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Reid Would Prefer Not to Read:

From Politico:

"I understand that during her career, she's written hundreds and hundreds of opinions. I haven't read a single one of them, and if I'm fortunate before we end this, I won't have to read one of them," the majority leader told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Help Harry Reid Read:
  2. Reid Would Prefer Not to Read:
Jim Copland (www):
I'd surmise that he hadn't read any of Justice Thomas's opinions, either, when he suggested that they were "poorly written."
6.3.2009 8:58am
krs:
meh... he probably never read any of Roberts's, Alito's Estrada's, or anyone else's, either. Probably just had a staffer look for sound bites.
6.3.2009 9:00am
taney71:
I hope my home-state senator doesn't win this time. He has to be one of the worse majority leaders. Probably rates right up there with Bill Frist.
6.3.2009 9:01am
ruuffles (mail) (www):
He's not on the Judiciary Committee (but he is majority leader). How many other senators not on the Judiciary won't be reading any of her opinions?
6.3.2009 9:05am
Tim McDonald (mail):
To be fair, the relevant passage is "Advice and consent", it doesn't mention informed advice and consent.
6.3.2009 9:16am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Arrogance!

No, Ignorance!

Wait...

Two great congressional traits in one!
6.3.2009 9:18am
DiverDan (mail):
Just why should he waste his time reading any of Sotomayor's opinions? He knew how he was going to vote on each of Obama's Judicial Nominations when the November Election results came in. After all, "advise and consent" doesn't really require that a Senator know any more that which political party he's in, and whether or not it's the same party as the President (or at least it seems that way for most Dems).
6.3.2009 9:21am
paul lukasiak (mail):
why does Reid have to read her opinions? "Not reading her opinions" doesn't mean that he's voting from ignorance because he has staff to do the reading/recommending for him.

Indeed, Reid can't possibly read all the legislation that is submitted to the Senate -- again, staff creates summaries of the text, and Reid acts based on those summaries.

Had Adler read all of Sotomayor's opinions before pontificating on her?
6.3.2009 9:37am
AJK:


Indeed, Reid can't possibly read all the legislation that is submitted to the Senate -- again, staff creates summaries of the text, and Reid acts based on those summaries.



You really, honestly don't see any cause for concern there?
6.3.2009 9:53am
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Mr. Lukasiak --

Reid doesn't have to do anything. I would think, however, that he might want to read one or two opinions before confirming her.

He also can't read all legislation that is submitted, but I would certainly prefer a system in which he is expected to read every piece of legislation upon which he casts a vote (particularly a vote in the affirmative). Staff summaries are often incomplete or inaccurate.

As for me, I've read every opinion of hers upon which I've pontificated, and many others. I also don't have the power to vote on her confirmation (but will post more on how I would vote later).

JHA
6.3.2009 9:56am
ck:
I thought the general consensus around here was that no one had to actually read Sotomayor's opinions, but just one out-of-context quote from a speech, in order to come to the informed conclusion that she was a racist and unqualified for the Court.
6.3.2009 10:05am
paul lukasiak (mail):
Reid doesn't have to do anything. I would think, however, that he might want to read one or two opinions before confirming her.

the problem, of course, is deciding which "one or two opinions" (out of hundreds/thousands) should be read. Pick the wrong ones, and you get the wrong impression of the judge.

Unless/until like-minded individuals start raising alarms about a judicial nominee, there is really no reason why any non-Judiciary committee member need become intimately familiar with the record of such nominees.

He also can't read all legislation that is submitted, but I would certainly prefer a system in which he is expected to read every piece of legislation upon which he casts a vote (particularly a vote in the affirmative).

have you ever seen a budget bill? ;)
6.3.2009 10:08am
mls (www):
This seems to fall within the classic Washington definition of a gaffe, ie, blurting out the truth. In fairness, I find it difficult to construct a scenario in which the quality of Reid's advice and consent would be improved by actually reading one of Sotomayor's opinions. However, it might be interesting for those who are reading those opinions to fill in this blank.

