Pat, the Sons of Confederate Veterans member and jovial face of the white power movement, has written a new piece for Human Events (the desperate right wing magazine that keeps filling my in-box with pleas for money and conspiracy theories about how the U.S. Postal Service is out to destroy them.) And this one goes right after the heart of the Angry White Man, with arguments that are straight out of the 1980s. In short: Pat Buchanan believes that Judge Sonia Sotomayor didn't really graduate first in her class ... anywhere. She stole the first place finishes of some downtrodden white guy. Read on:
Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that, to get up to speed on her English skills at Princeton, Sotomayor was advised to read children's classics and study basic grammar books during her summers. How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of "Chicken Little" and "The Troll Under the Bridge"?
After ridiculing Sotomayor's English speaking ability, Pat gets to his real point:
In video clips dating back 25 years, and now provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sotomayor, according to the Times, even calls herself an "affirmative action product."
"The clips include lengthy remarks about her experiences as an 'affirmative action baby,' whose lower test scores were overlooked by admissions committees at Princeton University and Yale Law School because, she said, she is Hispanic and had grown up in poor circumstance."
"If we had gone through the traditional numbers route of those institutions," says Sotomayor, "it would have been highly questionable if I would have been accepted. ... My test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates."
Thus, Sotomayor got into Princeton, got her No. 1 ranking, was whisked into Yale Law School and made editor of the Yale Law Review -- all because she was a Hispanic woman. And those two Ivy League institutions cheated more deserving students of what they had worked a lifetime to achieve, for reasons of race, gender or ethnicity.
This is bigotry pure and simple. To salve their consciences for past societal sins, the Ivy League is deep into discrimination again, this time with white males as victims rather than as beneficiaries.
Pat concludes with the following bit of irony:
Lay out the Sotomayor record -- SAT scores, LSAT scores, bar exam score, law review articles and her opinions -- so that we can see up close what those who eviscerated Robert Bork regard as academic and judicial excellence.
No need for name-calling.
Well, no need for name calling after we give Pat a Mulligan for calling Sotomayor "Miss Affirmative Action..." The NYT article in question contains the following:
... Judge Sotomayor insisted that her test scores were sub-par — “though not so far off the mark that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions.” Her scores have not been made public. “With my academic achievement in high school, I was accepted rather readily at Princeton and equally as fast at Yale, but my test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates,” she said. “And that’s been shown by statistics, there are reasons for that. There are cultural biases built into testing, and that was one of the motivations for the concept of affirmative action to try to balance out those effects.”
... which Pat takes to mean that she scored lower than the required minimums to get into those colleges.
Well, as a former 4.0 high school student who scored in the 95th percentile nationally on the SAT (and the 98th percentile on the PSAT), and who then was admitted to Harvard, probably in part because they wanted the diversity of having a Black first generation American from the West (Colorado) on campus (in fact, we were told that they balanced our dorm assignments based in part on achieving such diversity...) let me assure you, Pat, that Ivy League colleges DO have a minimum test score requirement (at least for those whose parents and grandparents didn't attend the schoolo.) And as this issue of whether or not we belonged at the school came up almost immediately, in the first class I took at Harvard ("Ec-10," the Martin Feldstein economics course...) we did some checking around the Yard. And it turned out the Black and Hispanic students I went to school with had equal or even HIGHER average test scores than the white students. In fact, I went to school with more than one white student who had not only sub-par high school grades, but also sub-par high school test scores. What those students DID have going for them was a family name -- one that dated back generations at the institution. Hell, I knew one girl whose last name was the same as one of our freshmen dorms in Harvard Yard ... literally.
But Pat has no problem with the form of affirmative action known as "legacy," because it benefits people like George W. Bush -- he of the sub-par grades all throughout his young adult life, which led him to be admitted, not just Yale, but also Harvard Business School, where he still managed to emerge dumb as a post.
Sure, a C student can become president. It helps if his father was president first and his grandfather was a senator and he was born into a family that straddles the Northeast WASP aristocracy and the Sun Belt business establishment. And a C student at prep school can get into Yale by adopting a similar action plan of strategic birth control. (That is, controlling whom you're born to.)
Nor, apparently, does Pat have a problem with affirmative action as applied to Black conservatives. He fails, interestingly enough, to mention another sitting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his Jeremiad, despite the fact that Thomas has admitted, just as Sotomayor has, to being a "product of affirmative action":
Indeed, Thomas' rise from his dirt-poor upbringing in rural Georgia into an elite Ivy League law school is an affirmative action success story. But don't take our word for it. Take his.
In a November 1983 speech to his staff at the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, Thomas called affirmative action ''critical to minorities and women in this society.''
