Slate's Political Gabfest for May 29.

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
May 29 2009 3:49 PM

The Hermit Kingdom Goes Nuclear Podcast

Listen to Slate's review of the week in politics.

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Listen to the Gabfest for May 29 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.Get your free 14-day trial membership of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audiobook, here. This week's recommendation comes from listener Cecilia Gaposchkin, who suggests The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by Cassandra Campbell, Jenna Lamia, Octavia Spencer, and Bahni Turpin. The story of two black women working as help in the homes of two white women in 1960s Jackson, Miss., The Help is a fantastic tale, and this reading of it is mind-blowing, according to Cecilia.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week: Obama makes a Supreme Court nomination, Proposition 8 is upheld by California's high court, and the Hermit Kingdom goes nuclear again.

President Obama announced Sonia Sotomayor, currently a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, as his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat that David Souter is vacating. The Gabbers think the nomination is a savvy political move, and it isn't clear how Republicans will be able to attack her. Of the two upcoming dramas accompanying the Supreme Court fight, the artificial one will likely be the actual approval of Sotomayor, because in addition to the 59 Democrats in the Senate, eight Republicans currently in the Senate voted for Sotomayor's confirmation to the 2nd Circuit. The interest-group battle will be more spirited, leading to discussions of race, gender, and class. Conservatives are already hyperventilating over Sotomayor's perceived radicalism, while liberals' concern about her minimal record on abortion led to rapid reassurances from the White House. The ruling that may receive the greatest consideration, though, is Sotomayor's opinion in a case recently argued before the Supreme Court: Ricci v. DeStefano. Emily questioned Sotomayor's seemingly perfunctory ruling in an article this week as part of Slate's ongoing coverage of the Sotomayor nomination and continues to explain the case on the Gabfest using terms like disparate impact, reliance interest, and summary judgment. Republicans have also questioned a line in a 2001 speech at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law that Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have both decried as racist. However, studies have demonstrated that female judges do rule differently in sex discrimination cases, and Sotomayor's statement is more anodyne when taken in context.

California's Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage in California that was passed as a ballot initiative in November 2008. The argument for overturning Proposition 8 in court was rather weak, but supporters of gay marriage won a minor victory with the ruling that the 18,000 marriages already performed would stand. David argues that there will certainly be another referendum in 2010 to legalize gay marriage, and he thinks it will succeed. In the interim, former Bush v. Gore opponents Ted Olson and David Boies have filed suit in federal court in Northern California in an attempt to establish a right to gay marriage, but gay rights groups have labeled that attempt premature. Like commenters on Daily Kos, David believes their joint effort is driven by ego.

North Korea tested a second nuclear weapon, the latest in a long line of provocative action by that country. The test and the subsequent tensions are a major challenge for the Obama administration's policy of engagement with North Korea. However, the alternatives are relatively limited. After seeing rare photographs from North Korea in Foreign Policy, John describes it as a massive human experiment, hermetically sealed from the rest of the world. However, the prospect of nuclear proliferation via North Korean arms sales is a real and more frightening threat.

David chatters about a series of articles to be published in Slatenext week. Daniel Engber will examine how the kidnapping of a Dalmatian in 1965 led to the animal rights movement and the first legislation protecting animal rights. (Update, June 1: Read the first entry of the series here, and discuss it on Facebook here.)

Emily chatters about another Sotomayor decision, Jocks v. Tavernier, in which Sotomayor unexpectedly sided with law enforcement and persuaded a conservative colleague to join her opinion. Emily wrote about this fascinating ruling as part of her exploration of the Supreme Court nominee.

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John chatters about the controversy in Canada, where Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean ate raw seal heart as part of an Inuit ceremony. Her actions outraged animal rights activists and some in the European Union but won her praise from the Inuit.