Transcript: Sens. Chuck Schumer and John Cornyn

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we'll be doing that. Gentlemen, thank you both very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to go straight to the roundtable. So as our panelists take their seats, take a look at how two other Supreme Court firsts grappled with the question of how their personal experience affected their professional judgment.


SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Looking back over time, I can't see that on the issues that we address at the court, that a wise old woman is going to decide a case differently than a wise old man. I just don't think that's the case.

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: There's so many people now who will make judgments based on what you look like. I'm black, so I'm supposed to think a certain way, I'm supposed to have certain opinions. I don't do that. You don't create a box and put people in and then make a lot of generalizations about them.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And with that, let me bring in our roundtable. Joined, as always, by George Will; our Supreme Court correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg; Ed Gillespie, veteran of the Bush White House, where you helped both Justice Alito and Justice Roberts in their confirmation hearings; Paul Krugman of the New York Times, and Gwen Ifill of PBS.

And, George, it does seem like the central question right now, to what extent should and do personal experiences, feelings, instincts affect judgment in the court?

WILL: Hard to say. The question is not are they important, but is there a judicial obligation, is it part of the judicial temperament to keep those in the background? The question is, she seems to have affirmed what's called identity politics, which is a main proposition and a subproposition. The main proposition is, that an American is or should be thought of as his or her race, ethnicity, sex, sexual preference, that that should define their political identity. And the subproposition is, called categorical representation. You can only be represented by someone of the same sexual, ethnic, racial group as you are, because only they can understand or empathize with you. That is of no relevance whatever to the court, however, because it's not a representative institution.

IFILL: I guess I see it differently. I mean, I've spent the past year talking to a lot of people, who got elected, elected -- black elected officials for a book, and all of them talked about identity politics and defined it differently. They defined it as being -- that being part of what you are, but not all of what you are. And I think that's what the defenders of Sonia Sotomayor are trying to say, which is that her point was, yes, what she is and what we all are shapes us, but it's not all that shapes you.

I always take arguments like this and try to turn them on their heads. And I never hear people say that for a white male, that it's identity politics if he is shaped by his white maleness and by the things that affected his life, and whether privilege affected his life. That's never considered to be a negative. It's only considered to be a negative when ethnicity is involved or race is involved or gender is involved.

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