The Current Crisis

Sushi and the Judge

There's something about Miguel Estrada that ought to get Senator Leahy's blood boiling.

By 3.19.03

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Washington -- So far as I have been able to ascertain, I am the only syndicated columnist to take issue with the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee now claiming that President George W. Bush's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Miguel Estrada, is Hispanic. According to my sources and to mounting evidence that I have accumulated, Estrada is actually Japanese. I revealed this startling finding in this space in mid-February; and you can be sure that the humorless Senator Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Committee, is even now preparing a clever attack on Estrada's veracity before his Committee. Over the weekend I picked up more information that Estrada is not, as advertised, "the first Hispanic ever nominated for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia." Rather, he is a gifted linguist, a Japanese-American fluent in Spanish. I personally witnessed him in broad daylight eating sushi during lunch at a restaurant near his home in Old Town Alexandria. His lunch consisted mainly of tuna.

That ought to get Senator Leahy's blood boiling. The Vermont Democrat is famously touchy about Republicans lying under oath. Not that Senator Leahy is a rigid man, or, as the phrase has it, judgmental. He has accepted some deception and even some lying as permissible. For instance, a Democratic president not long ago perjured himself and Senator Leahy was very understanding. Yet, you can be sure that he draws the line when an Appellate Court nominee, tries to conceal his Japanese heritage with bogus claims to Hispanic blood. Frankly, I would not be surprised to see all the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rise up as one to cite this growing controversy over Estrada's ethnicity as evidence that he is anti-Hispanic. Remember, last weekend I spotted Estrada eating sushi. In fact I may e-mail Senator Leahy my findings. I have his e-mail right here: senator_leahy@leahy.senate.gov. Now you do too.

You might think it implausible for the Democrats to mount a campaign charging that Miguel Estrada is a sushi-eating Japanese-American with a pronounced prejudice against Hispanics. Yet consider Senator Charles E. Schumer's argument against Estrada. The New York Democrat claims a judicial nominee's ideology disqualifies that nominee when the ideology is not Democratic. Now of course that means that the Senate minority -- which is to say the Democrats -- should decide whom the majority -- which is to say the Republicans -- puts on the court. Senator Schumer, who incidentally is equally as humorless as Senator Leahy, envisages democracy to mean rule by the minority. His claim is implausible, even absurd, but he believes it and almost no one has cited the absurdity of the position.

The Democratic minority has been advancing preposterous positions for so long that much of Washington is apparently numb to their excesses. The standard for accepting a judicial nominee before the Democrats changed the rules during Judge Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination was proven knowledge of the law by a person of proven integrity -- that was it. Ideology did not matter. Ethnicity did not matter. America was governed by the rule of law, and whether a judge was a Republican or a Spanish-speaking Japanese-American, the judge had to apply the law as the legislature passed that law. By politicizing the judiciary the Democrats are transforming the rule of law into the rule of judges unaccountable to the electorate or even to the language of the law.

It is time for the Republicans to get tough with these bullies. For two years Estrada's life has been held in suspended animation. He has no idea what he will be doing in the future until the Republicans either withdraw his nomination or overwhelm Democratic partisanship. The Republicans are the majority party. They can deny appropriations to every state with a Democratic Senate delegation, for instance New York and California. Let those state's senators explain to their constituencies why their states are being starved for funds because Senator Schumer demands that the President nominate Democrats to the judiciary. The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration can deny Democrats who obstruct the judicial nominating process office space, budget allotments, and their beloved hideaway offices. The Committee can cut back the obstructionists' parking privileges and reallocate them. I say give Senator Schumer a parking spot over by the Supreme Court or out in the suburbs. A walk to the office would do him good.

At some point the mistreatment of judicial nominees really ought to end. It is an impossible proposition to insist that the Senate majority nominate judges that hold to the politics of the Senate minority. Moreover it is an injustice to keep a perfectly honorable American's life in limbo merely because he is willing to serve on the federal bench, even if he is coy about his ethnic background. Senator Leahy, are you listening?

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.