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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) started off Wednesday morning's confirmation hearings with some blunt questioning, bringing up the favorite Republican talking point of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment.

In addition to explaining what she originally meant - and admitting that her "words failed" and "didn't work" in getting her real message across - Sotomayor adopted a new strategy today, citing past comments from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Watch the video below.

During his own confirmation hearings, Alito said the following:

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

Sotomayor paraphrased Alito, using it as evidence that judges can acknowledge that background has an influence while not letting that affect rulings in discrimination cases.

As a member of the current Supreme Court, Alito recently ruled on Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighter case that Republicans have also brought up repeatedly against Sotomayor. So far, only a few media voices like Glenn Greenwald have asked whether Alito's Italian-American heritage influenced his decision in that case.

Still, Sotomayor sought to distance herself from her controversial remarks, saying "it fell flat. I understand that some people understood [my words] in a way I never intended."

This hearkens back to some news we brought you as the anti-Sotomayor campaigns were just warming up on the right. Do you remember Curt Levey and the Committee for Justice? Levey's the guy who went on TV and offered up race- and gender-based attacks on Sotomayor, then turned around and expressed shock that other conservatives had gone so far as to call her a racist.

Now his group is running this ad:

In the spot, Sotomayor is compared to conservative bogeyman Bill Ayers, and is alleged to have "led a group supporting violent, Puerto Rican terrorists." Sotomayor was a Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund board member, and from there, I suppose, it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to leading a support group for terrorists. Early last month, Levey said he "underestimated the degree to which a few conservatives would say a few extreme things, and that would be characterized as what all conservatives think." Then his group made this ad.

As the two senators from Nevada, John Ensign and Majority Leader Harry Reid have an agreement not to criticize each other publicly, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Reid has publicly stayed mum on Ensign's affair and his decision to run for re-election in 2012. But Ensign claims he enjoys support from "both sides" of Senate leadership.

"These are the kinds of personal decisions that Senator Ensign will have to make," a spokesman for Reid told us yesterday, adding, "Reid is staying out of it."

McConnell also dodged, telling the Sun, "I think Sen. Ensign will have to speak to those issues himself."

How long can they go on in silence? From the Sun:

"There's a nervousness that maybe the full story has not been told," said a Republican strategist from Nevada. "Most people think there's another shoe to drop."

Yesterday we told you about how the conservative media sucked up to Mark Sanford's office by calling stories about the governor's disappearance overblown -- even while the gov was still AWOL.

But it looks like it wasn't just the acknowledged right-wingers who were denigrating the story to Sanford's aides. The State has written up a few more of the emails, and look what they found:

Read More →

President Obama's campaign arm, Organizing for America, has begun running television ads stressing the need for a health care system overhaul across the country, just as the reform debate on Capitol Hill reaches a crucial turning point. The ads will run on national cable channels, and locally in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.

Though the ads don't name any politicians, it's pretty clear from the placement that they're directed at conservative Democratic and moderate Republican congressmen and senators.

The ads come as the White House has begun to acknowledge that Congress--and particularly the Senate--is well behind schedule if it's to prepare a bill for the President's signature by mid-October. As for Obama himself, in the last two days, he's jumped into the legislative back and forth like at no other time since the push for health care reform began this spring. Since returning from a trip to Europe and Africa, he's met with Democratic leaders, and Blue dogs, and has urged key members of Congress to pick up the pace as August recess approaches.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) raised just over $1.7 million in the second quarter--not quite double his rival Joe Sestak's take--giving him about $7.5 million cash on hand going into the third quarter.

Sestak's shop was certainly prepared for this--Specter, after all, is being treated as an incumbent by the state and national Democratic parties. But, they say, things are fine. "Joe...has added more to his cash on hand this quarter than Arlen Specter," says campaign spokesman Joe Langdon.

And that seems to be true. Though he's taken in $1.7 million since last quarter, Specter's cash-on-hand has only increased by about $800,000 since April. Sestak's increased by slightly more than that, despite raising a lower haul of $1.2 million this quarter.

With that, they say, they raised enough money to get their message out and to viably challenge Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary.

The campaign Health Care for America Now is out with a statement in support of the House's reform proposal. "The House's legislation shows that achieving quality, affordable health care for all in 2009 is absolutely possible," says HCAN national campaign manager Richard Kirsch.

This bill will make health coverage more affordable both for those who have it through their job and for those who have to find coverage on their own. It builds on what works in our current health care system and starts the process of fixing what doesn't - including stopping health insurance companies from denying care based on pre-existing conditions.

The House bill includes key provisions like an exchange that includes both private insurance plans and a new public health insurance option and shared responsibility between individuals, employers, and government - key elements to achieving President Obama's goals of lowering costs, covering everyone, and keeping the insurance companies honest.

There's a risk, I suppose, in taking this too literally. After all, the most important provisions in the bill won't take effect until about 2013, and universal (or near-universal) coverage won't be reached until years after that. But reformers by and large are pleased with what the House has offered.

