07/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

NYT 's Sotomayor "Affirmative Action Baby" Piece Stocked With Scare Quotes

Just when you thought we might be able to move past all the race-based criticism of would-be Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor comes this morning's New York Times article from Charlie Savage, which reveals Sotomayor's own comments on the way affirmative action benefited her academic career:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor once described herself as "a product of affirmative action" who was admitted to two Ivy League schools despite scoring lower on standardized tests than many classmates, which she attributed to "cultural biases" that are "built into testing."

On another occasion, she aligned with conservatives who take a limited view of when international law can be enforced in American courts. But she criticized conservative objections to recent Supreme Court rulings that mention foreign law as being based on a "misunderstanding."

Those comments were among a trove of videos dating back nearly 25 years that shed new light on Judge Sotomayor's views. She provided the videos to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week as it prepares for her Supreme Court confirmation hearing next month.

The clips include lengthy remarks about her experiences as an "affirmative action baby," whose lower test scores were overlooked by admissions committees at Princeton University and Yale Law School because, she said, she is Hispanic and had grown up in poor circumstances.

I have to wonder if people who are fans of Charlie Savage's typically superb reporting are going to be disappointed in a piece that's chock-a-block with scare quotes culled from videotapes that are a quarter-century old. Surely, though, we'll still be allowed to appreciate that maybe Sotomayor had other academic achievements that Princeton and Yale could appreciate in addition to test scores that may have been subpar. Well, you will! But not until the eighth paragraph:

"With my academic achievement in high school, I was accepted rather readily at Princeton and equally as fast at Yale, but my test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates," she said. "And that's been shown by statistics, there are reasons for that. There are cultural biases built into testing, and that was one of the motivations for the concept of affirmative action to try to balance out those effects."

At some point, maybe it will be pointed out that Sotomayor's hard work -- which resulted in her graduating atop her class at Princeton and a subsequently successful legal career -- seems to have fully redeemed the favorable treatment she received at the outset of her academic life. It's more likely, though, that these revelations will almost certainly spur new calls for that National Discussion On Racial Preferences that so many people are pretending that they want to have. In the meantime, Sotomayor looks ahead to the judgement of the Senate Judiciary Committee, America's Mightiest Meritocracy.

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