Obama names Sotomayor to seat held by racist Woodrow Wilson appointee.
Talk about a symbol.
In a surely unintended bit of symbolism, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, accused of racism, has been named to the Supreme Court seat once held by one of the Court’s most fervid racists: Woodrow Wilson appointee James McReynolds.
McReynolds’ vividly racist 27-year tenure from 1914 to 1941, obscured by time, has resurfaced in a fashion that can only be less than helpful to Team Obama as Sotomayor’s nomination faces Senate confirmation. Why? It forces everyone to focus on two very real questions as this nomination moves forward this week.
First: What does the Sotomayor nomination say about Obama? And second: will Sotomayor deliver what the President expects of her if seated on the Court?
Here’s the McReynolds story.
The place: The United States Supreme Court.
The occasion: oral arguments in what would turn out to be the first crack in a famous Supreme Court precedent.
Arrayed behind the raised bench, the nine Justices peer down from their lofty, high-backed leather chairs, their black robes distinct against crimson drapes trimmed with gold.
Rising to his feet to begin his presentation is attorney Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston is one of America’s more brilliant members of the bar. Educated at Amherst College, where he was the class valedictorian, he had gone on to graduate cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served on the law review. Today, the historic courtroom is hushed, with all eyes on Houston as he begins to speak.
Suddenly, silently, without a word, there is movement from the bench.
Justice James Clark McReynolds swivels his chair, turning it around 180 degrees. And keeps it that way. There is a moment of stunned silence as the recognition dawns on McReynolds’s fellow Justices, headed by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. So too is there a jaw-dropping understanding in the rest of the ornate, historic chambers as everyone else realizes the import of what has just occurred. The Justice is now staring steadily at the curtains, the back of his tall chair quite deliberately, ostentatiously, and literally turned to Houston.
There was a reason.
Charles Hamilton Houston was not just one of America’s leading attorneys this November day in 1938. He was also a black man. And Mr. Justice McReynolds, a Tennessean, graduate of Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia Law School, a onetime law professor, a political progressive appointed in 1914 by the progressive hero Woodrow Wilson, is both a racist and a vehement anti-Semite. Now holding a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, the man who served Wilson as a trust-busting Attorney General of the United States for the first year and a half of Wilson’s term is also the attorney general who approved the progressive President’s decision to segregate the federal government.
McReynolds has no intention whatsoever of giving the black lawyer addressing the Court this day the slightest recognition. Why? Because James McReynolds — like the President who appointed him — judges people by race. He is, as is Wilson, a rabid white supremacist and a segregationist.
The case Houston argued with McReynolds’s back turned was Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada. It was the New Haven firemen’s case (Ricci et al. v. DeStefano et al.) of its day. “Gaines” — the Frank Ricci of the case — was Lloyd Gaines, an African American who had been denied admission to the law school of the University of Missouri because of his race. The case (“Canada” was Sy Woodson Canada, the school registrar) was one of the first that began the process of overturning the 1896 precedent that was Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy, of course, was the infamous Court decision that used judicial activism to give constitutional protection to segregation. Segregation that had been instituted across the South after the Civil War by the Democratic Party and frequently enforced by the Ku Klux Klan, the infamous white-hooded terrorists called the “military force” of the Democrats by Columbia University historian Eric Foner. This was done, to appallingly tragic consequence, in spite of direct violations of the post-Civil War constitutional amendments, specifically the 14th Amendment.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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H/T to National Review Online