There are basically three things a President looks for in a Supreme Court Nominee. First, he wants someone who shares his approach to constitutional questions. What is Obama's approach? This, he said, was his second criteria for making his selection:
a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge's job is to interpret, not make law, to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.
Now the trouble with that is that either Obama is closet conservative or he is lying. I am guessing the latter, as his previously stated desire for a judge with "empathy" is at odds with the idea of "impartial justice." You simply can't be empathetic and impartial at the same time. Besides, if Obama really did believe in the above things, he wouldn't have nominated Sotomayor. For we know what she thinks the role of a justice is, from YouTube:
Um, all of the legal defense funds out there, um, they're looking for people out there with court of appeals experience, because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don't make law, I know. Um, um — [laughter] — I know. I'm not promoting it, I'm not advocating it, and, I'm … you know. [laughter]
Hat tip to Hot Air. Sotomayor is both admitting, in a nod, nod, wink, wink, so or way what everyone knows: that Judges do make policy and law, and that the left thinks that's precisely what they ought to do. President Obama now understands that he has to say exactly the opposite of what he thinks and intends, and that the major press won''t cause him any troubles about it. The Sotomayor nomination tells us more about Obama than about the nominee: that his judicial views are on the radical end of the spectrum.
The second thing a President wants is a nominee who will win political points. Think Bush 41 and Clarence Thomas. Sotomayor may help the President with Hispanics (as if he needs help), but more importantly it shores up with support on the left. Sotomayor's identity politics, as in:
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
This will be music to the ears of folks who are appalled at Obama's Bush 3 antiterrorism policies. To reach the best conclusions, you have to be the right kind of person: female, Latina, born in the Bronx, etc. One can only wonder what would have been the fate of a nominee who was on record as saying that White men who belong to the Little Rock Country Club are more trustworthy.
The last thing a President might look for is a Judge who is effective on the Court. This consists first of all in a sharp legal mind, and second, and perhaps more importantly, in the ability to persuade her fellow judges.
The trouble is that it's hard to find one candidate who is really in the top 1% in all three categories. President Obama clearly made the job harder by limiting his search to female judges. That summarily excludes half (or more than half, given the history of gender distribution) of otherwise qualified nominees. Putting a lot of number two emphasis on a compelling story makes the job even harder. What are the odds that the person with the best qualifications and intellect, combined with the greatest powers of consensus building, will also be the person with the most compelling personal story? Only in the movies.
By all accounts, Sotomayor is qualified for the job. No evidence has surfaced so far that she is at or even near the top in legal thinking and writing, or in the ability to persuade her brethren on the Court. She is almost assured of confirmation. Republicans can't mount a filibuster, and they shouldn't. That device, when it is available, should be reserved for the direst emergencies. Otherwise, the judicial nomination process breaks down. Republicans who object to her judicial thinking should vote no. That's enough.