Jane Chastain is a Southern California-based broadcaster, author and political commentator. Despite her present emphasis on politics, Jane always will be remembered as the nation's first female TV sportscaster, spending 17 years on the sports beat. Jane blogs at JaneChastain.com. She is a pilot who lives on a private runway.More ↓Less ↑
In 1998, Bill Clinton tried to convince a grand jury – and the nation – that his guilt or innocence in the Monica Lewinsky affair depended on “what the definition of ‘is’ is.”
In her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has bested the former president. In defending the radical remarks she made to the ACLU in Puerto Rico on the use of foreign law as a basis for making judicial decisions, Sotomayor told the members of the Senate Judicial Committee, that there was “no conflict” between that speech she gave in April and her statements to them. It’s all about a “misunderstanding” of the word “use.”
President Clinton was roundly ridiculed for trying to redefine a common little word to wiggle out of a tough situation. When Sotomayor did it, there was not so much as a muffled chuckle. What a double standard!
Perhaps it is because of the gravity of the situation. Elevating someone to the Supreme Court who twists the language to serve her purpose is no laughing matter!
My dictionary offers six possible definitions for that verb, and none of them are difficult to understand:
1. To put into action or service
2. To employ or practice actively
3. To utter
4. To treat another in a certain way
5. To consume
6. To avail oneself
Sotomayor, like Clinton, is a master of doublespeak.
In that Puerto Rico speech Sotomayor first played her “get out of jail free” card, which is meant to put some distance between what is generally acceptable and the real substance of the radical remarks to follow.
Part 1 – The “get out of jail free” card:
“I always find it strange when people ask me, ‘How do Americas’ courts use foreign and international decisions – law in making their decisions?’ And I pause and say, ‘We don’t use foreign or international law.”
Part 2 – The substance:
“(I)t is not to suggest, however, that we don’t use (the misunderstood word) the ideas of foreign courts in some of our decision-making … Ideas have no boundaries. Ideas are what set our creative juices flowing. They permit us to think, and to suggest to anyone that you can outlaw the use (there she goes again) of foreign or international law is a sentiment that’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding. What you would be asking American judges to do is to close their minds to good ideas … ideas are ideas, and whatever their source … if the idea has validity, if it persuades you … then you are going to adopt its reasoning.”
Judges are not supposed to be free to pick ideas like daisies to use in making their decisions. Lower court judges are to follow case law, and Supreme Court justices are to follow the original intent of the Constitution.
Much has been made of the numerous speeches and statements Judge Sotomayor has given on the impartiality issue, which are troubling. However, the issue of using international law in judicial decisions is equally troubling, and the fact that 13 members of the Judiciary Committee (12 Democrats and Lindsey Graham) voted to support her is disgraceful.
During her hearing, Sen. Tom Coburn asked her directly:
“(W)ill you affirm to this committee and the American public that, outside of where you are directed to do so through a statute or through treaty, refrain from using foreign law in making the decisions that you make that affect this country and the opinions you write?”
Sotomayor answered: “I will not use foreign law to interpret the Constitution or American statutes.”
Following the hearing, in her written responses to questions for the record, she reverted to the old liberal doublespeak.
After throwing out the definitive statement she made to Dr. Coburn, she wrote this:
“(D)ecisions of foreign courts can be a source of ideas informing our understanding of our own constitutional rights.”
That should be enough to send chills up the spine of every American. Judge Sotomayor confirmed that she will sometimes use (no further definition needed) the “ideas” in foreign law to interpret (rewrite) our Constitution if it suits her purpose.
In Sotomayor’s world, the Constitution is merely a glob of clay that, if confirmed, she will feel free to shape for what she believes to be the greater good.
This tramples on the principles of separation of powers carefully crafted by our Founding Fathers.
Barack Obama deserves our disdain for nominating someone who either doesn’t understand the basic principles set forth in the Constitution or has little regard for them. Likewise, every senator who votes to confirm her should be booted out of office at the first opportunity.