After calling some people in the administration, I've come to this conclusion: It doesn't matter that Sotomayor may still believe in better. The 32 words make sense in the context of the speech and the particular passage about sex and race discrimination cases, but we're in a political moment and there's no time for context. The full idea of her speech was not conveyed by those 32 words, and rather than have a long debate down in the weeds, the White House wants us all to have a nice weekend.But I don't believe that's the case at all, though I'm sure Rush and Newt have already added feathers to their cap.
The walkback is a small victory for Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, who called Sotomayor a racist for her comments. These 32 words were not a surprise to the White House. If they'd anticipated a bad reaction, they would have issued today's walkback three days earlier. This doesn't mean that Sotomayor's nomination is in trouble. (Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who sits on the Senate judiciary committee, rebuked Gingrich today for his remark.) But the White House hedge means that the bomb throwers were effective on some level. Whether they succeed in snuffing out this debate depends on what Sotomayor says in her hearing. Has she given up on the idea that her experiences would make her a better jurist than a white male judge, more often than not, in sex and race discrimination cases? She'll have plenty of time to choose her words carefully.
I think Obama was concerned that the level of conversation degenerated so much that he made a strategic move to effectively end that conversation so that we could all move on to another conversation. It was getting really ugly. Even republicans were calling on Newt and Rush to stop. Rational people know that Newt and Rush are off the deep end. They merely dragged their party deeper in the mud.
Obama gave them a bone for the soundbite in question but not for Sotomayor in context. Newt and Rush really lost because they no longer have any ammunition. Who cares if they pat each other on the back. If we all stopped responding to Rush and Newt, they'd simply go away. But they know how to raise everyone's hackles and they're experts in using the media.
Rational people know exactly what Sotomayor meant. Now, we'll get to hear about the stuff we should be hearing about, Sotomayor's cases and her professional life.