The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter as Supreme Court Justice is a nice reminder of the type of change that the Obama administration does represent. Though not the most liberal of the prospective jurists, as John Nichols rightly noted, not only does Sotomayor’s nomination make history but, if successful, it will start to establish an effective counter-balance to Chief Justice John Roberts’ efforts to turn back the clock on a raft of issues especially those pertaining to race and anti-trust regulation.

Sotomayor’s smarts, charisma and judicial philosophy are all on display in this short clip from May of 2003, when she served as Pace University School of Law’s commencement speaker

By nominating Sotomayor, Obama is also bucking the will of an ugly little whisper campaign that tried to derail the nominee, as Brian Beutler neatly details at TPM. “Once it was obvious that she was a serious contender, an unknown number of Second Circuit prosecutors and former clerks banded together and approached The New Republic‘s legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen with attacks on the prospective nominee’s fitness. The sources told Rosen, among other things, that Sotomayor lacked the intellectual heft and good manners to serve on the court, and, in an article billed as the first in a series of analyses of potential nominees, Rosen went with it. From there, the attacks went viral.”

Rosen’s argument is well off the mark, as a quick look at Sotomayor’s career and a cursory glance at these good articles quickly make clear. Nonetheless, the anatomy of this scurrilous whisper campaign suggests the nature of the fight that could rage over her nomination.

As John Dickerson recounts at Slate today, in early reaction to the pick, Republicans are already targeting what they argue is Sotomayor’s judicial activism. “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, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Independent, David Weigel calls out new right-wing efforts to caricature Sotomayor as an “enemy of the white male.” Watch this space for info on how best to support Sotomayor’s appointment.

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