WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama pressed the Senate anew Saturday to swiftly confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, expressing confidence that efforts to scuttle her nomination will fail despite intensified scrutiny.
"I am certain that she is the right choice," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address in which he scolded critics who he said were trying to distort her record and past statements. Those include her 2001 comment that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge.
With the Senate returning next week from recess, Obama said he hopes it begins the confirmation process without delay and he expects his nominee to be on the bench when the Supreme Court begins its new term in October.
In the interim, Obama said he expects "rigorous evaluation" of his nominee but added: "What I hope is that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this process, and Congress, in the past."
He derided "some in Washington who are attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games, pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture of Judge Sotomayor's record."
"But I am confident that these efforts will fail," Obama added, "because Judge Sotomayor's 17-year record on the bench - hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself - speak far louder than any attack; her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased and dedicated to the rule of law."
On Friday, Obama personally sought to deflect criticism about Sotomayor's comment in a 2001 lecture that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
The quote in question from Sotomayor has emerged as a rallying call for conservative critics who fear she will offer opinions from the bench based less on the rule of law and more on her life experience, ethnicity and gender. That issue is likely to play a central role in her Senate confirmation process.
"I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.
Obama also defended his nominee, saying her message was on target even if her exact wording was not.
"I think that when she's appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is," Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate.
A veteran federal judge, Sotomayor is poised to be the first Hispanic, and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court She appears headed for confirmation, needing a majority vote in a Senate, where Democrats have 59 votes. But White House officials also want a smooth confirmation, not one that bogs down them or their nominee.
As a senator, Obama supported a failed attempt by Democrats to stall President George W. Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the high court.
Associated Press writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.