If Harry Reid reads only one of Judge Sotomayor's opinions, it should be _________
6.3.2009 10:10am
Matt P (mail):
O.K. CK,

I am honestly interested, this is not a request to begin a flame war, what do you believe to be the context of the quote in question and how does that context resolve the racist overtones of that statement taken in isolation?

Please I'm not asking for an attack of the conservative narrative, just a reasoned argument in favor of your own.
6.3.2009 10:12am
Smooth, Like a Rhapsody (mail):
Which opinions should he have read? Should he have concentrated on newer opinions?; longer opinions?; opinions that had been the subject of granted cert petitions?

I am not happy that Obama won nor that he gets to nominate people to the federal bench, nor that the dems have a near hammer-lock on congress. But a Majority Leader has better things to do than read through whole legal opinions. That is what staff is for.

I will say that it is a little depressing that seeing as how he is/was a lawyer, he nevertheless does not have sufficient intellectual curiousity to read even one opinion. That is sort of a small cavil, though.
6.3.2009 10:16am
Kevin P. (mail):
If he doesn't read any of her opinions, how will he confirm that she is a wise Latina woman?
6.3.2009 10:23am
Joe T. Guest:

Arrogance! No, Ignorance!
Wait...
Two great congressional traits in one!


You must be referring to "Aaaarghhhnorance."

It's the combination of arrogance, ignorance, and oblviviousness to appearances that causes me to look at the newspaper or a TV newser and go "Aaaaaarghhhh!"
6.3.2009 10:23am
Bpbatista (mail):
Did Obama nominate Sotomayor in spite of her racism, or because of it?
6.3.2009 10:30am
Downfall:
If he doesn't read any of her opinions, how will he confirm that she is a wise Latina woman?

Thread over.
6.3.2009 10:33am
BGates:
If Harry Reid reads only one of Judge Sotomayor's opinions, it should be on the bus home to Vegas, after he apologizes to the nation for being such an corrupt, empty-headed partisan zealot and resigns.
6.3.2009 10:36am
jelmo (mail):
Is it possible that Reid is saying that if he is lucky, he won't be thrown out of office and end up practicing law? I doubt it, but I am stumped as to what he means.

If his hundreds of staffers can read these opinions, couldn't they direct him to opinions worth reading?
6.3.2009 10:38am
Constantin:
Check out Scorcese's Casino, specifically the character played by Dick Smothers who undoubtedly is Harry Reid. Tells you about all you'd need to know about the guy.
6.3.2009 10:44am
ck:
Matt P, the context is the very next sentence of the speech, where she gives an example of what she was talking about. She believes that as a Latina, having been personally subject to discrimination in the past, she might have a better perspective to decide cases involving such. I don't agree with that idea, but it isn't outlandish or racist.
6.3.2009 10:49am
David M. Nieporent (www):
why does Reid have to read her opinions? "Not reading her opinions" doesn't mean that he's voting from ignorance because he has staff to do the reading/recommending for him.
I'm sure his staff brushes their teeth, too, but that doesn't keep Reid from getting cavities. His staff reading the opinions makes his staff informed, not him.

Indeed, Reid can't possibly read all the legislation that is submitted to the Senate -- again, staff creates summaries of the text, and Reid acts based on those summaries.
Why can't he possibly do this? Is it a literacy problem? Because it's not because being a senator is such hard work. His actual job is to read the legislation and vote on it; everything else is superfluous.

Had Adler read all of Sotomayor's opinions before pontificating on her?
I'll bet he's read more than, say, none.
6.3.2009 10:50am
Matt P (mail):
Thanks CK.
6.3.2009 10:53am
[insert here] delenda est:
I loate Harry Reid, but I don't see any problem with this. I will change my mind if anyone here can postulate a scenario in which Harry Reid's reading every single one of her opinions would make one whit of difference to anything. To avoid the obvious riposte, please assume that he manages to do so in a split second.

