Sotomayor Pick a Product of Lessons From Past Battles





In the months leading up to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s selection this week, the White House methodically labored to apply lessons from years of nomination battles to control the process and avoid the pitfalls of the past, like appearing to respond to pressure from the party’s base or allowing candidates to be chewed up by friendly fire.

The selection process for Mr. Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination brought together a group that had been thinking about this moment for a long time, from a president who taught constitutional law to a vice president who voted on the confirmation of every member of the current court. Sitting in the room were advisers like Ronald A. Klain and Cynthia Hogan, who have been involved in nomination fights going back to Clarence Thomas.

Even before Justice David H. Souter publicly announced nearly four weeks ago that he was retiring, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff who lived through two nominations during Bill Clinton’s presidency, commissioned a strategy memorandum from Mr. Klain intended to dictate the process. Secrecy was paramount. As the decision neared, aides disguised meetings on the subject even on the president’s internal schedule by blocking out time under the label “Chief of Staff Strategy.”

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