The Judiciary

Republican Good-Cop/Bad-Cop … Will it Work?

You have to love these Republicans as they approach the Supreme Court hearings for Sonia Sotomayor.

Right out of the box you have the usual right-wing cabal spewing forth hateful venom. Comparing her to the Ku Klux Klan, calling her a racist, issuing condescending remarks about her intellectual heft. In a 24/7 news cycle and cabal blather that encourages the most outrageous comments imaginable, because they make “news,” these attacks are over the top.

The Others

The Sotomayor issue defaults not so much to law as to literature. It is not about Race but The Others. That she would identify herself as Latina, woman, New York Puerto Rican — the pundits recall poet Miguel Piñero’s phrase Nuyorican — while she would see The Others — Rick Perry, John Lennon, Tolstoy, Charles Aznavour, the Pope, TinTin, William Butler Yeats, Dick Morris, St. Francis, Picasso, Richard Petty, Stanley Dunham, Jimmy Swaggart, Old McDonald and Dr. Porsche — as a soulless and generic bunch of white guys all packaged in the same crate shows a mind with the subtle and nuanced sensibilities of a granite field marker.

Sotomayor: Great Judge, Strict Constructionist

The following appears originally in The Washington Times of Monday, June 1.

Suppose a black female nurse is seriously injured during her work at a hospital and is forced to take a medical leave of absence. When she returns almost a year later, she reapplies for new jobs but doesn't get any offers of comparable salary and seniority. For one of the jobs for which she was turned down, two white women with disabilities are chosen. For another job for which she was rejected, a younger white male is hired.

The Empathy Element

Leave it to Barack Obama, a brilliant and nuanced thinker-politician, to add empathy to the list of characteristics he considered in choosing his first Supreme Court appointee. What an interesting and fresh feature to add to the confirmation process.

Empathy is a psychosocial aspect of all our behavior. We are products of our history. While our history is an important part of everything we do and think, it is not the only part. It is an influence. Some justices — Clarence Thomas is an example — rule in unpredictable ways if their personal empathy is the decisive factor in their decisionmaking. The aphoristic debate whether ours is a government of laws or of men (and women, increasingly) suggest, incorrectly, that we cannot be both.

On Sotomayor: Right-Wing Hate Targets American-Dream Judge

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is the American Dream judge by any American standard — someone who started without advantages, worked hard, excelled often and rose to great heights through diligence and talent. Yet here comes the right-wing hate machine, desperate to foment fear, at times appealing to racism, determined to defame a great American and destroy what is left of the sectarian Republican Party.

Let’s be clear. The public face of the Republican Party on this issue, as on most, is: America's most brilliant radio entrepreneur, Rush Limbaugh, devoutly admired by supporters but viewed as an extremist buffoon by millions of swing voters. Newt Gingrich, America's most ambitious politician, seeking to go for the political jugular but unable to resist the gutter-ball. And Tom Tancredo, who has done more than any living Republican to turn Hispanics to the Democrats through the manner in which he conducted the immigration attack.

The Hispanic Vote

Much has been said about the importance of the Hispanic vote.

Some Republican strategists say that for the GOP to be competitive in future presidential elections, they’ll have to capture about 40 percent of this fastest-growing minority group.

President George W. Bush, who spoke a bit of Spanish, had a strategy to reach out to Hispanic voters and actually hit that 40 percent number in the 2004 election.

Sotomayor Has Some Explaining To Do

Threats from the White House, left-wing groups and the media that any and all criticism of President Obama's choice to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat will be considered racist and sexist have become, in a mere matter of two days, our nation's greatest shame.

Sotomayor will be confirmed. Despite some of her rather shocking statements, her record does not seem to be a reflection of her statements. But the onus is on her to convince the Senate and the American public that her personal bias on race and gender will not affect her decisions on the bench. That's a difficult task for any justice.

The Supreme Lightness of Meaning

Those of us who enjoy being pretentious are quoting Aristotle, who criticized the law as "mind without reason.”

Step aside, Aristotle. Make way for Barack Obama. In announcing his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, he borrowed from Oliver Wendell Holmes, to many the supreme Supreme Court Justice. Holmes contended, “The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience. It is vitally important that a justice know how the world works, and how ordinary people live.”

So Much for Subtlety

For Republicans to do well in the fight over President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, they needed to employ a careful, well-calibrated strategy that would raise important questions about the nominee’s qualifications and judicial philosophy without alienating critical swing voters, especially independents and Hispanics.

What they got were Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.

Rush called Sonia Sotomayor a racist — no, let me soften that, a reverse racist.

Justice Souter, the Last Yankee

Much has been made about the retirement of David Souter from the Supreme Court a few weeks back, and a great deal more about the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor. He was considered odd by the mainstream because he didn’t do lunch or watch TV; because he drove a reasonable car (if he drove at all); because he lived in a modest shack up in the hills that would have suited Henry David Thoreau. Although The New York Times found him quaint.