Obama legal adviser confirms he wrote letter trashing Sotomayor, tries to backtrack from criticism

Yesterday, I blogged about the disclosure of a letter from one of President Obama’s top legal advisers, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who very bluntly urged his former student not to nominate eventual Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor to the court. “She’s not nearly as smart as she seems to think she is,” Tribe had written.

In an article published today, the Wall Street Journal confirmed with Tribe that he did write the letter, revealed first by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan at National Review, and quoted an email from Tribe distancing himself from his criticism of Sotomayor:

In an emailed comment, Mr. Tribe sought to back away from his criticism.

The “reservations I expressed about Justice Sotomayor prior to her appointment were amply refuted by the closer study I was later able to give her record and that have been fully negated by her performance as a justice,” Mr. Tribe said.

In his email Thursday, Mr. Tribe said: “I’ve long held Justices Breyer and Kennedy in the highest regard, both as friends and as jurists, and I certainly regret any contrary implication.”

Jesse Choper, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Mr. Tribe’s assessment of the court’s internal dynamics was consistent with what other observers of the court have noted.

While Justice Breyer “is trying to occupy a role counter to Scalia,” he lacks the outsize personality that made liberals such as Chief Justice Earl Warren or the late Justice William Brennan so influential, said Mr. Choper, a former clerk to Chief Justice Warren.

Maybe it’s just me but there seems to be an eerie similarity between Choper’s comment and an argument we’ve heard in another context–talk radio.  We’re constantly hearing how liberal talk radio can’t succeed because it is overly intellectual and it takes too long for hosts to articulate their intelligent philosophies to the public, in contrast to the alleged bumper-sticker philosophy of conservative talk radio hosts.

Who’d have know that apparently liberal judges have the same problem? SAT preppers take note: Rush Limbaugh is to Antonin Scalia as Ed Schultz is to Stephen Breyer.

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