Then, his remarks got personal: ''But for them (affirmative action laws), God only knows where I would be today. These laws and their proper application are all that stand between the first 17 years of my life and the second 17 years.''
As an undergraduate at Holy Cross College, Thomas received a scholarship set aside for racial minorities. He was admitted to Yale Law School in 1971 as part of an aggressive (and successful) affirmative action program with a clear goal: 10 percent minority enrollment. Yale offered him generous financial aid.
Affirmative action can't guarantee success, but it can open doors previously closed to women and people of color. The rest is up to those who walk through the doors.
Indeed, once Sonia Sotomayor "walked through the doors" of Princeton and Yale, the grades she earned were a product of her own hard work. Even on the famous Ivy curve, it's not common to get so many As that you wind up at the top of your class, unless of course Pat believes the professors at Yale were engaged in a "racist" conspiracy to give automatic As to any Hispanic woman who showed up. (If that particular brand of affirmative action existed at Harvard, I want a re-do ... or my money back.) BTW Clarence apparently only turned on affirmative action when he graduated from Yale Law and says he couldn't find a job at a "major law firm." (Hell, I graduated during the Bush I recession. Cry me a river, man.) And retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor faced precisely the same problem as Thomas did when she graduated from Stanford Law School. Thomas isn't special, he's just especially whiney. By the way, Thomas' trouble getting immediate employment may have had more to do with Clarence Thomas than with affirmative action...
In particular, the African-American justice has blamed Yale's affirmative action program for stigmatizing black graduates, and contends his law degree is worth only "15 cents" because of it. However, that just isn't true, in their experience, fellow African-American graduates of the law school say. Although Thomas has complained that he couldn't get a job as a starting associate at a major law firm because of the devaluation of his law degree by Yale's affirmative action program, classmates suggest other factors may have been the issue, reports American Lawyer in a lengthy article. Possibilities include Thomas' grades (they aren't publicly known), his then-counterculture persona and his apparent lack of knowledge and interest in networking effectively in the corporate world.
... not to mention the fact that Thomas' complaints are belied by the fact that his mediocre backside is now SITTING ON THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT... thanks to both actual affirmative action, and the kind George H.W. Bush employed when he nominated him.
Meanwhile, Sonia Sotomayor was clearly an outstanding student. And you get voted to lead the law review, not by some touchy-feely faculty, but by your peers. Clearly, they knew something Pat -- who went to Georgetown and Columbia School of Journalism, but still seems to be suffering from something like envy of Sotomayor's academic resume -- doesn't. Maybe we should open up the records of which undergraduate schools Pat applied to back in the day. Were Princeton and Yale on the list?
"For someone who is of Latin background, personally, I understand what she is trying to say," Martinez said after meeting with Sotomayor today. "Which is, the richness of her experience forms who she is. It forms who I am."
I believe Martinez is the first Republican senator to actively defend Sotomayor. This could be one of those symbolic turning points.
Martinez also said he expects Sotomayor to be confirmed "with pretty good numbers."
Are white conservatives suffering from 'discrimination envy?'
//So I went and committed myself to taking part in this multi-part "conversation on race" over at Open Salon. (Had I known it was going to be this much work I might have thought better of it, but there you go...) Anyway, here's my entry. You can view previous parts the series here. //
I thought I'd heard it all when Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union over slavery, demanded that Judge Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize, presumably to all white men for saying, as we've now heard umpteen times on cable news (and never in context,) that she would "hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would make a better decision than a white man who hadn't lived that experience."
The charges of reverse racism were made with such zeal and relish -- you almost begin to wonder whether the loud mouths were blowing the dog whistle or hearing it; somehow following what they knew to be an underlying and very real anxiety, even a kind of "discrimination envy" -- among white men of a certain age; plus a frustration about being the only group that doesn't get to cry "ism" when their feelings are hurt.
Indeed, for white men in America, it's been one hell of a half century. From desegregation to affirmative action to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of '64 and '65, the last 50 or so years have been a period of steady deterioration for the image of white man as America's boss and father figure. In America's collective theater of the mind, white men have traversed from Neil Armstrong and JFK to Al Bundy, Dick Nixon and Jimmy Carter. J.R. Ewing, Don Johnson and Ronald Reagan reinvigorated the brand for a while, but it didn't last.
