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Conservatives claim Sonia Sotomayor is Harriet Miers. Oh please.

May 27, 2009 |  7:02 am

White House counsel Harriet Miers nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush

When President Obama nominated federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Republicans held their fire.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a temperate statement with some boilerplate language promising a deliberative vetting of the nomination. "We will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly," he said.

Ditto Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who pledged that Republicans would "reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views."

But if national spokesmen for the Grand Old Party were circumspect, the conservative punditry felt no such restrictions.

And in what can only be called the height of hypocrisy, many of them questioned Sotomayor's intellectual heft -- comparing her to George W. Bush's doomed and ultimately withdrawn nomination of former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

“I’m not really certain how intellectually strong she would be. She has not been very strong on the second circuit,” Karl Rove said of Sotomayor on Fox News. Karl Rove, the very same man who endorsed the Miers pick as a clever end-run against liberals eager for another woman on the court!

Then there's Curt Levey, executive director of the right-wing Committee for Justice, who said that, like Miers, Sotomayor was picked because she was a woman. "This is someone who clearly was picked because she’s a woman and Hispanic, not because she was the best qualified," he said on local radio WTOP. "I could certainly see red and purple state Democrats gawking at it and she may very well have to withdraw her nomination."

The drumbeat continued all day. At the National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru called Sotomayor “Obama’s Harriet Miers.” On Fox News, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, quoting the New Republic's legal beagle analyst Jeffrey Rosen, said Sotomayor was “not the smartest.”

Sotomayor's decisions -- said to number over 400 -- will be well-honed for any miscue the opposition can use to skewer her nomination. But charging her with intellectual weakness? Please. The woman graduated second in her class at Princeton and edited the Yale Law Review.

Maybe Democrats should ask for the school transcripts of the critics.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images

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