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David Axelrod went on CNN this afternoon to talk up Sonia Sotomayor's stellar legal experience -- and to point out the record of her most prominent critic:



"And for people like Rush Limbaugh, and I don't know what he -- you know, he has his own experiences with the law," said Axelrod. "Maybe he makes his own judgments based on that."

It's worth remembering that the White House really likes focusing on Rush Limbaugh as an opponent in any debate. This is yet another example.

A new CNN poll shows just how tricky the debate over health care really is. People are all for expanded coverage and greater government involvement -- right up until they have to face the tradeoffs.

"In general, would you favor or oppose a program that would increase the federal government's influence over the country's health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans?" Americans favor government intervention in the health system by 69%-29%.

"In general, would you favor or oppose a program that would increase the federal government's influence over the health care you and your family receive in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans?" When it involves their own care and their families, approval is still high, but a bit lower: 63%-36%.

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Newt Gingrich does not seem to be deterred by the new message of the Republican leadership, such as Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), that he and Rush Limbaugh should stop calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist.

Gingrich has now sent out a fundraising e-mail, asking for help to send blast faxes to every member of the Senate demanding that the Sotomayor nomination be defeated. He even says that she shouldn't even get a vote in the Senate, but should just have to withdraw.

Gingrich warns that all of American civilization is at stake here. "If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept that conclusion," he writes. "It is simply un-American. There is no room on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for this worldview."

Joe Hoeffel, a former congressman, and Sen. Arlen Specter's 2004 general election rival, has come out for Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) in the likely Democratic primary.

"If Joe Sestak runs in the primary, I will support him," Hoeffel told the Daily Times of Delaware County. "I admire him very much and think he will be a strong candidate for whatever he runs for, including reelection."

Hoeffel's a well known and popular figure in Pennsylvania politics, and his endorsement could give Sestak some early, and helpful momentum.

Via Taegan Goddard.

The White House is now walking back Sonia Sotomayor's statement from 2001 that she would hope a wise Latina woman could reach better conclusions in some cases than a white male, which was meant to be a point about how people's life experiences can affect their judgments.



At today's press briefing, Robert Gibbs said: "I've not talked specifically with her about this, but I think that -- I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging."

He later added, "I think if she had the speech to do all over again, I think she'd change that word," citing discussions with other people as his source.

Over at TPMDC, we posted video of a speech given Wednesday night by Sen. Carl Levin, in which he pushed back against Dick Cheney's no-middle-ground approach to torture.

But one specific rebuttal of Levin's that particularly stood out, in part because not enough people have challenged Cheney's claim, comes at the 3:53 mark.

Says Levin:

When former Vice President Cheney said last week that what happened at Abu Ghraib was the work of a quote few sadistic prison guards acting on their own, he bore false witness.

And when he said last week there was no link between the techniques at Abu Ghraib and those approved for use in the CIA's secret prisons, he again strayed from the truth.

The seeds of Abu Ghraib's rotten fruit were sown by civilians at the highest levels of our government.


Hard to put it better than that.

Watch:

The Sotomayor nomination has become an occasion for Pat Buchanan to refocus on his main political cause: The endangered, persecuted white male.

On MSNBC today, Buchanan sad that Sonia Sotomayor believes in advancing minorities at the expense of white men -- and so does President Obama:



"But I do agree that Sonia Sotomayor, she does believe in race-based justice -- basically at the expense of white males, to advance people of color," said Buchanan. "But the truth is, that's what Barack Obama believes, as well."

Later on, the discussion about the New Haven firefighters case got pretty heated. "And these firefighters are gonna win it," Buchanan exclaimed, "and that woman was takin' away their rights because they were white!"

So let's try and keep track. First Barack Obama said he wanted his Supreme Court nominee to bring a quality of empathy to the bench. Then he picked Sonia Sotomayor, who claimed to embody this quality. Then Republicans and movement conservatives alike launched a possibly ill-advised war on empathy (at least as it applies to Supreme Court nominees).

Now, though, it seems most recent Republican Supreme Court picks are, or claim to be, pretty empathic creatures themselves. There's Samuel Alito, and Sandra Day O'Connor, and now, it turns out, Clarence Thomas.

And I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does. You know, on my current court I have occasion to look out the window that faces C Street, and there are converted buses that bring in the criminal defendants to our criminal justice system, bus load after bus load. And you look out and you say to yourself, and I say to myself almost every day, "But for the grace of God there go I."


Unfortunately for conservatives, though, this laughably transparent double standards has forced many on the right to up the ante, calling Sotomayor a racist, while making an issue of her race and gender. And it's creating some problems for them.

Rush Limbaugh is now comparing the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the idea of nominating David Duke:



"She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court," Limbaugh said, later adding: "How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive."

Late Update: At the White House press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs was asked about the David Duke comparison and what Sotomayor would think of it. Gibbs searched for the words to answer the absurdity of it: "I don't think you have to be the nominee to -- (laughs) -- I don't think you have to be the nominee to find what's said today offensive." After noting that other Republicans have been condemning this kind of rhetoric, he said of the Ku Klux Klan comparisons: "It's amazing."

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

• CNN, State Of The Union: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy.

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