The quote does, however, allude to a bigger problem. I don't really doubt that he was 'worried' by Roberts without having read any of his opinions either, and that is where it becomes ugly partisanship and detrimental to the nation.
6.3.2009 10:56am
MarkField (mail):

I am honestly interested, this is not a request to begin a flame war, what do you believe to be the context of the quote in question and how does that context resolve the racist overtones of that statement taken in isolation?

Please I'm not asking for an attack of the conservative narrative, just a reasoned argument in favor of your own.


Brad DeLong has a good analysis here.
6.3.2009 10:57am
BGates:
Mark, I'm convinced. What can we do to replace all the white judges with their superiors from the Latina community? Because that's the upshot of DeLong's "analysis" - Holmes, who was white, reached a different conclusion than Sotomayor, who isn't, therefore Latin women are better judges in discrimination cases than white guys. Should we have purges, or just put "whites need not apply" on the bench?
6.3.2009 11:22am
rosetta's stones:
Reid's history next election. He climbed onto the hot seat, and he'll take the fall.

After Daschle got broomed out of office, and following Foley's electoral recall as Speaker back in '94, and a couple other high profile lefty politicians being recalled by the people, they got smart and installed a recently reelected senator as their Senate leader, so they'd have 6 years of uninterrupted leadership by avoiding any meddlesome voter intervention, and avoiding the embarassment of having one of their standard-bearers being dragged out of his office again, kicking and screaming, with his fingernails clinging to the doorjamb.

The hourglass is about run out, and his uninterrupted 6 years are about up. Good riddance to this creep.

They should make that Virginia Marine their leader. That'd make for sportive times.
6.3.2009 11:28am
Sid the warmonger (mail) (www):
He said something stupid. This is not a peek behind the curtain or a refreshing dose of frankness. He just verbally screwed up.

If you are defending or attacking what he literally said, it is a waste of time.

If you are defending the implications of his message, your partisan-bias is showing. He implied that he need not attend to the responsibilities of his position. Harry Reid has done more than his fair share of previous political attacks on supreme court nominees. We would hope that a lawyer-turned-senator would have done his homework before taking a firm stance on the judicial qualifications of a nominee. In this quote, he has admitted that he has not read even a survey of rulings by the one important and visible nomination made to the US Supreme Court. He may not be on the Judiciary Committee, but he is the majority leader.

It is either (I believe) a verbal gaffe OR an indication of the ARRGHNORANCE of Harry Reid.
6.3.2009 11:42am
Gabriel McCall (mail):
ck: She believes that as a Latina, having been personally subject to discrimination in the past, she might have a better perspective to decide cases involving such. I don't agree with that idea, but it isn't outlandish or racist.

This argument turns on the assumption that a white male is unlikely to have been personally subject to discrimination in his past. I don't believe this is a safe or accurate assumption.
6.3.2009 11:54am
Calderon:
MarkField said Brad DeLong has a good analysis here.

Do you really think that's a "good analysis"? Not to put to fine a point on it, I think it's terrible.

Under that same analysis, George W. Bush (or if you prefer Roland Burris, or any random person) would have "game and set" as a being a better statesman than George Washington because Washington owned slaves while Bush / Burris / random did not. Bush (or Clarence Thomas, or any random person off the street) would have "game and set" as being a better philosopher than Aristotle since Bush / Thomas / random oppose slavery while Aristotle did not. Indeed, most random people today would have "game and set" as being better judges than Holmes and Cardozo so long as said random person opposes racial and gender discrimination.

Bush / Burris / Thomas / random would then have "match" if they mumbled some words about being outsiders and always trying to check their assumptions. And this sets aside the facts that Holmes did check his assumptions in issuing opinions, his opinions on issues like free speech changed over time, and I assume the same is true for Cardozo did as well.

