MADELEINE BRAND, host:
For more on today's economic news and some of the other political stories this week, we're joined by two people who write and talk about politics here in Southern California. And once again, we've given our regular commentators David Brooks and E.J. Dionne the week off. We're joined instead by Pilar Marrero she's political editor and columnist for La Opinion, that's a Spanish-language daily newspaper. Also with us, Roger Hedgecock. He was mayor of San Diego, now he hosts a daily political talk show. Welcome to both of you.
Ms. PILAR MARRERO (Editor, Columnist, La Opinion): Thank you.
Mr. ROGER HEDGECOCK (Former Mayor, San Diego): Thank you.
BRAND: All right, so let's talk first about the economy and how that reflects on President Obama. He spoke today after a new Quinnipiac University poll shows his job approval rating dropping to 50 percent, as Americans are little worried about his handling of the economy and of his handling over health care. Do you think his polling numbers will go up, that people will go back to supporting him in greater numbers with this economic news? And let's start with you Roger Hedgecock.
Mr. HEDGECOCK: I don't think so and James Carville doesn't either. He's got a poll out today that indicates that on the economy, on cap-and-trade, on health care, people are saying to this president slow up. Thinks are going too fast. There's too many uncertainties. In Peggy Noonan's words today in the Wall Street Journal, you're terrifying us. There is a great deal of fear now because of the economy, and it branches out to fear of what Congress is doing with these thousand-page bills that they don't read and hurry through in the middle of the day. So I think, Madeleine, that there's a great deal of fear and uncertainty and it has not gotten better.
Ms. MARRERO: Well, there are some indications that the economy is getting better that, you know, we saw the unemployment numbers today slightly better. Housing, you know, prices still in a bad shape, you know, sales are getting better. This, you know, the economists will tell you that people will not feel comfortable and they will not start spending money unless they see unemployment really stopping and slowing down, and now we - today we have some good news. I mean, this is not something that you want fixed in six months. And I think people are mindful of that. But, you know, obviously they're feeling the pain of unemployment, you know, I know a lot of people who are still losing their homes and still not found employment and - but there's a little bit of a sense of hope because of some economic indicators we're seeing right now.
BRAND: Mm-hmm. Okay. Let's change tack a little bit and talk about the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She'll be the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice and this is a political victory for the president. However, all but nine of the Senate's 40 Republicans voted against her and I'm wondering, Pilar, from your perspective, will this comeback to haunt Republicans later on - Republicans who may need the Hispanic vote?
Ms. MARRERO: Well, we saw recent numbers saying that most Latinos were taking pride on Sonia Sotomayor being appointed - nominated to the Supreme Court. You know, there's been a lot of talk about, you know, whether Latinos wanted somebody to be appointed for affirmative action. They did not want that. They wanted somebody who was qualified. And she obviously was qualified. I think Republicans are not doing well among Latinos anyway. And this is only just hurting them a little bit more even, you know, their former friend, John McCain from Arizona, expressed, you know, reservations about her, even as he accepted that she was qualified. Basically, it was political opposition and that's how Latinos are seeing it.
BRAND: And I'm wondering, Roger, you saw Senator Mel Martinez resigning today and he voted - he was one of the few who did vote for her. What does that say to you?
Ms. MARRERO: That's, you know, the fact that this he's announcing his early resignation that the day after he voted for Sotomayor, you know, he has warned his own party in public before, about - try to stop some of these extreme right wing attacks on immigrants and Latinos in general…
BRAND: Let's get Roger, let's get Roger.
Ms. MARRERO: …he hasn't been heard by his party.
BRAND: Pilar, let's go Roger in here because I'd like to get his perspective on what this means for Republicans?
Mr. HEDGECOCK: I think it will turn out that Senator Martinez has resigned for personal and family reasons unrelated to this issue. Judge Sotomayor is definitely qualified, the opposition votes were to her philosophy. It's not an identity-politics issue. It's not a qualifications issue. It's not a racial issue. What it is, is opposition to an appointment of a person who has expressed very clearly the kinds of philosophies on the bench that most Republicans do not agree with. They don't want activist judges. They want judges who apply the Constitution to the laws made by the political activists in Congress. So this vote should not have an impact on any American who believes that judges ought not to be activists. So I don't, you know, I kind of reject the identity-politics angle here.
BRAND: But what about the political angle? Because of the nine Republicans who crossed party lines to back her, four of them are retiring and don't need to worry about the political implications?
Mr. HEDGECOCK: It maybe that there's a - it maybe there's a concern about -among Republicans about the vote from the standpoint of continuing to insist that the judges be non-partial judges - referees, umpires, not activists and lawmakers. I think that the Republicans who went over to vote for Sotomayor were impressed by her qualifications, her background and certainly her incredible life story and admire - admirers of that. But from a political standpoint, the Republican Party does not like judges like this, regardless of where they come from or what their background is.
Ms. MARRERO: Well several of them mentioned expressly in their statements that looking at her records, she was not a judicial activist. That she, in fact, was a person who balanced the fact and the law before making decisions. They were objecting to something she said in a speech that was interpreted in a way that I think most people will not interpret that way.
BRAND: This is the wise Latina comment.
Ms. MARRERO: Yeah, the wise Latina comment, which, you know, it's not the way she has judged. It's not the way she has conducted herself in the over 3,000 cases she has decided. And several Republicans accepted that.
BRAND: I guess I'm just wondering though if there will be a political price to pay in 2010 or later.
Ms. MARRERO: Probably no, I mean, this is…
Mr. HEDGECOCK: Well was there a political price that…
Ms. MARRERO: …this is probably not the not the most important issue for Latinos. You know, the Latinos are the most - probably most worried the economy also…
Ms. MARRERO: …as everybody else is. So, you know, this is probably one thing that will be in their minds but not the foremost thing, I don't think.
BRAND: And Roger?
Mr. HEDGECOCK: I don't think the Democrats, Madeleine, paid a price for what they did to Miguel Estrada in a very contentious, much more contentious, hearing than was held for Judge Sotomayor. Miguel Estrada was savaged by the Democratic Party. They paid no price for whatsoever in the Hispanic community.
BRAND: Okay, we'll have to leave it at that. Thank you very much. Roger Hedgecock, a radio talk show host based in San Diego, and Pilar Marrero, political editor and columnist for the Spanish-language daily La Opinion.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.