Sonia Sotomayor

1) A caller to the Rush Limbaugh Show made the point that he could not recall a case of a Democrat appointed or elected to a political position thanking the welfare state for helping them. Rather, they have stories of families coming together. Then, they try to get into office to put more of the welfare state on others.

2) I heard a commentator on NPR commenting on Sotomayor's terrific personal story. It reminded me of an exchange between Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

"I just want to remind you, Mr. Secretary, that a lot of us were here before you came," said Byrd, 84. "And with all due respect to you, you're not Alexander Hamilton," the nation's first treasury secretary.

O'Neill, 66, paused to gather himself at the witness table, then answered in a voice quivering with indignation.

"I've dedicated my life to doing what I can to get rid of rules that limit human potential," he said. "And I'm not going to stop."

Byrd repeatedly said that he, and not O'Neill, a former chairman of Alcoa, had been elected by voters.

"They're not CEOs of multibillion-dollar corporations," Byrd said of the voters. "They can't just pick up the phone and call a Cabinet secretary. In time of need, they come to us, the people come to us."

O'Neill, who grew up poor in St. Louis, Mo., snapped back:

"I started my life in a house without water or electricity. So I don't cede to you the high moral ground of not knowing what life is like in a ditch."

"Well, Mr. Secretary," Byrd responded, "I lived in a house without electricity, too, no running water, no telephone, a little wooden outhouse." He was raised by his aunt and uncle in West Virginia's coal country.