Monday, July 20, 2009

A Little Off The Mark

It would be more sophisticated, or at least enlightening, to submit a post about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's views on guns, abortion, business, or any one of another subjects. But, alas, after a week of hearings, we don't know what she believes, which suggests that she performed as needed, avoiding direct responses.

So, inspired by the tone and direction of Saturday's post on, I can't help but remark on yet another commentary lamenting what is pictured as racism, or at least narrow-mindedness, of the conservative Senators on the Judiciary Committee. This one is by Al Hunt of, who, true to form, avoids the "r" word, but is clear nonetheless that he is offended by

the spectacle of middle-aged, white Republicans instructing the first Latin female nominee about the irrelevance of race, gender and life experiences for a judge. Even Graham, one of the more enlightened lawmakers, a strong immigration advocate and a thoroughly modern Republican, didn’t get it.

Leave aside, for a moment, the spectacle (and irony) of someone becrying bigotry by what he terms "middle-aged, white Republicans." Hunt deserves credit for noting that such conservative Republican jurists as Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have cited their cultural background as influencing their approach to jurisprudence. Clarence Thomas cited as among those judges "influenced by how they were raised." And that is what- good?

But while Hunt contends that judges do well by incorporating their personal experiences into their decisions on the bench, he is more interesting when he undermines his own argument. He notes that Justice John Paul Stevens, declining to block a sexual misconduct civil suit againt then-President Clinton, unwisely rejected "the president's argument that such actions should be delayed until the term of office was over." While Stevens believed that the suit would not "occupy any substantial amount of petitioner's time," Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a historian and United States Senator, knew otherwise through experience.

This demonstrates the benefit of selecting a judicial candidate on the basis of something other than immutable characteristics such as gender, race, or the national origin of the candidate. Moynihan knew better than Justice Stevens not because the late Senator, unlike Stevens, was Irish-American and Roman Catholic, or because he had (if that were the case) more numerous sexual liaisons. Moynihan knew through experience applicable to that matter that the civil suit would occupy "a substantial amount" of the time of the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces when called into service. That is chiefly why Sotomayor should be confirmed- she's a well-qualified, experienced individual with an impressive knowledge of the law.

Oh, and this: Hunt seems surprised that Senator Lindsay Graham (R.-S.C.) would, as "a strong immigrant advocate" have been so condescending (Young Turks video below) toward what the columnist calls "the first Latin female nominee." The surprise is unwarranted. Whether Graham is an advocate of "immigration" isn't well known; we know only that he is a strong advocate of illegal immigration. And if Al Hunt ever thought that was because of a deep appreciation of pluralism or of the American cultural mosaic, well, you know that one about beachfront property in Arizona.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I sometimes am just amazed at how people can see things in certain ways that conform to their preconceptions. The hearings were civil, polite, and almost entirely uneventful. She was treated by the Republicans as any other nominee of any color would be who said her statements, had her record, and shared her background, and the characteristics of the Senators as middle aged and white doesn't enter into it. Overall, aside from strong attitudes towards her wise latino mark and her views on guns, she seemed to have a fairer hearing than Alito and Roberts. It seems from many on the Left that her race is supposed to warrant celebration and special treatment, and unfortunately, I'm sure that Republican Senators are keeping her race in mind too as they decide to vote for her or against her and look bigoted.


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