Sen. Graham Stops Just Short of Offering Support for Sotomayor

Posted July 16, 2009 at 9:47am

Following an often terse back-and-forth over Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor’s views on gun rights, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came dangerously close to openly endorsing her nomination during Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing.

Responding to Sotomayor’s answer regarding how she may view a case challenging whether gun rights are “fundamental— under the law, Graham praised Sotomayor’s ability to separate out her work as a judge from her own political beliefs.

“I don’t know how you’re going to come out on that case. Because I think fundamentally you’re able after all these years as a judge to embrace a right you may not want for yourself. … That is what makes you, for me, more acceptable as a judge, and not an activist. … Because an activist would be chomping at the bit to use this wonderful opportunity,— Graham said.

“Understand that America is bigger than the Bronx and bigger than South Carolina,— he added.

Later, even as he questioned Sotomayor’s previous work as a civil rights activist and lawyer, he continued to heap praise on her. Graham’s tone was in stark contrast to earlier in the week when he led GOP criticism of the nominee, challenging her previous statements and questioning whether she has the proper temperament for the high court.

“Your record as a judge has not been radical by any means. … But your speeches have been disturbing, particularly for conservatives. Those speeches, especially for me, suggested gender and racial affiliations,— Graham said.

“You have been very reassuring here today and throughout these hearings that you are going to try and make the difference between judges— and activists, he added.

“I thank you for recognizing that my decisions have not shown me to be an advocate for any specific group,— said Sotomayor, who has been a judge for 17 years.