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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

hooray Hillary

Hillary rising to challenges
ANALYSIS: Bronwen Maddox | October 14, 2009
The Times

HILLARY Clinton is proving an immensely good Secretary of State. Better than Condoleezza Rice - although it is easier to be the emissary of a president that much of the world adores. It doesn't hurt, too, not to have to defend a war the world loathes, although that may yet come.

She's almost doing better than Barack Obama on the world stage. No, she isn't a great symbolic figure, as he so self-consciously wants to be (even before the absurd Nobel Peace Prize), using his handcrafted speeches to straddle racial, ethnic and religious divisions.

Yesterday in Belfast, she sounded measured, technical, undramatic, acknowledging in words but absolutely not in tone the passions and bloodshed of the years of her husband's involvement in Northern Ireland's troubles. She also sounded humane, authoritative and intelligent. She hasn't upstaged Obama, or distorted his agenda into her own, as I thought she might on her appointment in January.

But somehow - and why assume it is just chance? - she is fronting the successes, while the President is gravitating towards the traps, the likely failures and possible disasters.

Her achievement is a surprise, because her campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency promised the opposite. At the time, Lord Trimble called her assertion that while accompanying her husband, she'd played a central role in Northern Ireland peace talks "a wee bit silly". It was. Her colourful sketch of arriving in Bosnia under gunfire betrayed not just a blindness about the eternal life of video footage, but a sense that foreign countries are a long way off and will never challenge your travellers' tales.

In contrast, she started her post with an astute move: the appointments of George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke as envoys to the Middle East and the Afghan and Pakistan problems. She saw the intense effort that both would need, and rightly that she should not be the one immersed in them.

Her attempt to "reset" relations with Russia in March was right, too. This month, she has given a thoughtful speech on aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Monday she stood with Peter Robinson, the First Minister, and Martin McGuinness, his deputy - a feat in itself to get them together.

All right, under this intense spotlight, she looks less sleek than either Rice or Obama, but she looks good on television.

It helps that the State Department adores her. When she walked in on January 22, she got a standing ovation (unscripted). She has not, unlike Rice, had to fight battles within her department, and with the Pentagon. Yet Rice did herself few favours by asserting an unsubtle line on Iraq that flew in the face of the conflict's complexity, and by the end, was simply untrue.

In contrast, Obama has taken on himself, and not yet resolved, the greatest problems: untangling the conflict within his team over Afghanistan; the Middle East deadlock; Iran.

Of course, the responsibility falls on him, not her. But he seems paralysed in key decisions, while Clinton is everywhere, putting a less showy and more pithy script to the US's aims and its great dilemmas.

The Times

Sunday, August 23, 2009

David Rothkopf's article on Hillary Clinton

It's 3 a.m. Do You Know Where Hillary Clinton Is?
She's not answering those crisis calls at the White House. But she's quietly revolutionizing American foreign policy.

By David Rothkopf
Sunday, August 23, 2009

When it comes to Hillary Rodham Clinton, we're missing the forest for the pantsuits.

Clinton is not the first celebrity to become the nation's top diplomat -- that honor goes to her most distant predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, who by the time he took office was one of the most famous and gossiped-about men in America -- but she may be the biggest. And during her first seven months in office, the former first lady, erstwhile presidential candidate and eternal lightning rod has drawn more attention for her moods, looks, outtakes and (of course) relationship with her husband than for, well, her work revamping the nation's foreign policy.

Even venerable publications -- such as one to which I regularly contribute, Foreign Policy -- have woven into their all-Hillary-all-the-time coverage odd discussions of Clinton's handbag and scarf choices. Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, while depicting herself as a Clinton supporter, has been scathing and small-minded in discussing such things as Clinton's weight and hair, while her "defense" of Hillary in her essay "Obama's Other Wife" was as sexist as the title suggests.

Indeed, sexism has followed Clinton from the campaign trail to Foggy Bottom, as seen most recently in the posturing outrage surrounding the exchange in Congo when Clinton reacted with understandable frustration to the now-infamous question regarding her husband's views. Major media outlets have joined the gossipfest, whether the New York Times, which covered Clinton's first big policy speech by discussing whether she was in or out with the White House, or The Washington Post, where a couple of reporters mused about whether a brew called Mad Bitch would be the beer of choice for the secretary of state.

Amid all the distractions, what is Clinton actually doing? Only overseeing what may be the most profound changes in U.S. foreign policy in two decades -- a transformation that may render the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush mere side notes in a long transition to a meaningful post-Cold War worldview.

The secretary has quietly begun rethinking the very nature of diplomacy and translating that vision into a revitalized State Department, one that approaches U.S. allies and rivals in ways that challenge long-held traditions. And despite the pessimists who invoked the "team of rivals" cliche to predict that President Obama and Clinton would not get along, Hillary has defined a role for herself in the Obamaverse: often bad cop to his good cop, spine stiffener when it comes to tough adversaries and nurturer of new strategies. Recognizing that the 3 a.m. phone calls are going to the White House, she is instead tackling the tough questions that, since the end of the Cold War, have kept America's leaders awake all night.

In these early days of the new administration, it has been easy to focus on what Clinton has not achieved or on ways in which her power has been supposedly constrained. Indeed, some of her efforts have been frustrated by difficult personnel approvals or disputes with the White House about who should get what jobs. But this is the way of all administrations. More unusual has been the avidity with which the new president has seized the reins of foreign policy -- more assertively than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton before him. Obama's centrality amplifies the importance of his closest White House staffers, while his penchant for appointing special envoys such as Richard Holbrooke (on Afghanistan and Pakistan) and George Mitchell (on the Middle East) has been interpreted by some as limiting Clinton's role.

Given the challenges involved, it was perhaps natural that the White House would have a bigger day-to-day hand in some of the nation's most urgent foreign policy issues. But with Obama, national security adviser Jim Jones, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates absorbed by Iraq, Afghanistan and other inherited problems of the recent past, Clinton's State Department can take on a bigger role in tackling the problems of the future -- in particular, how America will lead the world in the century ahead. This approach is both necessary and canny: It recognizes that U.S. policy must change to fulfill Obama's vision and that many high-profile issues such as those of the Middle East have often swamped the careers and aspirations of secretaries of state past.

Which nations will be our key partners? What do you do when many vital partners -- China, for example, and Russia -- are rivals as well? How must America's alliances change as NATO is stretched to the limit? How do we engage with rogue states and old enemies in ways that do not strengthen them and preserve our prerogative to challenge threats? How do we move beyond the diplomacy of men in striped pants speaking only for governments and embrace potent nonstate players and once-disenfranchised peoples?

In searching for answers, Clinton is leaving behind old doctrines and labels. She outlined her new thinking in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where she revealed stark differences between the new administration's worldview and those of its predecessors: The recurring themes include "partnership" and "engagement" and "common interests." Clearly, Madeleine Albright's "indispensable nation" has recognized the indispensability of collaborating with others.

Who those "others" are is the area in which change has been greatest and most rapid. "We will put," Clinton said, "special emphasis on encouraging major and emerging global powers -- China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa -- to be full partners in tackling the global agenda." This is the death knell for the G-8 as the head table of the global community; the administration has an effort underway to determine whether the successor to the G-8 will be the G-20, or perhaps some other grouping. Though the move away from the G-8 began in the waning days of the Bush era, that administration viewed the world through a different lens, a perception that evolved from a traditional great-power view to a pre-Galilean notion that everything revolved around the world's sole superpower.

Obama and Clinton have both made engaging with emerging powers a priority. Obama visited China and Russia early in the year and hosted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first state dinner. Clinton has made trips to China and India, and she would have been with Obama in Russia had she not injured her elbow. Both have visited Africa and the Middle East, reaching out to women and the Islamic world.

On many critical agenda items -- from a rollback of nuclear weapons to the climate or trade talks -- such emerging powers will be essential to achieving U.S. goals. As a result, we've seen a new American willingness to play down old differences, whether with Russia on a missile shield or, as Clinton showed on her China trip, with Beijing on human rights.

At the center of Clinton's brain trust is Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Now head of policy planning at the State Department, Slaughter elaborated on the ideas in Clinton's speech. "We envision getting not just a new group of states around a table, but also building networks, coalitions and partnerships of states and nonstate actors to tackle specific problems," she told me.

"To do that," Slaughter continued, "our diplomats are going to need to have skills that are closer to community organizing than traditional reporting and analysis. New connecting technologies will be vital tools in this kind of diplomacy."

A new team has been brought in to make these changes real. Clinton recruited Alec Ross, one of the leaders of Obama's technology policy team, to the seventh floor of the State Department as her senior adviser for innovation. His mission is to harness new information tools to advance U.S. interests -- a task made easier as the Internet and mobile networks have played starring roles in recent incidents, from Iran to the Uighur uprising in western China to Moldova. Whether through a telecommunications program in Congo to protect women from violence or text messaging to raise money for Pakistani refugees in the Swat Valley, technology has been deployed to reach new audiences.

Of course, you need more than new ideas to revitalize the State Department; you need resources, too. The secretary has brought in former Bill Clinton-era budget chief Jack Lew to help her claw back money for statecraft that many in Foggy Bottom feel has been sucked off toward the Pentagon. She has also created special positions to back new priorities, such as Melanne Verveer as ambassador at large for women's issues, Elizabeth Bagley to handle public-private outreach worldwide and Todd Stern as the chief negotiator on climate.

Even just a few months in, it's clear that these appointments are far from window dressing. Lew, Slaughter and the acting head of the U.S. Agency for International Development are leading an effort to rethink foreign aid with the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, an initiative modeled on the Pentagon's strategic assessments and designed to review State's priorities. Stern has conducted high-level discussions on climate change around the world, notably with China. Clinton made women's issues a centerpiece of her recent 11-day trip to Africa, where she stressed that "the social, political and economic marginalization of women across Africa has left a void in this continent that undermines progress and prosperity."

Clinton has also signaled the importance of private-sector experience by naming former Goldman Sachs International vice chairman Robert Hormats, a respected veteran of four administrations, to handle economic issues at the State Department, as well as Judith McHale, former chief executive of Discovery Communications, to run public diplomacy. In the same vein, she has opened up Cuba to American telecommunications companies and reached out to India's private sector on energy cooperation -- showing that this administration will seek to advance national interests by tapping the self-interests of the business community. As with any new administration, there have been inevitable problems. The old campaign teams -- Clinton's and Obama's -- still eye each other warily, but this feeling is gradually fading. And by most accounts, the administration's national security team has come together successfully, with Clinton developing strong relationships with national security adviser Jones and Defense Secretary Gates. Her policy deputy, Jim Steinberg, has renewed an old collaboration with deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon; the two of them, working with Obama campaign foreign policy advisers Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, have formed what one State Department seventh-floor dweller called "a powerful quartet at the heart of real interagency policymaking." Henry Kissinger may have overstated matters when he said this is the best White House-State relationship in recent memory, but it's not bad, while the State-Pentagon relationship is in its best shape in decades.

At the heart of things, though, is the relationship between Clinton and Obama. For all the administration's talk of international partnerships, that may be the most critical partnership of all.

So far, according to multiple high-level officials at State and the White House, the two seem aligned in their views. In addition, they are gradually defining complementary roles. Obama has assumed the role of principal spokesperson on foreign policy, as international audiences welcome his new and improved American brand. Clinton thus far has echoed his points but has also delivered tougher ones. Whether on a missile shield against Iran or North Korean saber-rattling, the continued imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma or rape and corruption in Congo, the secretary of state has spoken bluntly on the world stage -- even if it triggered snide comments from North Korea.

It is still early, and a president's foreign policy legacy is often defined less by big principles than by how one reacts to the unexpected, whether missiles in Cuba or terrorism in New York. Promising ideas fail because of limited attention or reluctant bureaucracies, and some rhetoric eventually rings hollow, as the self-congratulatory "smart power" already does to me.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that, seven months into the job, Obama's unlikely secretary of state is supporting and augmenting his agenda effectively. Not as Obama's "other wife," not as Bill Clinton's wife, not even as a celebrity or as a former presidential candidate -- but in a new role of her own making.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

2009 Forbes top ten most powerful women

Original article is here

1. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany
2. Sheila Bair, chair of US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp
3. Indra Nooyi, chief executive, Pepsi
4. Cynthia Carroll, chief executive, AngloAmerican (mining company)
5. Ho Ching, chief executive, Temasek (Singapore investment fund)
6. Irene Rosenfeld, chief executive, Kraft
7. Ellen Kullman, chief executive, DuPont (US chemical company)
8. Angela Braly, chief executive, WellPoint (US health insurance company)
9. Anne Lauvergeon, chief executive, Areva (nuclear power company)
10. Lynn Elsenhans, chief executive, Sunoco (US gasoline company)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

definitely sotomayor

Original Article here

A Steady Rise, Punctuated by Doubts
In Sotomayor, an Insider's Achievements Meet an Outsider's Insecurities

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Within weeks of arriving in New Haven as a law student in the fall of 1976, Sonia Sotomayor fell in with a few first-year classmates whose ascent to Yale Law School was as improbable as her own: a half-Mohawk from Chicago's South Side who had graduated from high school while sleeping on his social worker's back porch; a Chicano from New Mexico whose parents had driven him to nice neighborhoods to see what big houses looked like; a black kid from Washington who had made it into the Air Force; a Puerto Rican high school dropout from East Harlem who had been sent to a halfway house for setting his girlfriend's car on fire.

For three years, this band of brilliant misfits in the preppy Ivy League would be Sotomayor's closest friends, her apartment their hub to cook elaborate dinners and be, as one of them recalls, "our own little support group." But they would not be her only world at Yale.

When she got to the Connecticut campus, Sotomayor placed a call to the university's general counsel, a first-generation Puerto Rican who had scaled academic and governmental heights. José Cabranes had been told by one of Sotomayor's undergraduate professors to keep an eye out for a talented young woman whose parents had, like him, come from Puerto Rico. He hired her as an intern, asked her to help research a book and opened doors rarely cracked for Yale law students, introducing her to visiting dignitaries and inviting her to small dinners at his fine Colonial home.

By the time she was 22, just married and getting her first taste of the law, Sotomayor already had a hallmark of the woman President Obama has now chosen to join the Supreme Court: She was a striking mixture of uneasy outsider and consummate insider.

The 55-year-old appeals court judge, who is to begin her confirmation hearing tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would bring to the court a sensibility shaped by a set of experiences -- and an immense network of people -- far more eclectic than those of most sitting justices.

She is a woman who, in public speeches in recent years, has confessed a sense of insecurity, describing herself as "always looking over my shoulder, wondering if I measure up." Yet she also is a woman who, 17 years ago, stunned the marshals in the ornate federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, who had never seen anything like the 600 people who showed up -- standing on tables, squeezing onto windowsills, cramming into an overflow room -- to watch her be sworn in as a U.S. district court judge.

Interviews with dozens of friends, teachers, colleagues and relatives suggest that Sotomayor is a more nuanced figure than the basic contours of her now-familiar biography: a Horatio Alger-like tale of transcending the odds facing a girl, diagnosed early with diabetes, who grew up in projects of the South Bronx with her mother after her father died of a heart attack when she was in the fourth grade. She would become the product of two Ivy League schools, the Manhattan district attorney's office and a New York law firm with a ritzy international clientele before she was made a federal trial judge, then elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

At each phase, people who know her say, Sotomayor benefited from devoted mentors who navigated her firmly onto the next rung. But even as she sought their guidance, she has, at times, been openly hesitant about advancement.

She has worked since her student days to promote opportunities for fellow Latinos and maintains a hectic schedule of teaching and speaking engagements, driven to present herself as a role model. Yet she can, at times, be detached from ideology.

She is steely and exacting, with a capacity for work so prodigious that it has frayed her most serious romantic relationships. Yet she remains, at times, vulnerable and emotional in public.

All along the way, she has been in settings in which her background has set her apart. Decades before Obama nominated her as the Supreme Court's first Latina, Sotomayor was one of a few minority students at a Catholic high school, one of the only Puerto Ricans at Princeton and on through Yale, until she eventually became the first Latina federal judge in New York state. Yet she came along at a time when she could see horizons in Puerto Ricans a bit older, could find that being a Latina offered advantages. As far back as high school, she had an example in Herman Badillo, the Bronx borough president who, in her junior year, became the first Puerto Rican in Congress.

