Ron Fournier, code breaker

RON FOURNIER, CODE BREAKER…. Americans can tune into Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings and watch the various players involved in the process make their case.

Apparently, though, viewers may be inclined to simply hear the words people speak without an appreciation for hidden subtexts. Ron Fournier, the AP’s Washington bureau chief, has such a keen ear, he can practically read the judge’s and the senators’ minds.

In the polite, white-hot world of confirmation hearings, senators and witnesses can’t always say what they want to say. So they speak in code. Here’s a translation of what was said in the opening moments of the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings, and what the players actually meant….

So, for example, the audience heard Sotomayor thank her family this morning, and tell the Judiciary Committee, “If I introduced every one that’s family, we’d be here all morning.” Sounds like a person who appreciates her large family? Not to Fournier, who re-interprets the comment for the rest of us: “I may not look like all of you but, trust me, I’m no different than every other family-loving American. I’m surrounded by people who love me.”

Now, a normal person may think Fournier’s code-breaking bears no resemblance to reality — Sotomayor didn’t even hint about looking different than the committee members — but that’s only because a normal person can’t read minds like the AP’s Washington bureau chief.

Similarly, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said nobody should demonize “this extraordinary woman, her success or her understanding of the duties she’s faithfully performed the last 17 years.” A reference to Sotomayor’s lengthy record as a respected jurist? Not to Fournier, who re-interprets Leahy’s comment this way: “Criticize Sotomayor at your own risk. Don’t be sexist.”

I get the sense that this is a “code” that only Fournier understands.