On television in the 1970s, the fed up white guy was represented by Archie Bunker, who felt free to rail against blacks, foreigners, assertive women and all the rest of what was wrong with the Brave New multicultural world, but only inside his house. The Reagan era brought us a reinvented Archie named Rush Limbaugh -- far less lovable, louder and more blandly vicious than the Norman Lear character (and three times less capable of keeping a wife,) but still venting a real frustration at what seemed to be a world filled with teachers who want his kids to learn Spanish, Mexicans who are taking all the jobs (and not learning English), and Hollywierdos who fill his TV with blacks, browns and "queers", and who keep telling him, in ways large and small, that people like him -- meat and potatoes, Christian white men like the kind who "built this country" and who like their big cars, their cigarettes and their women in skirts -- aren't cool anymore. By the time Archie took its last Klieg lights in the late 70s, Title IX and affirmative action (whose dirty little secret is that it benefits white women more than any other group) had ripped June Cleaver from the kitchen and created a new generation of board room hustle-women who don't want to get married or have kids until they turned 40, or ever, and who don't like to be called "gal."
The 80s and 90s brought hip-hop, where a white guy pretty much has to muse about killing his mama to be taken seriously, and which stole a generation of young white college guys from good old rock and roll. Baseball was taken by the Latinos, basketball and football by the "brothas," hell even golf eventually fell to Tiger Woods (though he's not actually black according to him, he's "Coblanasian," which is black for "please don't call me black.") And there were the Cosbys, who forever replaced the Cleavers as the prototypical American TV family. (To add insult to injury, the show that for a long time was the lead in to Cosby was "Family Ties," in which the lone conservative white male character, Alex P. Keaton, was often the butt of the plot's jokes.)
It's cold comfort, it seems, that white men still controll 85 percent of the nation's board rooms, hold 84 percent of the highest corporate titles (CEO, COO and the like,) and that "just 6 percent of corporate America's top money earners are women," and "only 3 percent of board members are women of color." There is exactly one black female CEO of a major corporation in the U.S. (her name is Ursula Burns, and she now runs Xerox.)
Blacks and Hispanics may dominate on the diamond, court and field, but white men still control 95% of professional NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball franchises.
In Hollywood, Will Smith may have replaced Tom Cruise as the modern era's top earner and box office king, and Shonda Rimes ("Grey's Anatomy" creator") and Oprah may be at the top of the money market, but the majority of films featuring black actors are rehashes of "Boys in the Hood" or slapstick comedies, as Spike Lee has wryly pointed out. On television, the buffoonery is even worse, with not a "Cosby Show" in sight. (If you don't believe me, try being a black Hollywood actress for a day who isn't Halle Berry ...) And across the entertainment spectrum, don't let Diddy and Jay Z fool you, the vast majority of entertainment industry executives are NOT African-American (and neither are the vast majority of its stars.)
In fact, if you look at any statistic, from poverty, to unemployment to high school graduation rates, and on and on, and you'll find that in reality, black and brown people haven't even come close to catching, let alone eclipsing, white men.
So why all the gnashing of teeth It's called politics. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote (53%) since Jimmy Carter. And while he didn't win a majority of the white vote, he won enough of it (43%) to carry him to victory, because he swept every other demographic group, particularly minorities and young people. There was a particularly fixation with white voters and their relationship to Obama during the campaign, and for good reason. Prior to last year, the notion of a black U.S. president -- particularly one named Barack Hussein Obama -- seemed almost absurd, mainly because it was assumed that white people would never vote for such a person (remember how wrong people like Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews were about white voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio?) But the 2008 election proved a point that Buchanan, Gingrich and other seasoned politicos, and even the portly Mr. Limbaugh understand. Namely, the country's population, and voters, are shifting steadily brownward.
Thus the panic that Limbaugh, Buchanan, Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly and others are exhibiting, about "racism," about Sotomayor, the Ricci case (and "Lou Dobbs" nightly jeremiads about illegal immigration,) is not the panic of people who really believe that minorities are outshining white men economically or even socially. It's the panic of men who hear the drumbeat of the next national election, one that will be held after all the damage that's been done to the GOP, by the GOP with Hispanic voters (and long since with blacks.) Meanwhile, the percentage of white voters in the 2008 voting population shrank precipitously:
"The overall message is total ballots cast by white Americans was down, while African Americans and Latinos cast way more ballots than they did in 2004," said Jody Herman, a researcher with Project Vote. "And young voters, age 18-29, cast over 1.8 million more ballots than in 2005, which is a 9 percent increase. That increase was greater than any other age group."
... In contrast, 2.88 million more African Americans, 1.52 million more Latinos, 67,000 more Asian Americans and 1.32 million members of other minorities, voted this fall compared to four years ago. That is 1.18 million fewer white voters and 6.96 million more minority voters.
Moreover, precisely which white voters stayed home was telling:
"I think absolutely white Republicans did not show up," he said. "They were turned off, disillusioned. They did not turn out. Democratic voters did come out. They couldn't wait to vote."