"We were on that cutting edge," said Margarita Rosa, who recruited Sotomayor into a tiny Puerto Rican student group at Princeton and has been a close friend ever since, "where certain things were becoming possible."

At Every Stage, a Mentor

José Cabranes, who is now a judge and colleague of Sotomayor's on the 2nd Circuit, was her most influential early mentor. But he was just part of a chain of people who guided and invested in her at every turn in her life and career -- from the South Bronx to the federal judiciary.

As Sotomayor was growing up in a family in which no one had gone to college, people prodded her to excel.

"The females were expected to achieve more," said her younger brother, Juan Sotomayor. She loved comic books -- Archie, Casper, Richie Rich -- so much that, after her father died, her paternal grandmother and aunts once convened a family meeting with her mother. "They were concerned about the role of the comic books in my sister's life," recalled her brother, an allergist outside Syracuse, N.Y. "It was maybe corrupting her."

Classmates from Cardinal Spellman High School remember Sotomayor as serious and self-assured, and, while most students were bound for college, she aimed for the Ivy League. In a blend of the fearlessness and vulnerability that has been a pattern in her life, she traveled to Cambridge, Mass., for an interview at Harvard, and then came home and announced that she no longer was interested. "She sensed that the woman [admissions officer] was condescending to her," said her friend, Dawn Cardi, a New York lawyer to whom Sotomayor has told the story. "It made her feel she wouldn't be welcome there."

Princeton seemed to Sotomayor a more plausible path because -- as would happen repeatedly for her -- someone already there and willing to help her urged her to apply. In this case, it was an undergraduate from a poor family like hers, who had been a year ahead of her at Spellman and helped coach her for high school debates.

By the fall of 1976, when Sotomayor arrived at Yale Law and called Cabranes, she already had learned to "look for people who are knowledgeable and experienced to see if they can help in her quest to help herself," as her friend Nancy Gray, a Los Angeles lawyer, put it. Cabranes was Yale's main lawyer, but he also was researching a book about Puerto Rico's history and identity. He enlisted Sotomayor and Felix Lopez, her friend who had surmounted his years as an East Harlem juvenile delinquent, believing their heritage "would make them more interested in finding out the mysteries here," Cabranes said. "They represented for me . . . the fulfillment of one's hopes for . . . the sort of people [who] would emerge in a second generation."

Like her mentors before and since, Cabranes saw in Sotomayor intense engagement, competitiveness and a methodical, analytic style. These would be evident when she was plowing through boxes of documents for him in a small office in Yale's international law library. And later, when she was training to cross-examine her first witnesses. And even now, piecing together the jigsaw puzzles she loves and playing poker with a group of New York women, as she does some weekend nights.

Cabranes was responsible for Sotomayor's first job, through circumstances that, once again, involved their common ethnic roots. He had admired Manhattan's legendary district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, from the days when Cabranes was a founder of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and Morgenthau was an original member of its board. During Sotomayor's final year of law school, Cabranes recommended her to him.

Yale graduates almost never took jobs as state prosecutors, regarding the role as too pedestrian, and Sotomayor had not considered the idea. But Cabranes sensed she would like the trial work -- and would benefit from something more. "Morgenthau had several hundred people who worked for him, but not that many he had . . . discovered," Cabranes said. "It would be highly unusual to have the personal patronage and concern of Morgenthau."

Five years later, when Sotomayor, by now divorced, was eager for broader legal experience and a larger paycheck, Morgenthau picked up the phone and helped her get hired at Pavia & Harcourt, a well-regarded law firm. There, too, she immediately found a mentor in an exceptionally bright partner named David Botwinik, who worked with her intensively, assigning her to cases with high-flying clients in Italy. "She was invited into the homes of these people," recalled her friend Gray, with whom she had worked at the D.A.'s office. "That was huge."

And seven years later, it was Botwinik who would, in turn, call a childhood friend running a committee that New York's longtime Democratic senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, had set up to screen possible candidates for federal judgeships.

Her succession of mentors had led her, by age 38, to the federal bench.

Strong Identity, Little Ideology

Since her earliest years, Sotomayor's identity has been inseparable from her ethnicity -- from the sofrito she watched her mother and aunts make on Saturday mornings to the dozen years she spent on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, now known as LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

But this intense ethnic sensibility has not corresponded with intense ideological views. One example: Voter registration records going back to before Sotomayor became a judge show that she has not belonged to a political party, according to the New York City Board of Elections.

The divide between her strong identity and scant ideology can be glimpsed in the last name she adopted for several years: Sotomayor de Noonan. Weeks before starting law school, she married her high school boyfriend, Kevin Noonan, a handsome young man who would go on to be a biologist and lawyer. Though his family was Irish, she "liked the use of 'de Noonan,' " Cabranes recalled. It was syntax common in Latin America but was, Cabranes noted, "not consistent with the feminist movement. It means 'belonging to.' "

It was not the first time that Sotomayor struck those around her as detached from prevailing ideological debates. Her high school years coincided with the height of the Vietnam War, and even in her Catholic school, the counterculture crept in. Many girls wore peace buttons on their uniforms' navy blazers; Sotomayor did not, friends recalled. And she disapproved when the boys' senior class president organized a boycott of a major school fundraiser as an antiwar protest, according to Joe Antolin, a good friend from that time who was a student government leader. Sotomayor, then president of the girls' junior class, was more concerned with a plan to merge the girls and boys divisions the following year, Antolin said. Instead of protesting, he said, they spent countless hours examining how to meld the constitutions of the two student governments.

