Liberal Jonathan Turley: Sotomayor Lacks Intellectual Depth

Until yesterday, liberal law professor Jonathan Turley was generally hailed by the leftwing blogosphere for speaking "truth to power." However, now that same group is attacking Turley for speaking truth to MSNBC. Chris Matthews probably thought Turley would support Sonia Sotomayor's nomination right after it was announced. If so, he was in for a big surprise as you can see in this video clip. The same video also shows Turley making the same critique with David Shuster...and taking a swipe at justice Thurgood Marshall as well. First Turley blindsides Matthews with his completely unexpected criticism of Sotomayor:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Jonathan Turley, it seems to me that David Axelrod had a role in prepping her in the Justice for this occasion  because she made a very strong committment to the Founding Fathers sounding almost like a strict constructionist or a originial intention sort of person. What do you make of her genuflection to the Founding Fathers or the genius of the founding documents?

JONATHAN TURLEY: Well, I think that is a fairly standard line. You really have to do that. You're not going to have a nominee stand up and say "The first thing I do is get rid of the Founding Fathers." But I do think that there is a problem here when we talk about temperament and empathy.  You know, we are not selecting a house pet. We're selecting a Supreme Court justice and as an academic I have a certain bias. And that is does she have the intellectual throw weight to make a difference on the court? And I have to tell you the optics are better than the opinions in this case. I've read a couple of dozen of her opinions. They don't speak well to her being a nominee on the Supreme Court. She will be historic in many ways like Thurgood Marshall but I 'll remind you Thurgood Marshall was not a lasting intellectual force on the court. He was historic because he was first. And I think that a lot of academics are a little bit disappointed. I am in the sense that Diane Wood, Harold Coe, were not the ultimate people to prevail. These are people that are blazingly brilliant. They would have brought to the court intellects that would frame in the conceptual way. 

A pained and surprised Matthews replies with a quick defense of Sotomayor:

MATTHEWS:  Professor, can you imagine making that case in open hearings against the person who was summa cum laude at Princeton and who was editor at the Yale Law Review to come out and say they don't have the intellectual candle power? A minority woman especially. That's a tough case to make.

Turley responds with a painful political truth:

TURLEY:  You're right, Chris. It's very hard. It's very subjective. And frankly, a lot of academics are going to be timid because they don't want to be viewed as opposing her. But you will see some focus on the opinions. The Ricci Firefighter case. There's a case called "Grant" involves discrimination which are likely to cause controversy. But what we saw with the Bork nomination is that the party that controls the first 48 hours in these controversies tends to prevail and this is going to be a test for the GOP leadership. If they can't get hold of this in the next 48 hours, and I have to say this was a great start for the White House, they probably will prevail. 

Unlike Matthews, David Shuster had a heads up on Turley's contrary views on Sotomayor when the professor appeared with him on MSNBC:

DAVID SHUSTER:  Jonathan Turley has been watching today's developments along with us. He's also written about Sonia Sotomayor. He's a constitutional law professor at George Washington University School of Law. Jonathan, you wrote recently that "my main concern is the lack of intellectual depth in her past opinions." Explain what you what you mean by that?

TURLEY: I've read roughly about 30 of these opinions. She has a much larger library of opinions. But they are notable in one thing and that it's a lack of depth. There's nothing particularly profound in her past decisions. She's been a judge a long time. That's opposed to people like Judge Wood on the 7th Circuit and she was viewed as a real intellectual powerhouse. You really can't read the opinions of this nominee and say, "Oh yeah, this person is a natural choice for the Supreme Court." Now there have been suprises. Some justices sort of reached their speed and depth while on the court. Justice John Paul Stevens is an example. Even the first half of his career in decisions on the court were not particularly deep or profound but the second half is quite the opposite. So you can have people who open up on the court and as lower court judges they may be timid in that respect. But I have to say that liberals obviously are enjoying rightfully a certain short term elation with this twofer, a woman and a Latina, being put on the court. But in terms of long term satisfaction she does not naturally suggest that she is going to be the equal of Scalia and I think that was the model for liberals. They wanted someone who would shape the intellectual foundations of the court. Her past opinions do not suggest that she is like that. They actually suggest that she will be a great justice like Thurgood Marshall. She'll be the first Latina. But I'll remind you Thurgood Marshall's opinions did not have a lasting intellectual impact on the court.

SHUSTER: But even if there isn't a lasting intellectual impact that Sotomayor has on the court and that is obviously a big "if" isn't it possible that could come with the next pick or the one after and should that be much of a factor for anybody to consider?

TURLEY: I think it should be THE factor and unfortunately it's not.  The Senate does not really look at the intellectual depth of a nominee. They don't seem to feel comfortable with that type of inquiry. That should be the primary inquiry. I do believe it's wonderful to have a woman on the court. I think Diane Wood would have met all criteria. But ultimately questions about empathy and temperament are less important than whether this person is going to have a profound impact to help shape the court and this nominee really doesn't have a history to suggest that.

Turley's fellow liberals in the Blogosphere reacted quickly and angrily to his "heresy" in casting doubt on Sotomayor's qualifications. First the reaction from the Daily Kos where he was denounced as an embarrassment:

Jonathan Turley is an embarrassment!  Truly!

Turley throws crap out and yet fails to back it up with actual evidence.  I've listened to him since he was an "expert" in the hey day of environmental litigation in the '90s.  What he blathers on Olbermann or Maddow's shows, I could do -- superficial commentary without depth of analysis.  I get better talking points from reading diaries here.

He compared Sotomayor with Thurgood Marshal, saying that they are both intellectual lightweights, and were put on the SC strictly for their ethnic backgrounds.  Disgusting.

Turley is attacking a woman/minority by implying she's not the intellectual equal of her peers, implicitly suggesting she got the nomination as a result of affirmative action.

This was mild compared to the invective hurled at Turley at the sanity-challenged Democratic Underground

stupid f---ing idiot. Even Tweety looks stunned. Turley is saying she lacks the intellectual chops. 

OMG....Thurgood Marshall wasn't good enough for him? OMG!!! I knew he was an over-rated narcissist, but Thurgood Marshall???? Wow!

he sounds like a racist and sexist to me

Tuck Furley. 

And now Jonathan Turley is finding  out what happens when a member of the left veers in the slightest from the liberal Party Line. 

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.