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, his voters were 98 percent white. Had he received the same turnout of whites, blacks and Hispanics as we saw in 2008, he would have lost the election. Which brings us back to Lindsey Graham, Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Gingrich and others, (plus this guy) plus the right's favorite drum major: Fox News. Their two-week orgy of Sotomayor condemnation seems tailor made to target the white guys out there who really do feel like so many Frank Riccis -- victimized by "Jim Crow liberalism," having studying harder and overcoming more obstacles than the pampered Princetonians and birth certificate hiding Harvard grads living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with their exotic childhoods and degreed pomposity, and yet, being denied opportunities at work, at colleges, in sports, and hell, in life ... wait for it ... because they're white. To those Archie Bunkers out there, who found their voices (and their pitchforks) at Sarah Palin rallies and who don't realize G. Gordon Liddy is an actual criminal (or that Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck are not actually delivering the "news,") and who wouldn't care anyway, because these people are speaking up for them, the leaders of the right -- such as they are -- are offering to lead a new civil rights movement, which shall consist mainly of voting Republican.
Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former House speaker who would dearly love to be president ... but who never will ... is one of those conservatives who has spent their adult life tisk-tisking Black and Brown people for calling people who look and think like him, "racist," and for "playing the race card," also known as "race hustling." Well, a funny thing happened when Newt did a little race hustling of his own. He got backslapped by reality. So now, Newt is walking back his "Sonia Sotomayor is a racist" tweet, while also learning that Twitter can be dangerous to the verbally impuslive. Newt emailed the following mea culpa to supporters:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.
With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
He then goes on to try and re-explain his opposition to Sotomayor like an adult, rather than an angry, screaming kid in the mall, like he and his winger friends have done so far. Good luck with that. So why the change of heart? Why, people whose support he just might need when he runs for president in 2012 -- you know, the ones who actually have jobs in the Republican Party -- were not amused.
Lindsey Graham: Sotomayor should apologize to white people
We have truly entered the Bizarro World of right wing politics. Senator Lindsey Graham, who represents South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, and a former bastion of slavery and Jim Crow, has now officially demanded that Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize to all white men for making them feel bad.
Did you notice how nice, effusive and positive the elected Republicans were to Judge Sotomayor on the Sunday shows today? I think our children IS learning... Well, except for Mitch McConnell. I think he was just born mean...
And this is the guy worried about a "racist" getting onto the Supreme Court? Rush Limbaugh, famous for his positive attitude toward ethnic minorities, has done it again. His attack on John Cornyn, whose conservative credentials he questioned today, was expected. After all, Cornyn made the seminal mistake of disagreeing with Boss Limbaugh for likening Judge Sonia Sotomayor to David Duke. But then, El Rushbo up and swallowed the "golden microphone":
Rush got the final hour started with "one more thing" about Sonia Sotomayor -- a mental exercise: "She said that because she is a Latina, because she is a Hispanic woman, that she'd -- because of the richness of that experience, she'd be a better judge than a white guy. What if she had said because of her rich experiences as a Latina, as a Hispanic woman, that she'd be a better judge than a black guy? What do you think the reaction to that might have been?"
Go on ...
"If we want to talk about richness of experience, there's a group of people that were here before we got here, gang: the Indians, the Native Americans, the chiefs, the redskins. I don't see any of them being put up on the courts. Talk about a richness of experience -- hell, these clowns beat Custer. They have cred. You don't see them being put up, do you?"
Oh, that's not good.
Meanwhile, how long before the White House knuckles under to the wussified Old School Democrats and force Judge Sotomayor to issue a meek and full throated apology to white people everywhere, even as they're winning this debate??? The media, from Politico to the New York Times to the loathsome New Republic, is already doing its part to cow the would-be Justice on the "wise Latina" issue, and so far, Robert Gibbs is playing along.
The right's self-sabotage just won't end. Also from Salon:
RedState's editor, Erick Erickson, felt compelled to stand up for white men on Wednesday. "I dunno, Sotomayor," he wrote on Twitter. "Considering white males engineered Western Civ, you'd think they'd have a handle on things to be able to make decisions."
Not surprisingly, the idea of trying to block a Latina judge from the Supreme Court by stirring up resentment over affirmative action doesn't strike many observers as the best way to appeal to Latino voters. "If Sonia Sotomayor's name were John Smith, she'd be just as qualified, and no one would be charging affirmative action or reverse racism," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who left John McCain's presidential campaign last year because he didn't want to help it go negative against Obama. "To suggest as much is itself racist. And I think most Americans see right through the smoke screen."
