Donald Kaul has, over the years, become one of my favorites at minituemanmedia.org. And I love his ‘credentials line’ that is always at the bottom. Today I’m moving it to the top; Don Kaul is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-losing Washington correspondent who, by his own account, is right more than he’s wrong. ~sekanblogger
We’re about to see just how dumb the Republican Party in general, and conservatives in particular, really are. I’m betting pretty dumb.
In one of his characteristically shrewd political moves, President Barack Obama last week nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor, for those of you who may not be up to speed on your Appeals Court Judges, is as close to bulletproof as you can get when it comes to Supreme Court nominees. First of all, she is Hispanic and a woman, both politically good things to be, given that there have been only two women on the court before her and no Hispanics.
Second, she has a resume out of Horatio Alger. Grew up in public housing in the South Bronx. Lost her father at the age of 9. Won a scholarship to Princeton, that toffee-nosed bastion of the Establishment. Finished at the top of her class. Went on to Yale Law, where she was editor of the law review.
Became a federal prosecutor in New York City. Later went into private practice, then on to the federal bench, first at circuit court level, then appellate.
Academic credentials, practical experience, compelling personal narrative; she’s got it all.
And Republicans are making noises as though they’ll oppose her nomination—indeed, perhaps block it—on grounds that she is a judicial activist.
Senator Jon Kyl, a snarky Republican from Arizona, said as much. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee—what passes for leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination these days—have been singing the same song.
”If she’s confirmed,” said Huckabee, “then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.”
There are times when Huckabee seems a perfectly sensible fellow and others when it seems his jockey shorts are too tight.
For a long time now, Republicans have been riding the myth that liberals are judicial activists and Republicans never color outside the lines of the Constitution. It’s bunk.
The conservative majority on the present court is about as activist as you can get, continually ignoring precedent in order to achieve a conservative result (as it did in handing the 2000 election to George Bush, for example). Conservatives also contend that the federal court system is shot through with activist liberals who insist on making law, rather than ruling on it and that only a Republican president can stop the onslaught. More bunk. More than two-thirds of the federal judiciary has been chosen by Republicans and it shows. We have a very conservative judiciary.
They’re even saying that Judge Sotomayor really wouldn’t be the first Hispanic on the court, citing Benjamin Cardozo, a Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointee in 1932, as the first. Except that Cardozo came from a family of Sephardic Jews who had emigrated here from Portugal by way of England in the 18th Century. Some Hispanic. He wouldn’t have known salsa from seltzer.
Personally, I kind of hope the Republicans do fight Sotomayor’s nomination to the bitter end. In the last election, John McCain drew 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, down from the 44 percent that Bush got four years earlier. What is the GOP doing, shooting for single digits?
When Sotomayor arrived on the Princeton campus in 1972, she was one of only a handful of Hispanic students there. Alumni were still protesting the presence of women, who had been admitted to the school only a few years before. One of the protesters was now-Justice Sam Alito, Jr., who had graduated earlier that year. That’s what this nomination fight is about, not activism versus formalism, but a tired old conservative vision of society. Is it something run by an exclusive men’s club, or is it something in which a tough Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx can use her smarts to get a seat at the table?
Absent tax problems or scandal, the Republicans are on the wrong side of this in every way you can be on the wrong side of something. Which is getting to be a habit with them.