Saturday, May 30, 2009

Considering Sotomayor

It really is a good article Joe Conason wrote, posted in salon.com on May 29, 2009. He notes that Republicans are some now attacking President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, for allegedly being the beneficiary of affirmative action. It's odd, or hypocritical, that they are doing so in light of the avid support Repubs gave the nomination to the Supreme Court of Clarence Thomas. Thomas was an undistinguished judge on the U.S. District Court of Appeals, whose selection had little to do with merit:

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.

Conason notes that contrary to its righteous indignation over the selection of someone who has acknowledged the role that her background, cultural and otherwise, has played in shaping her as an individual

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.

But here it gets sticky. Like most of us on the left, Conason is unable, unwilling, or ideologically undisposed to follow his argument to its logical conclusion, instead arguing

In his memoir, Thomas recalls the innocent delight of old friends and family, who "saw my nomination as an affirmation of the American dream: a poor black child from the segregated South had grown up to become a Supreme Court justice. Who could be against that?" The same question can be turned around now -- with considerably greater justification.

If Thomas is indeed as mediocre- to be gentle, diplomatic, and probably generous- a justice as Conason and most liberals/progressives believe, certainly one should question the wisdom of obsessing over issue(s) of empathy, life experiences, culture, or whatever those on the left or the right are calling it. Thomas was indeed "a poor black child from the segregated South" who had much to overcome- and was elevated to the highest court in the land because of a perceived "black seat" on the Court and, well, the need of the GOP to prove to Americans of good will that it was not the "racist" party.

Sonia Sotomayor probably will be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice- heck, even Rush Limbaugh believes she will- and may become a great judge. Just not for the reasons that the right seems to believe she is a danger to the Republic, roughly the same reasons that the left is generally pleased with her selection. It would not be because Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican (or "Newyorkrican," as she proudly puts it), or female, or grew up, without a father, in a housing project in the Bronx, or so 'down to earth' that she plays cards, and eats lunch, with her lowly staff. It would be because of extraordinary understanding of the law, impressive scholarship, a sharp legal mind, strong powers of persuasion, a solid judicial temperament, and other traditional factors characteristic of a good judge, if not a blockbuster movie-of-the-week.

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