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MSNBC Interview - Transcript


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MSNBC Interview - Transcript

MSNBC Interview With Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Subject: Meeting With Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Interviewer: Monica Novotny

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MS. NOVOTNY: Judge Sonia Sotomayor is in the midst of her second day of meetings on Capitol Hill today. She began the morning by sitting down with Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Senator Whitehouse is also a member of the Judiciary Committee. He joins us now. Senator, our apologies for the technical difficulties. Thank you for your patience, sir.

SEN. WHITEHOUSE: Good to be with you.

MS. NOVOTNY: Let me start by asking, did you address the judge's comment in that 2001 speech that has been getting so much play in which she said, quote, "a wise Latina could reach a better judicial decision than a white male"?

SEN. WHITEHOUSE: We did, and she made clear that she wasn't intending that remark at that time or ever to be a, you know, categorical statement that her life experience would make her wiser than a white male across the board.

I think it's one of many life experiences. And I think, in the right case, it actually will make her a better judge with greater acuity, with a better sense of perhaps unintended consequences, in the same way that her experience as a prosecutor will also bring something to the right case at the right time.

So I was thoroughly satisfied with her answer on that. I think one of the reasons we have multiple-judge appellate is panels is so that judges can bring different aspects of their life experience, where they do get a little bit of extra wisdom or acuity because of what they've done and where they've been.

MS. NOVOTNY: Senator, we also heard from Senator Feinstein yesterday after her meeting with Judge Sotomayor. And Feinstein mentioned that the subject of abortion, Roe v Wade, came up during their meeting. The senator's description of that conversation seemed to imply that Sotomayor would accept the ruling of Roe v. Wade. Did you discuss that with the judge?

SEN. WHITEHOUSE: We did. And she made clear that, like other judges, she views that as now settled law and as binding precedent -- which, under our system of law and our rule of law, is exactly what it should be.

MS. NOVOTNY: What do you believe, sir, are the key issues that Sotomayor still needs to clear up as she engages in what might amount to a PR offensive on Capitol Hill?

SEN. WHITEHOUSE: I don't know. I think she seems to be doing pretty well. I think a lot of my Republican colleagues are trying to back away from, or indeed run away from, some of the more extreme comments suggesting that she's a racist or things like that. Now, that was not --

MS. NOVOTNY: Or there were results of this letter yesterday from conservatives urging Republican -- your Republican colleagues to filibuster Sotomayor? They seem to be stepping back from that as well. Are you concerned, though, that that's still a possibility?

SEN. WHITEHOUSE: Well, it's always a possibility. But I think it's very remote one at this point. I think she's making a very good impression as she goes around.

The strongest impression she left with me was how very charming and personable she was to talk with person-to-person. And I wasn't sure that it was going to be that way. What I took away from my meeting is that I think she'll be a very effective advocate when the Supreme Court justices sit together in conference to talk with each other about cases because she has a wonderful away about her.

MS. NOVOTNY: Senator, finally -- let me just jump in, Senator. Finally, have you heard anything more on the timing?

SEN. WHITEHOUSE: No, I have not heard more on the timing.

MS NOVOTNY: All right. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, again, we appreciate your patience today, sir. Thank you for joining us.



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