The White House -- which wouldn't comment for this story -- isn't exactly trying to avoid reminding people of Sotomayor's Puerto Rican heritage, preferably with a soft-focus lens that plays up the historic nature of her nomination. If conservatives overreach in opposing her, the administration won't complain. "Latino voters are responding with a tremendous sense of pride and appreciation," said Fernand Amandi, executive vice president of Bendixen & Associates, a Democratic polling firm that surveyed Latino voters for Obama's campaign last year. "The Hispanic community -- especially after the immigration issue -- is very sensitive to dog-whistle attack politics. During the immigration debate, Hispanics were never directly attacked or called out, but the message they received was they were not wanted here." The dog-whistle line may have already been crossed; it's not exactly a hidden message to call someone a race hustler.
Republicans who actually have to win elections don't seem interested in engaging in the backlash politics. "The approach that many of the senators and leadership is taking is, well, you know, let's give her a fair hearing and see what she has to say," said GOP pollster Glen Bolger. "It's really hard to stop this kind of nomination [with only 40 Senate seats], and then there's the political Hispanic angle." A Republican consultant who advises GOP candidates on winning Latino votes, Lionel Sosa, said he expected most senators to ask plenty of questions about Sotomayor, then support her. "For Republicans to mount a filibuster is foolhardy," he said. "If a Republican doesn't care about getting reelected, and a Republican doesn't care about the image of the Republican Party, they may vote against her, but I think in the end, we'll see who the smart ones are and who the not so smart ones are by how they cast their votes."
Here's a brief look at the Republican 40-40 club (with 2010 election info courtesy of Electoral-Vote.com and demographic data from StateMaster.com.) Specifically, take a look at where the "hope to be re-elected" stand, so far, on Judge Sotomayor. Those running for re-election or other office in 2010 are starred. The Hispanic population rank -HPR- for the states where a Senator is up for re-election are in red.)
John Barrasso (WY) - Barrasso is as doctrinaire a right winger as there ever was, but so far he has released no official statements on Sotomayor. Maybe she could win him over by toting a firearm into the hearings?
*Jim DeMint (SC) / HPR: 35 - Up for re-election in a safe seat. Has said Sotomayor's writings raise "serious questions," but that he'll withhold judgement until the hearings.
John Ensign (NV) - Says he'll work through the process, to make sure the former Yale law review editor and Princeton Summa Cum Laude has the "right intellect" to be a Supreme Court justice. Riiiight.... Someone must have pointed out how odd that sounds, because the official statement on his website is a lot more clipped.
Michael Enzi (WY) - Enzi was a "no" vote in '98. And he's from Wyoming...
Lindsey Graham (SC) - Miss Lindsey issued a sunny statement about how much he looks forward to "meeting" and questioning Judge Sotomayor. He wasn't there in '98, and his best buddy John McCain was a "no" back then, so it's hard to know which way he'll go (no pun intended.)
John Kyl (AZ) - He voted no on Sotomayor in '98, because he said he couldn't be sure she wouldn't decide cases based on "preconceived ideas." Plus, every time I see him on television, he comes across as kind of a jerk (he's already floated the idea of mounting a filibuster against Sotomayor's nomination.) I'm putting him down as a "no."
Richard Lugar (IN) - Another yes vote for Sotomayor back in '98, and someone who has been singled out as an ally by President Obama. It would be hard to imagine him voting down her nomination.
Mel Martinez (FL) - Melly Mel is retiring from the Senate, but if he ever wants to show his face in this state again, he'll vote "aye."
Mitch McConnell (KY) - He was a "no" vote in '98, and if he thinks as much of Judge Sotomayor as he does of U.S. auto workers, he's probably a "no" again this time.
*Lisa Murkowski (AK) / HPR: 42 - Up for re-election after being appointed by her dad. She's a smart pol, though, and on Sotomayor, probably the most open minded of the GOP Senators, especially given the fact that there's not a significant Hispanic population in her state. She firmly opposes any attempt to filibuster the nomination.
James Risch (ID) - Who is james Risch? No, sorry, he and Crapo say they'll think it over.
Richard Shelby (AL) - Up for re-election but considered safe. He voted no on Sotomayor in '98 but has been pretty non-committal so far this time. Let's hope he can restrain himself from demanding Sotomayor's birth certificate...
Olympia Snowe (ME) - Voted "yes" in '98. Will probably vote as Collins does, and that's probably a yes.
*David Vitter (LA) / HPR: 33 - Up for re-election in 2010. His state ranks #33 in Hispanic population and he's running against a former porn star. Still, Mr. Magic Pants would be a prime Democratic target, if only the D's could find someone to run who isn't related to Mary Landrieu. On Sotomayor, our saucy friend praises the historic nomination, and says he looks forward to giving her a "thorough review." You know ... that wouldn't sound gross coming from was someone else...
