When President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, I knew that members of the right would go on the attack. Still, even I was a little surprised (although I shouldn't have been) at the depth that some have stooped to in their criticism. It's like they are hell bent on taking part in a political version of "The Limbo Rock". Below are just a few of the choice nuggets directed at Sotomayor by members of the right:
* If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is “All for the race. Nothing for the rest.” What does that tell you?- former Congressman Tom Tancredo during an appearance on CNN.
* Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when she's menstruating or something, or just before she's going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then- G. Gordon Liddy on his radio program
* "They're just like, 'Hey!' Hispanic chick lady. You're empathetic?' She says 'Yup!' They say, you're in'" "That's the way it really works."- Glenn Beck on his radio program
I could go into Ronco commercial mode and say, "but wait, there's more!", but you get the idea.
The hypocrisy, false information, and nastiness by members of the right is disgusting. Regarding Tancredo's comments, he's wrong on all counts. Not only did he get their name wrong (they go by either the National Council of La Raza or NCLR), but they also aren't anything like the KKK. Furthermore, Tancredo misrepresented their "logo". On the NCLR website is an open letter to the public which states that "we are an American institution committed to strengthening this great nation by promoting the advancement of Latino families." Ironically, while Tancredo has denounced Sotomayor, Marcus Epstein still serves as the executive director of Team America PAC (the political action committee founded by Tancredo). As some of you may know, Epstein recently pled guilty to a 2007 incident in which he karate chopped a black woman in the head while also directing a racial slur at her. As for G. Gordon Liddy, before he made the menstrual remarks, he accused Sotomayor of making several racist comments and mistakenly said that "La Raza" means "the race". According to the NCLR website's FAQ page, the term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people,” or, according to some scholars, “the Hispanic people of the New World.” Oh and by the way, in the same segment where Liddy accuses Sotomayor of making racist comments, he referred to the Spanish language as "illegal alien". You just can't make this stuff up!
Let's not forget (how can we?) the 2001 Berkeley law lecture in which Sotomayor made the now infamous statement "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." The way I read that sentence, Sotomayor was not referring to all white men, only those who didn't have experiences similar to a wise Latina woman. Of course, some members of the right took that one sentence and distorted it so that Sotomayor would come out in the worst possible light. What they failed to comment on was that Sotomayor followed up the "wise Latina" sentence with this:
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.
You can read the text of the lecture in its entirety by clicking here.
The outrage that some Republicans have over Sotomayor's empathy and what role it might play in her decisions on the bench has also provided unintentional humor. Amazingly, Republicans didn't seem to have a problem when Justice Samuel Alito (who was nominated/appointed by then President George W. Bush ) made the following statements during his confirmation hearing in 2006:
But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."
When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.
Those statements by Alito sound empathetic to me and I have no issue with a judge who has that trait. People have to realize that judges are people too, not robots cranked out on an assembly line.
Just like any Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor should go through a thorough nomination process. If, during the confirmation hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee asks Sotomayor to clarify the comments she made in her 2001 Berkeley law lecture (even though it shouldn't be necessary) or about the case involving the New Haven city firefighters, I think that's fair game. For the Republicans who continue aiming below the belt with their criticism of Sotomayor, they run the risk of alienating not only Hispanics (the largest ethnic minority in the country) and women, but anyone else tired of the lies and hypocrisy by some members of the right. Recent polls show that barely 20% self-identify themselves as Republicans, the lowest number in over 25 years. With tactics such as the down and dirty attacks on Sonia Sotomayor, their ranks will likely continue to shrink. If the Republicans are not careful, they will have to rename themselves the Salingers because they will literally be a "Party of Five".