At the heart of those questions is another one, which has ignited a debate among legal scholars, advocates and members of Congress. Did the hearings reveal a true absence of liberal ideas in the 55-year-old judge President Obama chose to fill his first Supreme Court vacancy? Or did they reflect sheer political pragmatism by someone, coached by White House staff members and following the model of other recent nominees, seeking to maximize support by avoiding controversy?One liberal Senator, however, gloated that what you saw won't be what you get with Justice Sotomayor:
Either way, Sotomayor's reticence, if not her nomination, has disappointed legal thinkers on the left. The hearings "did serious damage to the cause of progressive thought in constitutional law," said Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago Law School professor who was dean there when Obama joined its faculty. Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal think tank, called them "a totally missed opportunity. . . . The progressive legal project hit rock bottom [last] week."
And Cardin [D-MD], who announced on Friday that he will vote for Sotomayor, said he is encouraged by her judicial record and her private conversations before the hearings. When she came to his office, Cardin said, he told her he is concerned about civil rights issues. The nominee smiled, he recalled, and told him his concerns were "refreshing."Two predictions: