The debate over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court raises a much broader question: Why can’t any opinion leaders or office-holders on the Left show even a shred of intellectual integrity?
Remember when so many opinion leaders on the right pushed away their onetime hero, Trent Lott, when he said stupid things about Strom Thurmond’s segregationist days? Where, oh where, is the similar intellectual courage or consistency on the left?
The Sotomayor nomination is a perfect example. By itself, her infamous speech making the case for the greater wisdom of Latinas based on “physiological” differences ought to have been immediately disqualifying, no further questions needed, for any Supreme Court nominee. As Jennifer Rubin, Rich Lowry, and Steve Chapman (among many, many others) have noted, the whole speech in context was so much worse than the one, oft-quoted line about a “wise Latina woman” that there is no excuse, no justification, that could make it acceptable for a Supreme Court justice.
Many others have said that if a white male had said all those same things but changed the relevant subjects to “white males” instead of “wise Latinas,” his nomination wouldn’t last two seconds. Actually, that is understating the case.
If a Hispanic woman who had been nominated by a conservative Republican had said those exact same things without changing a single word, her nomination would be a goner.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy would be up in arms. Joe Biden would be so apoplectic that he would be furiously googling for somebody else’s language that would be adequate enough to express his outrage. And Dick Durbin’s staff would be sending memos explaining that this language proves that the nominee is particularly “dangerous” “because she is Latina.” (Oh, right: That latter incident actually already happened, except with a man, Miguel Estrada, rather than a woman — and without Estrada having said or written anything outlandish.)
Quite literally, those arguments about “physiological or cultural differences” are the province of the David Dukes of the world. (From a Duke “letter” on his website, 3/10/2007: “Who can deny the differences in appearance, character, and physiology between dog breeds that can vary as much as the Maltese and the Great Dane? Is the obvious difference between dog breeds just a societal construct, a myth created by dog breeders? Are we so blinded by egalitarian dogma that we can’t see the obvious differences in human races and their expressions in culture?”)
But that Sotomayor speech is just the start of the reasons why, by any objective standards of right, center, or left, Judge Sotomayor’s nomination should be pulled. First, the infamous speech wasn’t a momentary lapse: She repeated the same thoughts, including most of the obnoxious reasoning behind it, in at least six other speeches. Likewise, she has repeated, and broadened and tried to provide intellectual support for, her outrageous quip about how the appeals courts “make policy.”
There is no rational way to excuse these sorts of oft-expressed statements — including Judge Sotomayor’s outright denunciation of “impartiality” as a reasonable standard — from a judge sworn to administer the law “without respect to persons, [with] equal right to the poor and to the rich… faithfully and impartially….”
These complaints about Sotomayor are not matters of partisanship or (except at the extremes) political ideology. They involve basic standards of judging.
They do not even broach the controversies about Sotomayor’s willful disregard for certain Supreme Court precedents, her support for extreme legal positions against the rights to private property, against firearm possession, against equal opportunity for white males, or against the authority of local majorities to restrict late-term abortions or abortions for minors or against their authority to keep currently imprisoned felons from voting — all of which have been detailed in recent Washington Times editorials and elsewhere. Wrongheaded as some of those decisions may be, they at least fall (perhaps, arguably) within the outer realms (barely) of accepted legal interpretation.
But her repeated discourses on ethnic wisdom are beyond the pale.
Yet where is E.J. Dionne to acknowledge the patently obvious fact that her multiple speeches are disqualifying? Where is Maureen Dowd? Where is the Los Angeles Times editorial page? Where is Jack Cafferty? Where are the editors of the New Republic? Where are Senators Dorgan and Reed and Hagan or Reps. Shuler or Bright or even Hoyer?
How do they even live with themselves if they won’t criticize that which is unambiguously indefensible?
But the Sotomayor nomination is just Item One on a list of matters that no knowledgeable, intellectually honest American should be able to countenance, but which nevertheless receive no condemnation, or even (in most cases) mild criticism, from leaders on the left or center-left. (The New Republic‘s Jeffrey Rosen at least had the courage, before Sotomayor was nominated, to note her problematic-but-not-disqualifying deficiencies in temperament, but even he backed off once she was nominated.)
For instance: Why isn’t Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson denouncing the patently obvious corruption of various ACORN affiliates? Where is the pro-labor congressman willing to join George McGovern in saying that eliminating the secret ballot for union organizing elections would be an outrage? How can any White House correspondent fail to challenge the obviously ludicrous Obamite claim to count jobs “saved or created”? How could liberal editorialists refuse to zap President Obama repeatedly last year for abandoning his public pledge to abide by campaign spending limits? Why is it that the “outing” of Valerie Plame garnered so much liberal outrage while the naming of CIA interrogators causes nary a murmur? What will it take for Katie Couric to note the obvious fact that Obama is being hypocritical for now showing openness to “taxing” employer-provided health benefits after he made such a point of blasting John McCain last year for proposing the very same thing?
Why does the left not denounce proven vote fraud of the sort documented by John Fund? Where was the outrage on the left when the Obama campaign accepted millions of dollars of Internet contributions without the appropriate donor info? Why is it okay for Obama to cite Jesus Christ far more often than George W. Bush ever did, while it was pronounced wrong for Bush to make even passing references to faith? How can it be right for Al Gore to demand that “every vote be counted,” but wrong for Norm Coleman to do so? Where is the “empathy” not just for white firefighter Frank Ricci, but for countless Americans of Asian descent who fare even worse than whites do under “affirmative action” regimes?
The examples of leftist double standards are almost endless. With a few notable exceptions such as columnist Richard Cohen, the intellectual integrity they demonstrate is negligible.
Back to Judge Sotomayor: She has said in several speeches that she absolutely does not “abhor” the “possibility” that “inherent physiological differences” may well “make a difference in our judging,” and has said that the public is wrong to accept the “myth that law can be certain and stable.”
Please, Lord, is there no prominent left-of-center opinion leader who will state the obvious? No judge in America should espouse such beliefs or jurisprudential approaches. And no opinion leader who isn’t an outright coward should fail to denounce them from sea to shining sea.
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