Newt Gingrich Apologizes For Calling Sotomayor A Racist

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Well, sort of. This is perhaps the strongest sign yet that Republicans are reconsidering the wisdom of personal attacks on Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Or maybe, that Newt Gingrich is reconsidering the wisdom of sending out his every thought on Twitter.

My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.

With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).

Now he says the issue is really “judicial impartiality.” You can read his new argument at the link.

UPDATE: Taking a look at that other R Word that is being used against Sotomayor–radical–Ruth Marcus examines the statements that Gingrich finds “unacceptable,” setting them against Sotomayor’s vast record on the bench, and decides:

The amazing thing about the case against Sotomayor is how thin it is. The now-famous 32 words about a wise Latina judge. Her vote — part of a unanimous three-judge panel — against white firefighters denied promotions. The YouTube comment about judges making policy. And not much else.

This is a woman with more years on the bench than any Supreme Court nominee in the past 100 years. During that time, you’d think even the most middle-of-the-road judge would have provided some unintentional ammunition for critics — maybe freeing an especially unsavory criminal on a supposed technicality. If Sotomayor is the judicial radical of conservative imaginings, certainly there ought to be something more in her paper trail.

Except there isn’t — at least from what’s known so far. An examination of Sotomayor’s decisions shows a careful judge who tends to rule for the government over criminal defendants; who has been skeptical of most civil rights claims that have come before her; and who, to the extent that she has ruled on cases that touch on abortion, has come down against the abortion-rights side. She’s not apt to be David Souter in reverse — a Democratic pick who turns out to be a closet conservative. But there’s no evidence that she will be outside the liberal mainstream on the current court.