I'm surprised that DeLong, who is an economic historian, would make an argument about who is "better" while completely ignoring the historical context of the individuals he's talking about and making judgments based on their outcomes on a few issues where public opinion has changed over time rather than their analytical abilities over the entire scope of the issues they considered.
6.3.2009 11:57am
ChrisIowa (mail):
Although Harry Reid is trained as a lawyer, it appears from his wiki bio that it has been many years since he practiced, if at all. So if he did read a legal opinion, he would not be practiced enough to be able to tell if it was good, bad or indifferent. He certainly would not be able to tell if there are any but the most glaring holes in the argument. Better to trust the reaction of a staffer or trusted colleague.

It would have to be extremely poorly written for him to oppose a nominee of the President from his party. I say that as an issue this is irrelevant.
6.3.2009 11:58am
ShelbyC:
If he's going to take up reading, shouldn't he start by reading the legislation he passes?


Although Harry Reid is trained as a lawyer, it appears from his wiki bio that it has been many years since he practiced, if at all. So if he did read a legal opinion, he would not be practiced enough to be able to tell if it was good, bad or indifferent.



Hell, I'm not trained as a lawyer, but I like to think I get something out of reading opinions.
6.3.2009 12:08pm
MarkField (mail):

Under that same analysis, George W. Bush (or if you prefer Roland Burris, or any random person) would have "game and set" as a being a better statesman than George Washington because Washington owned slaves while Bush / Burris / random did not.


If they oppose slavery (as public policy, not just privately), that WOULD make them better statesmen than George Washington. The same is true for the rest of your examples. That's what progress gives us -- we're better today than our ancestors were.

But I think you missed DeLong's point: that Sotomayor was saying that examining one's preconceptions makes one a better judge. We can see that Holmes and Cardozo failed to do so on racial issues (though Holmes did do so on free speech, as you rightly noted).

Now, it may well be that Sotomayor won't be successful in her "know thyself" quest, and it may also be true, even if she is successful, that she won't make as many good decisions as Holmes/Cardozo. But DeLong's reading does demonstrate that she did NOT have a racial bias point to make so much as a Socratic one. And that's a worthy point for her to have made.
6.3.2009 12:25pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
"I understand that during her career, she's written hundreds and hundreds of opinions. I haven't read a single one of them, and if I'm fortunate before we end this, I won't have to read one of them,"
Of course there's the "Sotomayor's going to be approved come hell or high water and anything I say against her is going to bite me in the ass, so why waste the time reading an opinion" theory. Simple time management.
6.3.2009 1:16pm
BGates:
she did NOT have a racial bias point to make when she went to the National Council of The Race meeting to tell other people of her "race" that she is a better judge than people of a different race, either because certain categories of human experience are inaccessible to people of the other race or because of physiological differences between the races.
6.3.2009 1:24pm
Calderon:
MarkField said


If they oppose slavery (as public policy, not just privately), that WOULD make them better statesmen than George Washington. The same is true for the rest of your examples. That's what progress gives us -- we're better today than our ancestors were.


Really? You really think that your average high school graduate today would be a better statesman than George Washington (or Madison, Jefferson, or even Lincoln for that matter), a better philosopher than Aristotle or Plato, or a better judge than Holmes / Cardozo / Marshall / etc.? I guess this is one of those chasms that can't be bridged.

Today we have a different set of moral assumptions on certain issues than our ancestors, and we can call that progress if we like. But presumably one's skill as a statesman, philosopher, judge is based more on one's ability to reason through issues (for the latter two) or make the correct choices given the political circumstances one faces (for the first one), than being able to predict how future generations will answer one true/false question. That skill is shown by being able to tackle new issues in new ways, rather than just recite what others have agreed upon.


But I think you missed DeLong's point: that Sotomayor was saying that examining one's preconceptions makes one a better judge. We can see that Holmes and Cardozo failed to do so on racial issues (though Holmes did do so on free speech, as you rightly noted).


