Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Republicans would be crazy to attack Judge Sotomayor ... but they'll probably do it anyway
Would the Republican Party, already shrinking away to nothingness under the weight of a demographic tsunami, dare to oppose what would be the first Hispanic and only the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court? Would they risk alienating the multiple interest groups who will be galvanized by the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, including not only Latinos and women, but also Catholics (not to mention New Yorkers and Yankees fans...?) The short answer is no, they wouldn't, unless of course they are collectively insane. And yet, the arguments against Judge Sonia Sotomayor are already gathering, and none of them is helpful ... to the GOPI:

1. She's "temperamental." Not that anyone knows what that means, but Media Matters caught the neocons at TNR attacking Sotomayor without even pretending to do anything more journalistically rigorous than quoting random people who clearly aren't fond of her. Unfortunately for the right, attacking Judge Sotomayor's "temperament" will ring awfully familiar, and not in a good way, in the ears of women, who are used to hearing their strength conviction read by some old school dudes as a tendancy toward tantrums.

2. She doesn't like white people. Righties have already begun dissecting Sotomayor's membership in Hispanic organizations at Princeton and her general empathy for fellow Latinos as somehow disqualifying. John Perazzo wrote ominously in Front Page Magazine about one of those membership organizations:
The other group to which Sotomayor belonged, Princeton’s Third World Center (TWC), was established in 1971 “to provide a social, cultural and political environment that reflects the needs and concerns of students of color at the University.” A 1978 Princeton publication explained that the TWC had arisen chiefly to address the fact that “the University’s cultural and social organizations have largely been shaped by students from families nurtured in the Anglo-American and European traditions,” and that consequently “it has not always been easy for students from different backgrounds to enter the mainstream of campus life.”
Oooh ... sounds subversive ... The other knock on Sotomayor in the race case is the case of Ricci v. DeStefano, the now infamous New Haven firefighter case that raises the specter of affirmative action, "reverse discrimination," and more bluntly, black guys taking white guys' job opportunities away (or in this case, the government doing it.) Sotomayor, who ruled against the white firefighters who filed a discrimination suit after a test they passed was thrown out because from the City of New Haven's perspective, not enough minorities passed, was featured in a Willie Horton style web ad claiming she "didn't give a fair shake to firefighters not promoted on the basis of race." Personally, I think that the city of New Haven was wrong to throw out that test because they didn't like the demographics of the passing scores. But going after Sotomayor on the basis of this racially charged case will only make Republicans look hostile in the eyes of Black and Brown people, something they need no more of at this stage.

3. She's a token. Apparently, Justice Antonin Scalia has been heard to opine that “the next nominee to the Court will be a female Protestant Hispanic”. Funny stuff, Nino. And expect more wingers to complain that Sotomayor is not a white guy, and was selected by the other non-white guy wingers loathe (Barack Obama) on that basis. But again, conservatives do themselves no favors by attacking the fastest growing ethnic and voter group in the nation, in order to placate the dwindling number of Angry White Men, all of whom already vote Republican.

4. She's an "activist judge," (which is code for, she's a liberal.) For this one, the righties say they have videotaped evidence, namely a talk Sotomayor gave at Duke University in which she dared to say this:
“All of the Legal Defense Funds out there — they’re looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is — Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don’t “make law,” I know. [audience laughter] Okay, I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it. I’m, you know. [audience laughter]”
To this I'd have to say, so what? The judge properly asserted that the courts don't make law. But she was guilty of a bit of "truthiness," in that in many ways, our courts do set policy. From Brown v. Board, which undid racial separation in schools, to Roe v. Wade, which clearly altered national policy on abortion. Like it or not, courts, by interpreting the laws made by legislators, do in effect, make policy. Today, for instance, the California Supreme Court will decide if voters in that state had the right to decide that state's marriage laws. As inartful as Sotomayor's statement about the power of our court system was, it was in essence, true, and hardly disqualifying. Besides, since the right has already charicterized Barack Obama as a Marxist, I'm not sure there's room to place Sotomayor much to his left.

Most importantly, Judge Sotomayor is bringing a heavyweight resume to the table: 17 years on the federal bench, educated at Princeton and Yale, editor of the Yale Law Review (President Harvard Law Review had to love that), not to mention her incredible life story, rising from the projects in the South Bronx to potentially, the highest court in the land. Given her qualifications, and her back story, the right bears a hell of a lot at risk in potentially attacking this nominee. Whether they do it anyway will tell you a lot about the mental state of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Meanwhile, the GOP has tried to stop Sotomayor's ascent before, namely, back in 1998:
Senate Republican staff aides said Trent Lott of Mississippi, the majority leader, has agreed to hold up a vote on the nomination as part of an elaborate political calculus; if she were easily confirmed to the appeals court, they said, that would put her in a position to be named to the Supreme Court. And Senate Republicans think that they would then have a difficult time opposing a Hispanic woman who had just been confirmed by the full Senate.

''Basically, we think that putting her on the appeals court puts her in the batter's box to be nominated to the Supreme Court,'' said one senior Republican staff aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ''If Clinton nominated her it would put several of our senators in a real difficult position.''
At that time, Pat Leahy described Republican opposition to her this way:
'Their reasons are stupid at best and cowardly at worst,'' he said.

''What they are saying is that they have a brilliant judge who also happens to be a woman and Hispanic, and they haven't the guts to stand up and argue publicly against her on the floor,'' Senator Leahy said. ''They just want to hide in their cloakrooms and do her in quietly.''
Let's see who's hiding in the cloakrooms this time.

Cross-posted at Open Salon.

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