Al Franken, Sonia Sotomayor, and Perry Mason

In today’s Senate hearings on the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Sen. Al Franken sparked a mystery that has consumed Washington and beyond. Both Sotomayor and Franken were fans of the 1960’s version of Law and Order, “The Perry Mason Show.” Throughout its run, Mason, a defense attorney, had lost only a single case.

Well, after extensive and costly research, I can now reveal what that case was:

The Case of the Deadly Verdict
Janice Barton is found guilty of the murder of her wealthy relative and sentenced to death. Can Perry find the evidence to clear her of the crime before the pellets in the gas chamber fall?

Interestingly, one of the guest stars on the program was an actor named Steve Franken, who may be better known as Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. III from the “The Dobie Gillis Show.” Also on Dobie was Bob Denver (later Gilligan) and Sheila Kuehl (presently a former California State Senator). So you figure out your own “6 degrees” stories.

Palin vs. Sotomayor

So Sarah Palin can no longer abide attacks by political opponents. So she is unwilling to endure the unconscionable smears from the media. So it has become too much to ask her and her family to stand by idly as she is demonized and disparaged. All of these laments were included in Palin’s resignation speech on Friday.

Her defenders in the rightist media concurred with her and launched a PR campaign to spin Palin’s cowardly retreat as an unconventional response to an environment wherein she was mercilessly battered and besmirched. They condemned what they characterized as unfair attacks against the poor defenseless governor and conservative icon.

I wonder if those same Palin defenders will now condemn Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, who is promoting a campaign to defeat Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor with the flier pictured here. The flier that this image comes from describes Sotomayor as “a radical supporter of child-killing.” I wonder if they will consider it to be an unfair and disgusting personal attack. I wonder if they will condemn the rest of her far-right critics who have cast Sotomayor as a racist, or stupid, or Marxist, etc.

It is instructive to note how these two very different women respond to the slings and arrows of public life. Palin, who has a record of quitting when the kitchen gets too hot, is fleeing the scene and leaving the state she pledged to serve in the lurch. Sotomayor is soldiering on and will soon take her place on the nation’s highest court.

The truth is that everyone in public life has had to dodge mud and worse. The only way Palin can expect to avoid getting hit is to stay out of the ring. Yet she seemed to imply that a higher calling compels her to further service on her country’s behalf. Does she think that when she reappears there will be no one who disagrees with her policies or agenda? And when they do, as they inevitably will, is she going to quit again?

Hopefully the lessons learned from these confrontational days are that the real heroes are those who stand for something. The true role models are the ones who don’t back down from adversity. In the future women, and all Americans, will be able to look up to Justice Sotomayor with pride. And, in the best case scenario, we will look back at Palin and laugh.

Fox News: Republicans Divided Over How to Attack Sotomayor

An article on is lamenting the difficult position in which Republicans find themselves with regard to President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court:

“Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court, is posing a conundrum for Republicans who are struggling to unite against a woman they presume will be a reliable vote for liberal causes.

“The GOP doesn’t want to give Sotomayer (sic) a free ride, because they believe she is a judicial activist who will legislate from the bench.”

So what’s the problem? Why don’t they just attack her as a liberal judicial activist? If that’s really their objection to her, it seems that there would be nothing controversial about taking that approach. All they have to do is fire up their slogans about Socialism and set Glenn Beck and his posse loose, and they have the makings of a conventional rightist campaign of obstructionism. The truth is, that isn’t really their objection. The article states that they are…

“…concerned that if they launch a no-holds barred attack on Sotomayor, the first Hispanic to be nominated to the court, they risk alienating a growing minority they want on their side in the voting booth.”

The only way that they can alienate the Hispanic electorate is if they were to oppose Sotomayor on the basis of her race. Consequently, they are inadvertently admitting that that is precisely what they want to do. The argument within the ranks of Republicans is not centered on Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy or record. Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and others have already staked their claims that she is a racist, and that her gender renders her susceptible to that peculiarly feminine characteristic of empathy.

It becomes crystal clear that the dilemma facing Republicans, and Fox News, is tied solely to race and gender when you consider this simple scenario: If the nominee were a white male, would they have any hesitation to executing a straightforward campaign criticizing his record as a jurist?

The fact that there is a debate going on in the party at all, and trumpeted in right-wing media, is conclusive evidence that the real subject of the controversy is the nominee’s race and gender. They just don’t want to admit it. And we can count on Fox to obfuscate that truth and to portray the internecine squabble as something more benign. But if they were truly worried about how Sotomayor would rule as a Justice, then why would criticizing that risk their standing amongst Hispanics?

The answer? It wouldn’t. They’re lying. As usual.