Later, when Sotomayor was at Yale, David Rosen, a New Haven lawyer for whom she interned one semester, asked her what she wanted to do professionally. It was a question he asked every intern, but her answer was one he had never heard before -- and hasn't since. She wanted, he said she told him, to be a federal judge.

"What was striking to me was that she was inspired by the ideal of neutrality," Rosen said. "Not that [the law] is an instrument to get somewhere, like a shovel. She was saying, no, I'm not going to be playing for the Hispanic team, the Democratic team, the Republican team. I'm going to be playing for the Constitution team."

'People Are Her Hobby'

Even Sotomayor's closest friends complain that it is hard to see her, that her schedule is booked, often months in advance, with speaking engagements, seminars for law students, work with high-schoolers.

They tell of the controlled chaos that is her chambers, with the judge juggling documents, phone lines, assignments to her clerks, requests to her longtime assistant to make restaurant reservations. She always takes work home.

Such intensity is in part the legacy of her lifelong, self-imposed pressure to prove herself. "When you are the first one through the door, it weighs heavily on you," said Drew Ryce, her law school friend who is half-Mohawk. "You can't be a screw-up."

It is also in part out of her need to be a role model.

"I've tried many times to say, 'Can you slow down a bit? You don't have any time for yourself,' " Cardi said. "And she'll say, 'But I made this commitment.' The community has pinned their hopes on her. It's very hard for her to say no."

And it is in part simply her personality.

"People are her hobby," said her friend Ellen Chapnick, a Columbia Law School dean who co-taught courses with Sotomayor for years.

Examples abound: in the huge holiday party she threw in her chambers -- in a courthouse unaccustomed to them -- less than three months after becoming a judge, making sure to invite janitors and security guards. In the gatherings at her Greenwich Village condominium, where relatives with scant education mingle with legal titans.

Then there was the time in January when Sotomayor invited her friend in Los Angeles, Gray, to join her on a visit to see her mother and stepfather in South Florida. They went to lunch one day at a favorite Cuban bakery in a shopping plaza. While her family and friend sat at a table, munching on their sandwiches, Gray recalled, "Sonia is up chatting with the people behind the counter about their children."

Toughness and Vulnerability

For all her toughness, her savvy and her attainments, Sotomayor can be a vulnerable figure in public.

On Nov. 6, 1998, she was sworn in to the 2nd Circuit before a throng even larger than the 600 who had gathered six years earlier to see her become a trial judge. As the judges, lawyers and friends from all walks of life looked on, Sotomayor ended her remarks with an emotional ode to her fiance at the time, a construction and architectural consultant named Peter White. "[T]he professional success I had achieved before Peter," she told the crowd, "did nothing to bring me genuine personal happiness."

Then she spoke directly to him. He had, she said, filled "the voids of emptiness. . . . You have altered my life so profoundly that many of my closest friends forget just how emotionally withdrawn I was before I met you."

They were together about eight years. In a brief interview, White said: "Unfortunately, she is extremely dedicated to her work, which takes up 90 percent of the time. There wasn't room for two careers in one household."

Her strikingly personal tone in the midst of her swearing-in was one of many ways Sotomayor has exposed her vulnerability. Another is in the way she approaches the disease she has had since childhood. "The diabetes is a metaphor," her friend Chapnick said, for her open nature. "I mean, she shoots up in public," Chapnick said. Unlike most insulin-dependent diabetics, when Sotomayor goes to restaurants, as she does often, she does not retreat to a ladies room to keep her blood sugar in check. She carries a black kit in her purse and, seated right at the table, pricks her finger, reads the test results, raises her shirt and gives herself a shot.

Still another way her vulnerability manifests itself is through occasional reticence that can seem to border on self-doubt. As a law school intern, she said her goal was to be a federal judge, and yet both times the possibility of a judgeship materialized, she hesitated at first.

Before her elevation to the appellate court, she told friends that she worried the work might feel remote and lonely. But her deeper hesitancy came the first time, for the district court judgeship.

David Glasser, a fellow lawyer at Pavia & Harcourt, remembers that when her mentor there, Botwinik, broached the idea, "Sonia said: 'Look, I can't do that. I would never be good at that.' "

Benito Romano, a lawyer who served with Sotomayor on the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund's board, remembers late-night phone calls urging her to apply. "My impression was, she was stunned by it. I think it took her awhile to take it in."

In a speech at Hofstra University three years ago, when Sotomayor was awarded an honorary degree, she recounted that her mentor had tried for three months to persuade her to submit her name for consideration. "I told him it was a useless enterprise, they would never pick me," she said. "He took away my work, put an application on my desk and said, 'Fill it out.' "

She did. And then -- once she got the job -- the insider in her took over.

She called on Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, one of the court's few women at the time. Cedarbaum, now a friend, remembers the visit because it was so unusual. The new judge said to the more experienced one that a mutual friend "suggested to me that I should seek you out as my mentor."

Supreme Court Speculation

Late one night four months ago, Margarita Rosa, who had been one of Princeton's few other Puerto Ricans, was in the passenger seat of Sotomayor's Saab convertible when she raised the question. They were heading back to Manhattan from Long Island, where Sotomayor had been driving to a nursing home three evenings a week to visit one of her best friends, Elaine Litwer, who had had a series of strokes and would die a few weeks later. On that night, a new Democratic president was in the White House and, even before Justice David H. Souter announced his retirement, speculation was swirling over who Obama might choose to fill his first Supreme Court vacancy.