If that's his point, he's not making it very well or convincingly. There's no particular reason to either hope or believe that a "wise latina woman" will be more introspective than a "white male," either on racial discrimination or other issues. What's the evidence that Sotomayor examined her preconceptions on racial discrimination issues? She could had certain preconceptions that line up with what people currently believe, and never bothered to examine those. For that matter, what's the evidence that Holmes and Cardozo refused to examine their preconceptions on this issue (they could have conducted the examination and re-affirmed their prior views). And of course, courts consider a lot more issues than just racial discrimination.
6.3.2009 2:11pm
levisbaby:
I would hope that Reid would have staffers read the opinions and then look at any troubling information.

The idea that each Senator should personally read thousands (or tens of thousands) of pages of opinions before voting on a nominee is just silly and reveals a complete ignorance of how government functions.

Makes for a nice little "Gotcha" though, I guess.

By the way, should Senators also read all of the opinions of people nominated for the Appellate Courts? Or is that okay to relegate to staffers.
6.3.2009 2:38pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The idea that each Senator should personally read thousands (or tens of thousands) of pages of opinions before voting on a nominee is just silly and reveals a complete ignorance of how government functions.
Well, I've read more opinions of hers than Reid has, and that was just for the purpose of commenting on them on various blogs. Reid is actually going to vote on whether to confirm her. I think it's pretty "silly" that he doesn't read any.

By the way, should Senators also read all of the opinions of people nominated for the Appellate Courts?
Nobody at any point, except Reid apologists, has used the term "all."
6.3.2009 2:58pm
levisbaby:

Well, I've read more opinions of hers than Reid has, and that was just for the purpose of commenting on them on various blogs.

Presumably Reid is a bit busier than you are. Heck, I'd bet that he doesn't even spend time tooling around various blogs making comments to puff himself up.
6.3.2009 3:11pm
MarkField (mail):

Really? You really think that your average high school graduate today would be a better statesman than George Washington (or Madison, Jefferson, or even Lincoln for that matter), a better philosopher than Aristotle or Plato, or a better judge than Holmes / Cardozo / Marshall / etc.? I guess this is one of those chasms that can't be bridged.


On the issue of slavery and equal rights, they clearly would take a better position. Just as I suspect most college students today know more math than any of those you listed. Whether they'd be better in other respects, I doubt.


Today we have a different set of moral assumptions on certain issues than our ancestors, and we can call that progress if we like. But presumably one's skill as a statesman, philosopher, judge is based more on one's ability to reason through issues (for the latter two) or make the correct choices given the political circumstances one faces (for the first one), than being able to predict how future generations will answer one true/false question. That skill is shown by being able to tackle new issues in new ways, rather than just recite what others have agreed upon.


I'd agree with this. But there are points awarded for getting the right answer, too. Once we get to that answer, we then need the ability to move forward to other answers. In their time, the people you mentioned showed great ability to make that progress; we're the beneficiaries of it. But they weren't always right and we should recognize when they did fail -- that's part of how we, in turn, move forward.


There's no particular reason to either hope or believe that a "wise latina woman" will be more introspective than a "white male," either on racial discrimination or other issues.


She might be on racial issues simply because those issues which personally affect us tend to be those we think about more. But in this case I think it's clear that Sotomayor was referring to herself in particular, not to Latina women in general. She can certainly "hope" (her word) that she will be.


What's the evidence that Sotomayor examined her preconceptions on racial discrimination issues?


None that I know of. Her speech only recognized the need to do so, not that she had succeeded. Which was pretty much the position Socrates took.
6.3.2009 4:02pm
EcoLawyer:
I'm a liberal Democrat. I have worked with advocacy groups to oppose or support a variety of Supreme Court and other judicial nominations. Reid's statement is just embarassing.
6.3.2009 4:16pm
Russ (mail):
I am floored that some here think a sitting US Senator should not be familiar with the decisions of a person they are being asked to vote on for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

But more than that was the comment by some that he couldn't be bothered to read every piece of legislation that he is asked to vote on. Maybe I'm wierd here, but isn't that his job?

