McCaskill fumbles the "incredible life story" meme

The White House has selected Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to serve on Sonia Sotomayor’s “sherpa” team in the Senate, introducing the nominee to McCaskill’s colleagues and advancing her case on Capitol Hill.  Barack Obama has to hope she does a better job this week than she did on Fox News this morning, after making not one but two big fumbles during her interview on Fox News this morning. First, she claimed that Sotomayor’s upbringing in poverty would provide a “unique” perspective on the current court, a fallacy the boss wasted no time in puncturing:

The Democrat senator went out to claim that the Supreme Court has no members who have grown up in poverty and overcome extreme hardships.

“That’s something new,” McCaskill argued.

No, actually, it’s not — as Justice Clarence Thomas detailed in his memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. Thomas grew up in fairly serious poverty without public housing, and also managed to make something of himself.

That wasn’t the most foolish part of the interview, however. When Fox News anchor Jane Skinner read the quote from Sotomayor about how a Latina woman would reach better legal conclusions than a white male, McCaskill showed that she hadn’t bothered to prepare at all for her new role:

MCCASKILL: I don’t think we should make this judge accountable for what other people have said. She has 400 published opinions, she has three decades in the law as a courtroom prosecutor, and —

SKINNER: Hold on [crosstalk]. I’m sorry, Senator, I just want to make this clear to our viewers. That’s what she said. I was reading a quote from her.

MCCASKILL: Oh, I [dropout] about her.

SKINNER: No, no, no. She made the statement, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences” — referring to herself, I assume — “would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Now Megyn Kelly earlier brought up the point to one of our guests; if a white man who was a nominee had said that, he would not have been confirmed, most likely.

MCCASKILL: I, I, I, you know, I think we need to get this context of those comments.

Oops! As for context, outside of a joke, is there any context which would mitigate that quote? Not to my mind. They may not be an absolute bar to confirmation, and probably won’t be, but it’s an embarrassing reliance on both identity politics and the rule of empathy over the rule of law.

Furthermore, this quote has been floating around for almost two weeks, ever since the New York Times included it deep within a profile of Sotomayor. Shouldn’t a sherpa have been prepared to answer that? It already looks like amateur hour with this appointment.

Update: The Anchoress has a good roundup going, with lots of updates, at her new blog at First Things.  It’s finally up and running, so be sure to check it out. Note: I originally worded this update poorly, and left the impression that First Things was her site.