"Wow. How does it feel to have your name always appear on the shortlist?" Rosa, who directs a settlement house on the Lower East Side, asked her friend of three decades. Sotomayor did what she always did when Rosa asked. "She never seemed to assume it was a given. She didn't dismiss it either. It was just there."

The buzz was something Sotomayor had been living with for years. It was, said Judge Guido Calabresi, a fellow member of the 2nd Circuit who had taught her torts class back at Yale, the reason her nomination by President Bill Clinton to the appeals court had been held up for 13 months. "Even then, she was thought of as somebody who was a real possibility for the Supreme Court," Calabresi said. Republicans "decided that they wanted a little bit of mud thrown."

Still, Ryce, one of her law school crowd, said it was never "within the rational expectations of this highly rational woman. . . . She would say, 'No, it's not going to happen.' "

The talk, Cardi said, "was an embarrassment sometimes to her."

The day in May 2006 that Hofstra awarded Sotomayor the honorary degree, the university's president, Stuart Rabinowitz, recounted the path of her career. Just before a blue doctoral hood was placed over her head, he paused.

"And someday, perhaps to the Supreme Court," he said, "but I don't know."

Sotomayor smiled a tight-lipped smile and looked down at the stage floor. The outsider in her had trouble taking it in.

Research director Lucy Shackelford and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

Sotomayor yea yeah

Original Article here

Sotomayor Pledges 'Fidelity to the Law'
Hearings Begin: Nominee for High Court Faces Senate Panel

By Robert Barnes, Amy Goldstein and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said yesterday that a simple "fidelity to the law" is at the heart of her judicial philosophy, as her confirmation hearings began with Senate Republicans delivering a surprisingly strong critique of her fairness and President Obama's reliance on ephemeral qualities of life experience and "empathy" in nominating her.

The first day of hearings was a pageant of prepared statements and carefully choreographed strategy, but the contours of the week's proceedings became clear:

Democrats portrayed Sotomayor as a role model "for all Americans," a seasoned jurist with a modest and restrained approach who, if anything, might balance a court that has swung too far to the right. Republicans sought to cast doubt on Sotomayor's impartiality, saying her statements and rulings have forecast the activist approach she would take when freed of having to follow precedent.

Never far from the surface was the historic nature of the day, and the fact that of the 12 Democrats and seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, all but two of those who will question the first Hispanic woman nominated to the nation's highest court are white men.

Signs of the change were easy to find: bits of Spanish spoken by those who stood in line amid the stark marble of the modern Hart Senate Office Building; a family in the front-row seats behind the nominee unlike that of any of the 110 justices who have come before; and an acknowledgment from both Democrats and Republicans of what Sotomayor called the only-in-America nature of her nomination.

Silent for seven weeks after Obama nominated her, the 55-year-old judge reared in the public housing projects of the South Bronx read a careful seven-minute statement designed to be noncontroversial.

"The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law," Sotomayor said. "And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms, interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress's intent, and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and by my circuit court."

Sotomayor said that in 17 years as a district judge and then on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, she has sought to "strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the committee's ranking Republican, praised Sotomayor's statement as "from the heart and direct," but earlier he had made clear that Republicans will challenge her speeches about how life experiences can form a judge's view of the law, and Obama's statement that understanding the real-life consequences of a decision is a necessary tool for a judge.

"I will not vote for, and no senator should vote for, anyone who will not render justice impartially," Sessions said. "Call it empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it's not law," he said. "In truth, it's more akin to politics, and politics has no place in the courtroom."

Sotomayor delivered what seemed like an understated response: "My personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case."

While the hearings may become contentious, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was upfront about the likely outcome: "Unless you have a complete meltdown," he told the nominee, "you are going to get confirmed."

He added that he did not expect a meltdown to occur, and said he may end up voting for her. Sotomayor would replace David H. Souter, who is retiring.

Sotomayor, dressed in black with a royal blue jacket and casting aside the crutches she has used for weeks because of a fractured ankle, was incidental to much of the action yesterday. After Sessions and the committee chairman, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), escorted her to the witness table, she listened for hours as the senators discussed her, the president and the court, each with a seemingly different pronunciation of her name (it is "Soto-my-yore," according to the White House).

Leahy said Sotomayor has an uncommonly extensive judicial résumé. "She is the first nominee in well over a century to be nominated to three different federal judgeships by three different presidents," he said.

And he compared Sotomayor to Thurgood Marshall, the court's first African American justice, and Sandra Day O'Connor, its first female member.

Conservatives and some Republicans have attempted to "twist her words and her record," Leahy said. ". . . Ideological pressure groups have attacked her before the president had even made his selection. They then stepped up their attacks by threatening Republican senators who do not oppose her."

Leahy added: "In truth, we do not have to speculate about what kind of a justice she will be, because we have seen the kind of judge she has been. She is a judge in which all Americans can have confidence."

Sessions was careful not to strike too barbed a tone in his opening statement, saying that the hearing would be "respectful" and would consist of "a thoughtful dialogue and maybe some disagreements."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sotomayor's home-state senator, said that "judicial modesty" marked the judge's time on the bench, and defied Republicans to point to anything in her decisions that would dispute the characterization.

