Obama wants the Senate to act quickly and confirm his Supreme Court nominee by August, so that Judge Sonia Sotomayor can be on the job when the court begins its new term in October. But Republicans say they won't be rushed and will thoroughly examine her records.
What do you think of Pres. Obama's pick? Share your thoughts below.
Tonight on AC360°, we'll give you the facts on Judge Sotomayor.
If confirmed, the 54-year-old will be the first Latina U.S. Supreme Court justice. She would also be the third woman to serve on the high court. She would replace Justice David Souter who is retiring.
"Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breath of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice," said Pres. Obama today when announcing his pick.
Judge Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx, New York housing project; a child of Puerto Rican parents. Her father died when she was 9, leaving her mother, a nurse, to raise her and her brother. She gave praise to her mother at the White House today.
"My mother has devoted her life to my brother and me. And as the President mentioned, she worked often two jobs to help support us after Dad died. I have often said that I am all I am because of her. And I am only half the woman she is."
Sotomayor was at the top of her class in high school and went on to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976. Three years later she earned a law degree from Yale.
President George H.W. Bush nominated her to a U.S. District Court seat in 1992. She was confirmed by unanimous consent. Six year later, President Bill Clinton nominated her to her current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals. That vote was split 67-29, with only Republicans voting against her. 11 of those GOP senators are still serving on Capitol Hill.
As you'd expect, not everyone is a fan of Sotomayor's credentials. Several conservative groups are blasting the pick.
"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one's sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench," wrote Wendy Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, in a written statement.
Long will be a guest on tonight's program.
You'll also get feedback from CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, author of the best-selling book "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court". Does he approve of Sotomayor? Find out on AC360°.
Join us for all the angles on the President's pick and tonight's other headlines starting at 10pm ET.
See you then!
CNN Political Correspondent
If Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed there will be six Catholics on the Supreme Court (Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor). Two Jews (Ginsburg and Breyer). And one Protestant. (Stevens).
Here's the breakdown in the overall U.S. population:
Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)
Religion –- at least, religious affiliation - was once a hot issue in Supreme Court nominations. But no longer.
When John Kerry, also Catholic, ran for President in 2004, no one seemed to care except the Catholic Church – and they opposed him because he did not follow church teachings on abortion.
Gender and race? Those do matter. If Republicans appear to be treating Sotomayor unfairly, they could pay a terrible price at the polls.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/26/art.obama.columbus.police.jpg caption="President Obama at the graduation of police recruits in Columbus, Ohio."]
CNN National Desk Editor
It was a success story the White House was eager to highlight: earlier this year, President Obama attended the graduation of 25 police recruits in Columbus, Ohio, touting it as a victory for the federal stimulus package.
Without the money, the officers never would have hit the streets. They were to be laid off before their first day of patrol, victims of city budget cuts, until the stimulus money saved the class.
But the White House said the $1.2 million grant only guaranteed their jobs until the end of the year. And facing a growing deficit and a fight to pass an income tax hike, Columbus Police Tuesday announced massive budget cuts that could mean hundreds of layoffs.
Among those who could lose their jobs if voters reject the increase: the 25 new officers who shook the president's hand.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden leans over to say something to federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor after President Barack Obama said that Sotomayor is his choice to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court during an announcement in the East Room of the White House May 26, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/26/california.same.sex.marriage/art.prop8.cnn.jpg caption="Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California, faced a constitutionality test but was upheld."]
President, Family Research Council
At every opportunity, the people of California have voted to protect marriage. Nine years, two ballot initiatives, and two lawsuits later, the state's Supreme Court finally respected that decision, upholding Proposition 8's ban on counterfeit marriage in a 6-1 ruling.
A year after imposing same-sex 'marriage' on the state, the same court that initiated the controversy surrendered to the more than seven million voters who, on November 4, upheld the historical definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman.
In FRC's amicus brief, we argued that the effort to overturn Proposition 8 "strikes directly at the heart of California's system of government."
The court acknowledged its limitations in today's opinion, stating, "Regardless of our views as individuals on this question of policy, we recognize as judges and as a court our responsibility to confine our consideration to a determination of the constitutional validity and legal effect of the measure in question."
Editor's Note: In 1999, Judge Sonia Sotomayor ended a controversial nude photo shoot of 100 people in New York arranged by artist Stanley Tunick.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/26/art.spencertunick.jpg caption="A 2007 Tunick installation in Mexico City."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/26/art.spencertunick2.jpg caption="A 2006 Tunick installation at the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in Venezuela."]
According to The New York Times, the city had argued that Mr. Tunick's plan should be stopped because he would be attracting a large number of nude models to a residential area. The ruling superseded an earlier decision from the United States District Court in Manhattan, which ruled in favor of the artist, finding that artistic nude photography is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment as well by state law.
Lawyers for the city, however, said the presence of 100 nude people would infringe on neighborhood residents' right to privacy. The 2nd circuit ruled in favor of the City.
But the ruling also had political implications for then Mayor Rudy Giuliani. See more on the case here.
So why was the nude photo shoot so controversial? Take a look for yourself. See more of the artist's installations here.
Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Wendy E. Long tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
Wendy E. Long
Counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network
On the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Wendy E. Long provided the following statement:
"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one's sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.
"She reads racial preferences and quotas into the Constitution, even to the point of dishonoring those who preserve our public safety. On September 11, America saw firsthand the vital role of America's firefighters in protecting our citizens. They put their lives on the line for her and the other citizens of New York and the nation. But Judge Sotomayor would sacrifice their claims to fair treatment in employment promotions to racial preferences and quotas. The Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision.
"She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."