George Voinovich (OH) - Retiring after two terms. Non-committal, but so far not negative on Sotomayor.
Roger Wicker (MS) - Just got elected last year after being appointed by Haley Barbour in 2007, so not up for re-election until 2014. Still, on Sotomayor, says "treat her fairly."
For more analysis on how the Senate GOPers might vote in a futile attempt to stop Sotomayor, click here and here.
Joe Conasan takes the lash to the Sotomayor opposition over at Salon, describing the right's unpleasant experience with choosing a Justice simply because of the color of his skin, rather than the content of his intellect:
... why do some of Sotomayor's nastiest adversaries imagine that the public will accept these false characterizations of her intelligence and credentials? Perhaps that instinct follows from the right's own sad experiences with Republican affirmative action -- most notably in the matter of Justice Thomas, who embodied all of the problems that conservatives perceived in the pursuit of ethnic diversity. When the wingnuts attack Sotomayor with inaccurate stereotypes, they're projecting onto her the shortcomings of their own beloved Clarence.
Eighteen years ago, the Senate confirmation of Thomas earned historic notoriety for its bizarre descent into conflicting recollections of sexual harassment and pornographic banter. But the lingering question about the man selected to replace the legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall was whether he fulfilled the White House description of him as "the most qualified [candidate] at this time." As Thomas confessed in his memoir a few years ago, "Even I had my doubts about so extravagant a claim."
So extravagant was Bush's assertion as to verge on comical. Far from being the "most qualified," Thomas was a nominee with no experience on the bench beyond the 18 months he had served on the U.S. District Court of Appeals. He had never written a significant legal brief or article. He had achieved no distinction in private practice or law enforcement. He had never even argued a case in federal court, let alone at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Conasan's damning conclusion about Thomas:
... Flash forward now to the discussions within the first Bush administration over how to replace Marshall, the liberal lion whose departure provided conservatives with a chance to spin the direction of the court. Every account of those deliberations indicates that Bush and his aides went through a list of potential African-American nominees to the high court -- and rejected politically moderate judges with better qualifications than Thomas, such as Amalya Kearse. They picked him because they had to fill a "black seat" on the court, and because he was prepared to enforce their ideology on the court -- a function he has reliably performed in lockstep with Justice Antonin Scalia.
In other words, Thomas was chosen from a Bush White House shortlist that excluded white males – supposedly a profound sin when committed by the Obama White House in selecting Sotomayor.
Yet the right can never bring its corrosive racial skepticism to bear on Thomas, a man who had proven his willingness to parrot reactionary bromides. He is the single most prominent beneficiary of the quest for diversity in American history, but he is their diversity candidate -- and thus deserved elevation, if not as a distinguished jurist, then because he had suffered discrimination as a conservative.
My advice, which tracks with that of others today, is: 1) Don't call her names, and yes, "stupid" and "racist" are names; 2) Don't whine about the double standard when a) it's just a fact that a white male can't say the kind of things she did in her "Latina lecture" and survive (if you don't understand why, you haven't paid attention to American history) and b) liberal Democrats can get away with viciously opposing a Latino nominee like Miguel Estrada without paying a real political price because Latinos aren't primed to believe that liberal Democrats are hostile to them and their interests (plus, the public doesn't really pay attention to appeals-court nominees); 3) Do treat her personally with an extra measure of respect because old-fashioned people — and thank goodness, there are still a lot of them out there — will expect a woman to get more deference than a man.
Good luck with that, man. And his pal Mark "Change Her Name to Suddamyah" Krikorian (and how DO you pronounce "Krikorian" in American, anyway...? ... tries to become the winger
sidekick of reason: I think Krauthammer's right in his column today: "Use the upcoming hearings not to deny her the seat, but to illuminate her views. . . . The argument should be elevated, respectful, and entirely about judicial philosophy." (My own observations about her name had nothing to do with her as such.) Gingrich, Limbaugh, and Tancredo crying "racist" isn't going to help at all. I know that's unfair, because any kind of Republican nominee, even a Hispanic woman judge, would already have been crucified based on the comments Judge Sotomayor has made, and any on the Left who deny that are simply lying. But that's the reality of the battlespace we're in.
Well what DID your name change thing have to do with, then, Krikorian? An inability to pronounce compound words??? Dude, your name is KRIKORIAN...!
