While Democrats have exaggerated her background, burnished her career, and misrepresented her philosophy to seek approval from the court of public opinion, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been equally misleading about herself. As more of her words from the past begin to surface, it has become apparent that who she really is and who she portrays herself to be aren't the same person.
Sotomayor's biography is purported to be one of a deprived and disadvantaged Latina who conquered the odds. A National Journal report raises questions on the extremity of what she claims to have overcome:
Judge Sonia Sotomayor said in a 1996 speech at Princeton University's Third World Center (now called the Carl A. Fields Center) that when she arrived at Princeton in 1972 as her high school's valedictorian, "I found out that my Latina background had created difficulties in my writing that I needed to overcome. For example, in Spanish we do not have adjectives. A noun is described with a preposition.... My writing was stilted and overly complicated, my grammar and vocabulary skills weak." [emphasis mine]
First, how does one enter Cardinal Spellman High School, a college preparatory setting with a majority White American student body, and emerge as valedictorian despite a deficiency in writing proper English? Additionally, we're to believe that with such a deficiency she still managed to receive a full scholarship from Princeton? If her story were true, then surely someone else would have been valedictorian of her class and students more qualified than she would have gone to Princeton.
Second, what kind of Spanish did Sotomayor learn? A declaration that the language doesn't possess adjectives calls her proficiency to question. Each Latin American culture speaks a variant of the language that contains its own respective jerga --slang-- and she claims to speak the language "fairly well." But The language uses various types of adjectives and classifies them into two groups, calificativos and determinativos, and the application is similar to English, answering the questions which, what kind, how many, and whose. Sotomayor couldn't have been addressing a Spanish-speaking audience because they would have immediately taken notice of such a perplexing statement.
Apparently, the goal was to highlight her achievements despite the feigned disadvantage she attributes to her self-characterized "Latina background". Sotomayor has rightfully labeled herself a Nuyorican because she is an American of Puerto Rican ancestry born and bred in New York City, but her words appear to be more akin to a Puerto Rican born and bred in the mountains of Naranjito who migrates to the states and consequently has to overcome the economic, cultural, and social barriers an unfamiliar America would present.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for Sotomayor to just be an exceptional American, she needed the appearance of a deprived and disadvantaged Latina in addition to look even more exceptional, as an unlikely-to-succeed individual.
Sotomayor's juggling act continued on Wednesday while meeting with Senators on Capital Hill to defend her now infamous 32 word "wise Latina" statement from the hortatory speech she gave at Berkeley in 2001.
Faced with having to explain her statement of superiority to white Senators who hold the key to her historic appointment, she backpedaled by dismissing her proclamation as a "poor choice of words". But let's be honest here. There has been ample time for her to clarify her statement prior to her nomination, but in the same fashion of the nominees to the president's cabinet that owed back taxes, she didn't feel it was necessary to right the wrong until it was professionally expedient for her to do so. Ultimately, she believes what she said, and the disingenuousness of her clarification is underscored by the fact that she made virtually the same statement in a speech given seven years prior to Berkeley. Why has the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor been marred by blatant dishonesty?
While it has been disgusting to watch Democrats use her as a pawn with the hopes of grasping the allegiance of the Latino voting bloc, the nominee herself has exhibited a level of dishonesty that is alarming, especially given that she is a judge, not a politician.
Sotomayor has overreached in her quest to prove just how much of a Latina she is, and at the same time demonstrate how much she's had to overcome because she is a Latina. It's as if for her being a Latina is some sort of pharmacon, one that has helped her move forward, but also at times kept her behind.
Sotomayor's behavior is troubling because there was already reason to question her performance as a jurist. But now her integrity also has to be called into question when she's caught exaggerating her biography and backpedaling on her philosophy solely to enhance her profile and advance her career.
Any jurist should be above question when it comes to honesty and forthrightness. All the more so for a jurist on our most powerful court.