"Judge Sotomayor puts rule of law above everything else," Schumer said. "Given her extensive and even-handed record, I'm not sure how any member of this panel can sit here today and seriously suggest that she comes to the bench with a personal agenda."

But Republicans said that Sotomayor has been bound by precedent, and that her true feelings are more apparent from the speeches she has given, including what several called her now famous remarks that a "wise Latina" because of her life experiences would "hopefully" make better decisions than a white man. The White House has said the remarks have been taken out of context, and Sotomayor will surely be pressed about them today.

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party's campaign arm, thanked Sotomayor for the "candor."

"Not every judicial nominee is so open about their judicial philosophy," he said. "Yet many Americans wonder what these various statements mean -- and what you're trying to get at with these remarks. And many more wonder whether you are the kind of judge who will uphold the written Constitution -- or the kind of judge who will veer us even further off course -- and towards new rights invented by judges rather than ratified by the people."

If Republicans repeatedly jabbed at Obama and tried to make the case that Sotomayor would be an activist judge, Democrats strayed from praising her only to criticize the court's most recent additions, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. If Roberts wowed the committee four years ago during his confirmation hearings with his image of a judge as an impartial baseball umpire calling balls and strikes, it was clear that the bloom was gone for Democrats.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that despite pledges from nominees to respect precedent, the conservative court is overturning decisions on issues such as campaign finance and abortion rights.

"It showed me that Supreme Court justices are much more than umpires calling balls and strikes and that the word 'activist' is often used only to describe opinions of one side," she said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) picked up the theme: "It's hard to see home plate from right field."

And Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) reminded Republicans that they have not always been so skeptical of nominees who talked about empathy.

"As Justice [Clarence] Thomas told us at his confirmation hearing, it is important that a justice, quote, 'Can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the court does,' " Kohl said. "I believe this comment embodies what President Obama intended when he said he wanted a nominee with an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

original article: washington post
Staff writers William Branigin and Michael Fletcher contributed to this report.

President Obama this morning nominated U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court, hailing her as "an inspiring woman" with a moving personal story and broad professional experience who would bring new perspective to the court.

If confirmed, Sotomayor, 54, would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and only the third woman ever to sit on the panel. She grew up in a Bronx housing project, went on to Princeton University and Yale Law School, and has stirred controversy by saying that judges' legal findings are informed by their own life experiences as well as their legal research.

Obama, too, has said jurists' life experiences are a key part of their legal makeup, and he cited Sotomayor's compelling personal story as one of the motivations for his choice. Aides said Obama met Sotomayor in person for the first time Thursday, and made his decision to nominate her last night.

"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 breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice," Obama said in the East Room announcement, before an enthusiastic crowd that included Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, NAACP officials, Sotomayor's mother and other relatives and some of her former law clerks.

Describing the sacrifices made by Sotomayor's parents, who came from Puerto Rico to New York to raise their family and focused all their efforts on their children's education, Obama said the family exemplified the American dream. "What Sonia will bring to the court, then, is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life's journey," he said.

Obama said of his nominee, "Walking in the door, she would bring more experience on the bench and more varied experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed."

Obama noted that Sotomayor was first appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president -- George H.W. Bush -- and promoted by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. He urged the Senate to confirm her swiftly.

Accepting the nomination after Obama introduced her, Sotomayor said she chose to become a lawyer and ultimately a judge "because I find endless challenge in the complexities of the law."

She added: "I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights." But she also vowed to "never forget the real-world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government."

Obama made the announcement before leaving Washington for a two-day trip to California and Las Vegas that will focus mostly on fundraising events. He set a deadline of confirming Sotomayor by the start of the Senate's five-week recess, slated to begin Aug. 7.

This morning, Obama called Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

Sotomayor, who has been considered a likely Supreme Court pick in the event of an opening while a Democrat occupied the White House, called the nomination "the most humbling honor of my life." Since Souter announced his retirement May 1, analysts had widely predicted that she would be Obama's choice.

Picking Sotomayor offers the president an opportunity to potentially shape the court in a way that his liberal constituency will like. And aides have said the president has been keenly aware of wanting to make a historic pick by naming the first Hispanic justice.

Already, activists on the left are cheering the pick. "We already know that she is a brilliant lawyer who is committed to ruling based on the Constitution and the law, not on her own personal political views," said Doug Kendall, president of the liberal Constitution Accountability Center, in an e-mailed statement this morning.

The National Organization of Women issued a statement saying that she "brings a lifelong commitment to equality, justice and opportunity, as well as the respect of her peers, unassailable integrity, and a keen intellect informed by experience."

Latino legal activists also applauded Sotomayor's appointment. "This is the most important Hispanic appointment that has been made in this country's history," said Cesar Perales, executive director of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a New York-based civil rights group, where Sotomayor once served as a board member. "It is a recognition that we are coming of age, that we can be one of nine wise people on the Supreme Court, making decisions that affect everyone in this country."

However, Sotomayor is strongly opposed by conservative groups, who have signaled their intention to use her nomination as a rallying cry against liberal causes. Republican lawmakers said this weekend they would try to slow down her confirmation, which despite the strong Democratic majority in the Senate could lead to an all-consuming fight this summer that could divert attention from the rest of Obama's political and economic agenda.

"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," said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, in a statement e-mailed to reporters this morning. "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."

On his radio program this morning, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh called Sotomayor a racist and urged Republicans to go all-out to oppose her confirmation. He also blasted Sotomayor as a "horrible pick" and a "hack" but said he doubted that her nomination can be stopped.

