INHOFE’S STANDARDS…. A whole lot of senators issued statements today in response to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, and most were polite and inconsequential. Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) press release, however, stood out.

“Without doubt, Judge Sotomayor’s personal life story is truly inspiring. I congratulate her on being nominated. As the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation process, I look forward to looking closer at her recent rulings and her judicial philosophy.

“Of primary concern to me is whether or not Judge Sotomayor follows the proper role of judges and refrains from legislating from the bench. Some of her recent comments on this matter have given me cause for great concern. In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.” [emphasis added]

Melinda Warner asked, “What does that even mean?” I’ve been wondering the same thing.

Inhofe, who no one has ever accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed, could have easily just made veiled references to Sotomayor’s ideology, and wrapped it up by hinting at his inevitable opposition to her nomination. But the Oklahoma Republican just had to go the extra mile here, and introduce race and gender into the equation.

Chances are, from Inhofe’s perspective, he wouldn’t want a Supreme Court justice who allowed one’s personal background to interfere with their legal judgment. But that’s not what he said — and it’s certainly not a standard he’s laid out for other high court nominees.

Put it this way: when was the last time James Inhofe questioned whether a white nominee for the federal bench had an ability to rule “without undue influence” from his race? Would he worry about the Vatican having “undue influence” over a Roman Catholic nominee? Has he ever checked to make sure a male nominee was not overly influenced by his gender?

The very idea, I suspect, would strike Inhofe as unnecessary, which is precisely the point. That it only occurs to him to ask this of Sotomayor, and not her contemporaries, reinforces the insulting double standard.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.