Cardin lobs softballs, yanks Ripken into Sotomayor hearing
As the Senate hearing for Judge Sonia Sotomayor drags into the late innings, the national pastime has again been pulled into the proceedings.
Let's start with the breaking news: In a revelation that can only come as a disturbing development to many in Baltimore, the likely Supreme Court justice revealed today that she is among the countless New York Yankee fans who have made themselves at home at Oriole Park over the years.
Ever since Sotomayor first took the Hill this week, well-worn comparisons between umpires and judges have featured repeatedly at her confirmation hearing.
On Monday, in her opening statement, she made a blatant pitch for support from the fans at home by boasting of her involvement in the 1995 major league baseball strike case.
Today, mere hours after Orioles outfielder Adam Jones drove in the winning run for the American League in the 2009 All-Star game, the judge took another swing at a baseball question, courtesy of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland.
Those who have watched every pitch may have noticed that friendly Democratic senators frequently offer President Barack Obama's nominee a chance to recover between rounds of hostile questioning from Republicans.
Like a pitching coach or a catcher or infielder visiting the mound, the Dems try to give their star pitcher a few minutes to gather her composure before the next Republican batter steps up.
When it was Cardin's turn this morning, he opened with a little infield chatter.
"I just want you to know that the baseball fans of Baltimore knew there was a judge somewhere that changed in a very favorable way the reputation of Baltimore forever," he said. "You are a hero, and they now know it's Judge Sotomayor. You're a hero to the Baltimore baseball fans."
The judge listened attentively, and the Democratic senator explained.
"The Major League Baseball strike," Cardin said. "You allowed the season to continue so Cal Ripken could become the iron man of baseball in September, 1995."
After a brief ripple of laughter subsided, the senator asked Sotomayor to visit Camden Yards. "And we promise it will not be when the Yankees are playing so you can root for the Baltimore Orioles."
That's when Sotomayor, who has carefully concealed her personal views on hot-stove topics like abortion, may have let her guard down.
The judge, whose likely new office at the Supreme Court is within walking distance of Nationals Park, called the offer to visit Baltimore "a great invitation." Then she revealed that she is one more Yankee fan who found her way to Eutaw Street.
"You can assure your Baltimore fans that I have been to Camden Yards," said Sotomayor, all but certain to become the first Latina Yankee fan to sit on the nation's highest bench.
If this information shook Cardin, and his plan to vote in favor of her confirmation, he didn't let it show. But a few moments later, he committed a clear error, even as he was attempting to toss softballs in her direction on topics like the importance of diversity in the judicial system and the value of pro bono work for lawyers.
"We would all do well," said the normally sure-fingered Cardin, "to remember the advice given to us by our colleague, Senator Edward Kennedy, the former chairman of this committee, as he talks about the civil rights struggle, when he says, and I quote: 'The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.'"
Perhaps Cardin forgot that Kennedy spoke those words, in the most famous speech of his career, to the 1980 Democratic National Convention in Sotomayor's own New York City. But Kennedy was referring to his own, just-ended presidential campaign, not civil rights.
It was an obvious miscue by Cardin, the veteran lawmaker from Maryland, and also a reference that his senior Senate colleague from Baltimore would not have booted. Barbara A. Mikulski, as trivia buffs know, introduced Kennedy to the crowd in Madison Square Garden as he waited in the on-deck circle on that memorable night.