President Obama and Michelle Obama share a moment in the Green Room prior to the LGBT Pride Month reception in the White House.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama looks over some charts and graphs.

White House

President Obama meets with former White House Communications Director Ellen Moran and her family in the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama confers with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) in the State Dining Room following a discussion with members of Congress about immigration reform.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama meets with members of Congress for a roundtable discussion about immigration reform.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the front door of the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu walk through the Blue Room of the White House following the announcement of new energy standards.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama meets with actress Reese Witherspoon in the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama greets President Michelle Bachelet of Chile in the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama and Vice President Biden wait to be introduced before the Fatherhood Town Hall at the White House.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama stands with some of the celebrity dads participating in the Fatherhood Town Hall.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama walks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi backstage at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

Lawrence Jackson / White House

President Obama and Vice Joe Biden kick-off the Young Men's Barbeque on the South Lawn of the White House.

Lawrence Jackson / White House

The President meets with Rep. Barney Frank, (D-MA), Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-IL), and Sen. Chris Dodd, (D-CT), in the Green Room of the White House prior to a financial regulatory reform announcement.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama picks up the famous fly he swatted during an interview with CNBC's John Harwood.

Lawrence Jackson / White House

President Obama gives a fist-bump to personal aide Reggie Love in the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama meets with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the Oval Office.

Pete Souza / White House

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones, and other White House senior staff watch President Obama from the Colonnade during a press conference in the Rose Garden.

Pete Souza / White House

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watch as President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak speak at a press conference in the Rose Garden.

Chuck Kennedy / White House

Sonia Sotomayor, whom the President nominated to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, laughs with White House staff at her birthday party inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The White House Counsel's Office presented her with a framed, signed photograph of her with President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Johnny Simon / White House

WASP pilot Bernice Falk Haydu pulls back the chair of President Obama after he signed a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots. On the President's left is WASP pilot Elaine Danforth Harmon, and at his right is WASP pilot Lorraine H. Rodgers. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) stands at the President's far right, in green. Current US Air Force pilots stand in the background.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama stands next to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln while waiting to meet with President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia.

Pete Souza / White House

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk backstage before an event for the "United We Serve" service project at Washington D.C.'s Fort McNair.

Pete Souza / White House

Democrats and Republicans and their allies are reacting to the House's health care reform draft bill with predictable levels of support or opposition. Unions are supportive. With typical restraint, Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce says "Since when does our great free market country punish success? If there's one sure way to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, this is it."

But I'd like to highlight the statement of House Minority Leader John Boehner: "During a deep economic recession," Boehner says, "it is criminal malpractice for Democrats to push a government takeover of health care and a new small business tax that will destroy more American jobs."

Criminal malpractice, eh? Somewhat ironic from a proponent of tort reform. But he goes on. "House Republicans have offered a better health care alternative that will reduce costs, expand access, and let Americans who like their plans keep them - all without a job-killing small business tax."

You can read that four-page plan here if you'd like. But if you'd like me to save you the time, here's a hint: it would achieve universal health care and bend the cost curve downward through a familiar Republican grab bag of tax credits and magic.

In the most aggressive questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing thus far, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) read out a laundry list of complaints about the nominee this afternoon. Graham went through insult after insult from anonymous reviews about Sotomayor's temperament, including ones that called her "nasty," "a terror," "a bit of a bull," and one that said she lacks any "judicial temperament." Graham then asked her directly: "Do you think you have a temperament problem?" (Watch the video below.)

In response to that last question, Sotomayor said, "No, sir, I can only talk about what I know about my relationships...when I ask lawyers tough questions, it's to give them an opportunity to explain their positions on both sides and to persuade me that they're right."

Graham later said, "I never liked appearing in court before a judge I thought was a bully." Sotomayor repeated that she does ask hard questions, but she does it "evenly for both sides."

After voicing those complaints and telling Sotomayor that "maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection" for her, Graham became a bit of a bully himself, asking her if she remembered her "wise Latina" quote. When the judge answered in the affirmative, he asked her to recite it - twice. Sotomayor hedged a response, and Graham plowed ahead, said, "I've got it here," and read the quote out himself.

The infantilizing questioning from Graham continued throughout his entire thread; he interrupted her answers multiple times, and made a theme out of asking her to explain her understanding of certain legal concepts and current events:

Do you know what the term 'legal realism' means? Can you explain it?

On 9/11, which New York City native Sotomayor described as "the most horrific experience of my personal life and the most horrific experience in imagining the pain of the families of victims of that tragedy":

Do you know anything about the group that planned this attack, who they are and what they believe? Have you read anything about them?

It's worth noting what Graham's Supreme Court confirmation questioning was like back in 2006, at the hearings for Samuel Alito. He took his allotted time as an opportunity to apologize to Mrs. Alito, who was upset by what was perceived to be overly tough questioning of her husband:

As for Sotomayor, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said at a press conference after the hearings that the nominee best showed her temperament today, in how she calmly answered Graham's "barrage of questions."