Yeah, God forbid our elected representatives actually become informed on the laws they are imposing on the rest of us!
6.3.2009 4:23pm
levisbaby:

I am floored that some here think a sitting US Senator should not be familiar with the decisions of a person they are being asked to vote on for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

What percentage of the decisions do you think they should read, at a minimum?

Should they also read that percentage of opinions for people just nominated for the appellate bench but not the SC?
6.3.2009 4:28pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Presumably Reid is a bit busier than you are. Heck, I'd bet that he doesn't even spend time tooling around various blogs making comments to puff himself up.
He manages to pop up on television often enough; he can't be too busy.
6.3.2009 4:29pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
What percentage of the decisions do you think they should read, at a minimum?
16.4%.
Should they also read that percentage of opinions for people just nominated for the appellate bench but not the SC?
Yes.
6.3.2009 4:31pm
Perseus (mail):
If they oppose slavery (as public policy, not just privately), that WOULD make them better statesmen than George Washington. The same is true for the rest of your examples. That's what progress gives us -- we're better today than our ancestors were.

That's nothing more than vulgar historicism:

"Socrates thought it near madness to imagine that one possessed a virtue without really possessing it. ...As judges you must stand higher than that which is to be judged; as it is, you have only come later."
6.3.2009 4:34pm
MarkField (mail):

That's nothing more than vulgar historicism


No, that's a recognition that we make progress.
6.3.2009 4:46pm
Perseus (mail):
No, that's a recognition that we make progress.

No, that's an assertion that we make progress, and the alleged progress is far less impressive when it becomes just another prejudice.
6.3.2009 4:58pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Here's a simple answer as to what opinions he should read: the ones that opponents of the nomination are raising as reasons to oppose her. Satisfying yourself that their objections are without sufficient merit to cause opposition to the nomination would seem to be important.

Nick
6.3.2009 5:27pm
jab:
I'm a liberal Democrat. I am embarrassed by Harry Reid, and wish the Democrats would pick a more intelligent, principled Senate leader than this, what's the word... doofus... yes, that fits him nicely.
6.3.2009 6:41pm
MarkField (mail):

No, that's an assertion that we make progress, and the alleged progress is far less impressive when it becomes just another prejudice.


Opposing slavery is just another prejudice? How very post-modern of you.
6.3.2009 7:23pm
Volokh Groupie:
I agree that it isn't all that shocking that Reid may not have the time to read full opinions (though the criteria for which he should read if he wanted to is pretty simple--after your staff gives you summaries you can pick out the opinions which strike you as interesting/important) but actually making the statement he made is idiotic. It's pretty difficult to rail against opponents who are criticizing her opinions or defend her thoroughly if you already forfeit your credibility on the matter with such a statement.
6.3.2009 7:26pm
Volokh Groupie:
Just the frequency of supreme court nominations versus appellate court nominations should make that line of criticism in any Reid defense pretty dubious.
6.3.2009 7:29pm
Perseus (mail):
Opposing slavery is just another prejudice? How very post-modern of you.

It is indeed prejudice to oppose slavery without being able to give a rational defense of one's position, something Founders like Jefferson were able to do and most college students are unable to do (who say postmodern things like "there can never be a universal definition of wise").
6.3.2009 10:58pm
MarkField (mail):

It is indeed prejudice to oppose slavery without being able to give a rational defense of one's position, something Founders like Jefferson were able to do and most college students are unable to do (who say postmodern things like "there can never be a universal definition of wise").


Strangely enough, Jefferson himself disagreed with you: "State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules."
6.4.2009 11:56am
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Maybe Senator Reid would make a deal--he'll read an opinion if those who plan to vote against her read the whole speech.
6.4.2009 1:28pm

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