Citing a 2002 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, in which Sotomayor said it was appropriate for judges to consider their "experiences as women and people of color" in reaching decisions, Limbaugh said: "So here you have a racist. You might want to soften that and you might want to say a reverse racist." He added, "Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he's appointed one."

Limbaugh went on to say of the nominee, "She's not the brain that they're portraying her to be. She's not a constitutional jurist. She is an affirmative action case extraordinaire, and she has put down white men in favor of Latina women." He said Republicans should "take this to the mat."

Limbaugh also described the Hispanic woman jurist as a "two-run homer" for Obama and a "two-prong minority." But he predicted that "a majority of Republicans are going to be scared to death to oppose her or even say anything about her because the Dems are going to use race left and right."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination last year, said Obama's choice exposes as "mere rhetoric" his campaign pledges to be centrist and bipartisan. "Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the 'Extreme Court' that could mark a major shift," he said in a statement.

Other opponents point out that even the Obama administration has differed with one of Sotomayor's more controversial decisions, which invalidated results of a firefighter promotion exam in New Haven, Conn.

White House advisers believe there is little likelihood that Republicans can stop her confirmation unless some unknown damaging information about her surfaces, and aides said they expect Republicans not to delay the nomination unfairly. With the recent switch of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, the GOP cannot effectively mount a filibuster without help from Democrats, which they are unlikely to get.

But Obama's administration is not taking the confirmation for granted. They are assembling a team of lawyers to help shepherd her through the nomination process, which will include a series of private meetings with senators in the coming days and mock hearings behind closed doors to prepare her for what could be intense grilling.

The effort will be led inside the White House by Cynthia Hogan, the chief counsel to Vice President Biden. Officials described her as a veteran of the process and said Biden -- as a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and his chief of staff, Ron Klain, will also play key roles.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who represents Sotomayor's home state, will play a key role in introducing her to his colleagues, officials said.

In addition, the administration has also moved Stephanie Cutter, a longtime Democratic operative, from the Treasury Department to help Sotomayor through the process.

Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that upheld New Haven's decision to scuttle a promotions test for firefighters after the results showed no African Americans qualified for advancement. The white firefighters who would have been promoted said the decision violated federal law and their constitutional rights.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and a ruling is expected before the end of this term. The case went to the high court after an unusual dissent by conservative fellow judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, who said Sotomayor and two others tried to bury important federal law and constitutional questions raised by the firefighters' suit in their ruling.

The Supreme Court seemed unlikely to let the decision stand when it heard arguments in the case last month. The Obama administration took the position that New Haven officials could throw out the results if they were genuinely concerned that the tests were deficient. But it said the lower courts did not do enough to make sure the city was not using that concern as a pretext for scuttling the test because it did not like the results, and told the justices they should send the case back.

Sotomayor's Puerto Rican heritage would add ethnic diversity to the court. But her Ivy League education mirrors that of most of the justices -- all but one of whom attended either Harvard or Yale for part of their education. The eight justices she would serve with also were appellate court judges before joining the high court. But, as Obama pointed out, Sotomayor also served as a prosecutor and a lower court judge earlier in her career.

Obama interviewed Sotomayor for an hour in the Oval Office last Thursday, White House officials said. In all, the judge spent seven hours at the White House, talking with advisers who were in charge of helping Obama make the critical decision.

The president interviewed three others: Kagan, 49; U.S. appeals court Judge Diane P. Woods, 58; and Homeland security Secretary Janet Napolitano, 51, a senior White House official said. Woods and Kagan met with Obama last Tuesday. Napolitano met with the president on Thursday.

The advisers, who declined to speak on the record, said Obama had indicated to them after the interviews that he had an inclination of whom he would pick but that he wanted to think about the choice over the long Memorial Day weekend.

They said he was in his study in the East Wing of the White House when he informed them of his decision at about 8 p.m. Monday. He called Sotomayor to inform her of his choice, and then called the other three, the officials said.

Court watchers had speculated that Obama might use the vacancy to appoint a state-level judge, or possibly someone who was not a member of the bench -- perhaps a governor or current or former legislator.

In making the announcement today, Obama said he reached his decision "only after deep reflection and careful deliberation." Listing qualities that guided his choice, he said first was "a rigorous intellect, a mastery of the law, an ability to home in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions." Second, he said, was "a recognition of the limits of the judicial role," a respect for precedent and an understanding that judges interpret the law rather than make it.

"And yet these qualities alone are insufficient," Obama said. "We need something more." He cited experiences in life, quoting renowned Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. "It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion, an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live," Obama said.

He noted that Sotomayor has been both a "big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator." He said she spent six years trying cases in U.S. district court and, if confirmed, "would replace Justice Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge -- a perspective that would enrich the judgments of the court."

Obama singled out one of her roughly 450 district court cases for special praise, saying it "involved a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including me: the baseball strike of 1994 and '95." Drawing laughter from the audience, the president went on: "In a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes to announce -- a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere -- she issued an injunction that helped end the strike. Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball."

He also noted that Sotomayor is "a lifelong Yankees fan," having been raised in a housing project not far from Yankee Stadium, and said he hoped this would not "disqualify her in the eyes of New Englanders in the Senate."

Sotomayor said her personal and professional experiences "have helped me appreciate the variety of perspectives that present themselves in every case that I hear" and to "understand, respect and respond to the concerns and arguments of all litigants," as well as the views of colleagues on the bench.

"I hope that as the Senate and American people learn more about me, they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences," she said.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

International Women of Courage Award Ceremony at

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Clinton's human rights address