This complete separation of the judiciary from the enterprise of "representative government" might have some truth in those countries where judges neither make law themselves nor set aside the laws enacted by the legislature. It is not a true picture of the American system. Not only do state-court judges possess the power to "make" common law, but they have the immense power to shape the States' constitutions as well. See, e.g., Baker v. State, 170 Vt. 194, 744 A. 2d 864 (1999). Which is precisely why the election of state judges became popular.
Although Justice [John Paul] Stevens at times appears to agree with Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg's premise that the judiciary is completely separated from the enterprise of representative government, post, at 3 ("[E]very good judge is fully aware of the distinction between the law and a personal point of view"), he eventually appears to concede that the separation does not hold true for many judges who sit on courts of last resort, post, at 3 ("If he is not a judge on the highest court in the State, he has an obligation to follow the precedent of that court, not his personal views or public opinion polls"); post, at 3, n. 2. Even if the policy making capacity of judges were limited to courts of last resort, that would only prove that the announce clause fails strict scrutiny. "[I]f announcing one's views in the context of a campaign for the State Supreme Court might be" protected speech, post, at 3, n. 2, then-even if announcing one's views in the context of a campaign for a lower court were not protected speech, ibid.-the announce clause would not be narrowly tailored, since it applies to high- and low-court candidates alike. In fact, however, the judges of inferior courts often "make law," since the precedent of the highest court does not cover every situation, and not every case is reviewed. Justice Stevens has repeatedly expressed the view that a settled course of lower court opinions binds the highest court. See, e.g., Reves v. Ernst & Young, 494 U.S. 56, 74 (1990) (concurring opinion); McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350, 376--377 (1987) (dissenting opinion).
This all comes courtesy of HuffPost reader Doug Schafer, who is of the opinion that journalists ought to avail themselves of this citation from Scalia whenever the "judges don't make law" canard arises. I agree!
Next, we'll find out Scalia's decision-making is influenced by his Italian heritage ... like Sam Alito...
CNN 'shook' by Olbermann: reading full Sotomayor statement now
Keith Olbermann stung CNN last night for parroting, out of context, the right wing's out of context lies about Judge Sotomayor for her statement during a speech that she would hope that, in a given situation:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
CNN anchor Don Lemon is reading the full text of Sotomayor's speech now. In context, the relevant passage, which was part of a talk on the importance of having more ethnic diversity on the bench, reads this way:
In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.
In other words, she wasn't saying that a Latina judge would reach better conclusions generally, in all things, but that in matters where race and gender are material to the case, she would hope that a woman judge of color would bring life experiences to the table that would enable her to make a more "wise" decision than her colleague who "hadn't lived that life." There is nothing even remotely controversial about that. I would think that a white male former firefighter who became a judge would bring a different sensibility and understanding to the Ricci case, enabling that judge to inform his colleagues who had never run into a burning building.
Meanwhile, the Tapped blog at the American Prospect says it about as well as can be said, in answering the "affirmative action" smears against Judge Sonia, which are a think veneer over what has become a rather embarassing fit of white male self-victimization:
In short, everyone agrees that Sotomayor is an idiot, based on an anonymous quote solicited by Rosen, who admits that he hasn't "read enough of Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions to have a confident sense of them," and that he hasn't "talked to enough of Sonia Sotomayor’s detractors and supporters to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths."
This is exactly what affirmative action is meant to correct: People coming to the arbitrary conclusion that someone is "an idiot" despite all evidence to the contrary, except if you consider not being a white man evidence. Sotomayor's detractors see themselves as Frank Riccis, white men whose greatness isn't recognized because we're too busy giving brown people who can't tie their shoes certificates of achievement. But the truth is that in life and in employment, discrimination rarely manifests itself the way it did against Ricci, as something as easy to quantify as an unfair test. It's far more insidious -- a rumor, a feeling, a notion that the person standing in front of you who doesn't look like you is just "dumb and obnoxious." So you throw their resume in the "no" pile because you don't like their name, you seat them in the back of the class, you promote another person. You just can't really explain why. It's... just a feeling.
The right ought to be careful which ethnic Supreme Court nominees it skewers. There will always be others, like Sam Alito, whose ethnic peculiarities it once loved. Not to mention Clarence Thomas, who should be the two word answer to anyone cynical enough to question Sonia Sotomayor's qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court. Thomas was as unqualified as Sotomayor is overqualified (Alan Dershowitz once called him "the most incompetent, unqualified justice who ever served in [my] lifetime..." adding: "He doesn't read newspapers. He gets his news from Rush Limbaugh..."); as intellectually shallow as she is second in her class at Princeton sharp, and as whiney and self indulgent a "token" hire as you're ever going to get. And yet, Black winger Thomas Sowell was once moved to say this about him:
His outstanding academic record in college, his graduation from one of the top law schools in the country, his experience as an attorney both in government and in the corporate world, his years of heading a federal agency, and his service as a judge on the most influential federal circuit court in the country count for nothing, as far as the left is concerned.
