Friday's front-page 2,300-word biography of Sonia Sotomayor, aka NYC's new favorite daughter, invited the Times' local readership to swoon along with Sonia: "To Get to Sotomayor's Core, Start in New York - Milestones in Work and Life, Set to a City's Rhythms."
The paper even used up huge chunks of its news section to providing a map of the five boroughs spotlighting how Sotomayor truly owned this town: Herfirst NYC apartment, her favorite pizza place in Brooklyn, and of course Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, home to her "beloved Yankees." And is there something uniquely New York-liberal-authentic about Sotomayor being nice to janitors?
The self-congratulation from the three reporters (writer Michael Powell, with reporting by Russ Buettner and Serge Kovaleski) seeped through and made you suspect the story was as much about them as Obama's Supreme Court nominee.
A daughter of the Bronx,Sonia Sotomayorclaims the Brooklyn Bridge as her power-walking trail, the specialty shops of Greenwich Village as her grocery store, and the United States Court House as the setting for her annual Christmas party, where judges and janitors spill into the hallway.
Her passions run toward theMetropolitan Operaand the ballet, not to mention her beloved Yankees. She eats with friends at Nobu in TriBeCa and works off calories on a treadmill in her bedroom. She is not a rollicking sort, her sense of humor coming in a minor key, yet she holds friendships dear and is godmother to the children of lawyers and secretaries alike.
In her success and disappointments, and in her attempts to balance her many commitments, Judge Sotomayor leads a life that many New Yorkers would find familiar. She revels in the city's kaleidoscopic spin even as her professional life is so consuming, at times even cloistered, that she has spoken of forgoing traditional markers of personal success, not the least of them children and marriage.
Like the savvy New Yorker she was, she gave tips to her green law clerks:
...she tutored them in the ways of New York. Don't take a cab; ride the subway, even if, as she said, "they pack you in like sardines." Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to eat pizza at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn Heights and try to dance salsa (she provided a teacher at parties). She attended their weddings and adorned her chamber shelves with photos of their babies. Judge Sotomayor, who has spoken of always wondering if she measures up, can hear herself in the nervous, stumbling words of a young clerk.
As the years passed, the Times transposed Sotomayor against the city's shifting cultural landmarks, like "The Warriors" and Woody Allen movies, although Sotomayor was apparently hard at work the entire time.
Mary Katharine Ham, blogging at the Weekly Standard, caught the self-congratulation in a detailed take-down of the Times, Sotomayor, and NYC-pseudo-sophistication that is well worth reading in full. Here's a bit of it:
In this profile, we find that Sonia is both everyman and Renaissance woman, who power-walks the Brooklyn Bridge and power-lunches in the village. Swoon. We are informed, in the first three paragraphs, that she throws Christmas parties "where judges and janitors spill into the hallway" and is "godmother to the children of lawyers and secretaries alike." (Aren't they executive assistants these days? But I digress.)
This is the kind of ostentatious, self-conscious bean-counting of the disadvantaged with which only urbane liberals can be comfortable, both in their personal lives and public policy. Are Sotomayor's relationships illustrative of her character? Sure, and they reveal she's a basically decent person (just like many federal judges - even some of the strict constructionists!). Unless, of course, Sotomayor approaches her relationships in the same way the New York Times reporter writes about them - collecting blue-collar chits and counting friends of color as karmic cool points.
Sotomayor, as we've been informed ad nauseam , has a compelling life story that started in a low-income, mostly single-parent Puerto Rican home in the Bronx. It is not at all surprising that she has connections with both the community she came from and the tony world to which she rose. One would hope that she treats those relationships with more authenticity than the reporter, who paints them into gauche, low-income caricatures on the progressive tableau of Sotomayor's life. (Oh, look dahling! She was kind enough to invite the janitors. How delightfully real and tolerant and New York of her.)
Sotomayor herself even becomes a caricature in the hands of the writer, so very anxious is he to inform you of both her superiority as a woman of color steeped in the grit and culture of the City of New York , and by extension (and perhaps more importantly), his liberal superiority in recognizing her as such.