Many, if not most, Supreme Court justices have not had as good a record of qualifications. But Clarence Thomas is considered “unqualified” because the Left cannot accept his qualifications without a major shock to their whole vision of the world — and of themselves.
Substitute "her" for "him" and "right" for "left" in the above passage, and Sowell could be Glenn Greenwald writing about Sonia Sotomayor. Go figure. And former president Poppy Bush once expounded on another characteristic of Clarence's that we now know to be subversive: namely, empathy...
"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."
And he'd keep on showing that empathy, if only Nino Scalia would let him talk...
My vote is: let's have the Senate quickly seat Sonia Sotomayor on the Court, and then President Obama can get to work finding a Black justice to further diversify the court... (ahem)
Meanwhile, TPM D.C. finds that Clarence Thomas was once "empathetic" too...
More GOP crazy: Mark Kirkorian of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies says the way to Stop.That.Judge is to mispronounce her name ... on purpose!!! You know, just the way we won the Iraq war by calling that country "Eye-RAAAK" instead of "Ih-Rahk," the way the Eye-RAAAK-ees do.
Yeah. That'll teach her to be so damned ... Hispanic!
UPDATE: We can now look forward to the strongest, most decisive argument sure to be leveled against Sotomayor at her confirmation hearings: the "patitas de cerdo con garbanzo" (y much arroz) challenge:
Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”
This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with chickpeas — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.
Republicans have already begun hurling themselves off that cliff ... BTW why is it that so many white winger men seem to get so much enjoyment out of calling people racist? It's almost as if calling non-white people racist, as the wingers are now gleefully doing with Judge Sotomayor, is the pretty colored drink in the fancy bottles in mom and dad's cabinet, that they're just dying to open, taste, and refill with water so mom and dad don't find out... A sample:
Ooooohh... The brown lady's racist... (eyes rolling) Really? Really guys? I mean Rush Limbaugh is the guy who launched "Barack the Magic Negro" and once told a Black caller to "take the bone out of her nose" and call him back. Glenn Beck, Mr. "I'm afraid to have black friends," who I once heard on his show say that he'd be upset if his daughter brought home a black man, is calling OTHER PEOPLE racist? Interesting... Me thinks the wingers doth protest too much...
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.
No surprises from No Drama Obama. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who hails from the Bronx, and whose educational credentials include Princeton and Yale, will be his SupCo pick. Latino vote in 2012: check. Women? Check. Catholics? Check. Good pick? Definitely. Judge Sotomayor is more than qualified, and she is an historic nominee with a down to earth background. Per the ABA journal:
A political centrist, the Bronx-born Sotomayor has been regarded as a potential high court nominee by several presidents, both Republican and Democrat. Reared by her widowed mother after the death of her father, a tool-and-die worker, she has an attractive life narrative and an even more attractive resumé.
She was an editor of the Yale Law Review, did heavy lifting as a prosecutor under legendary New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and worked in private practice as an intellectual property litigator.
She was first appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, then to the appeals court by President Clinton. In 1995, she won the gratitude of baseball fans by issuing an injunction against team owners, setting the stage for the end of the eight-month strike that led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
Interestingly enough, all of the final four on the short list were women, according to the NY Times:
If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Judge Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David H. Souter to become the second woman on the court and only the third female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She also would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
The president reached his decision over the long Memorial Day weekend, aides said, but it was not disclosed until Tuesday morning when he informed his advisers of his choice less than three hours before the announcement was scheduled to take place.
The president narrowed his list to four, according to people close to the selection process, including Federal Appeals Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
BTW, did you notice how quickly Joe Scarborough warmed up to Judge Sotomayor when he was reminded, I suppose by his producers, that she was originally put on the federal bench by Poppy Bush?
Sotomayor spent five years as a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney before going into private practice as a commercial litigator. During that time she also served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and State of New York Mortgage Agency, where she helped provide mortgage insurance coverage to low-income housing and AIDS hospices.
She left for the U.S. District Court in 1992. At the time, Sotomayor told the New York Times that she was inspired to become a judge by an episode of "Perry Mason."
BTW, how wrong could Ben Smith possibly be? He has obliterated the post as of today, but not long ago, Hispanic Business Magazine busted him writing this:
"There's some basically vacuous, but plausible, conventional wisdom saying that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a likely pick," he wrote. "I'd suspect, though, that Obama will be tempted to pick one of the prominent legal minds whom he knows personally, and whose philosophy he likes, given his own engagement with legal theory."