According to NBC's Brian Williams' adulatory interview of President Obama, taped yesterday to air next week, our president admonishes those who have critiqued Sonia Sotomayor's self-proclaimed judicial superiority, based on her race, as purveying "nonsense."
If anyone knows purveyors of nonsense, it's this president. Remember this pearl of wisdom from Attorney General Eric Holder,
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we - I believe in too many ways to be a nation of cowards.
". . . certain subjects are off-limits, and to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one's character."
How prescient this comment, given the president's dismissive attitude towards those troubled by Judge Sotomayor's foray into the implications of race on her ability to judge when compared with her more ignorant white male counterparts.
Our president has declared Sotomayor's racist comments off-limits, knowing full well that "to explore them at a minimum risks embarrassment and at worst the questioning" of Judge Sotomayor's character. So, who's the coward now, Mr. President?
Sadly, he is not alone. Many prominent Republicans, scared of the political implications of calling out the first Hispanic nominated to sit on the Supreme Court, have cowered at the prospect of openly challenging this appalling statement. From Michael Steele - who has cautioned Republicans to hold off on 'slammin and rammin' Judge Sotomayor and reflect on the historic aspect of this nomination - to Senator John Cornyn - who strongly condemned Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for labeling Judge Sotomayor a 'racist.'
As to Mr. Steele, nothing shocks me anymore concerning his vapid leadership. His tenure as RNC head has been a consistent, three step tango - one step forward, two steps back. This issue will take care of itself in due course - enough said.
More troublesome to me is Senator Cornyn. Geez - where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Mr. Steady . . . Mr. Dependable, John Cornyn, has become a weak-kneed shadow of his former conservative self. I don't remember an instance where I have been more disappointed by a once-stalwart conservative.
Senator, if you don't think that Judge Sotomayor's comments are racist and speak to her character, then let me issue you a challenge. On Monday, why don't you go on the Senate floor and state for all to hear that you viewed yourself more qualified to serve in the U.S. Senate than former Senator Obama because you are a white male? What do you think the chances are that you're called a racist? Are you game for this little experiment, Senator?
I'll let you off the hook, Senator. Let me venture a guess - the fact of your upset at Messieurs Limbaugh and Gingrich is more a function of your concern that such criticism will lose Hispanic votes in the upcoming 2010 elections than it is that their criticism is off the mark. Bottom line - apologists say as they might - you know that her comment was racist, plain and simple.
If that's your motivation, Senator, then I find that almost as offensive as the comment itself. It is more than disheartening to think that you and your Republican Senate colleagues would shy away from critically evaluating a judicial nominee (as part of your advise and consent function), who claims that her life experiences as a Latina woman make her more qualified to dispense justice than someone of a different race, simply because of your concerns over electoral politics.
Such prospective deference is a far more brazen example of identity politics, than anything exhibited by those, like Limbaugh, Gingrich et al., who have the courage to publicly challenge Judge Sotomayor's racially charged comment and record. To conclude otherwise is to ultimately and regrettably assign to all Hispanic voters a uniform adherence to Sotomayor's racial bias, where it is clearly undeserved.
Hispanic voters, like any other racial group, come in all political stripes and leanings and they have accepted assimilation into America's melting pot as well as any ethnic group that has ever graced our shores. As such, they should be expected to be no less offended by, or more defensive of, Judge Sotomayor's comments than you or me - the white males which her comment derides. And, assuredly, they will be no less offended by a presumption inherent in the belief that their vote can be earned by not challenging a racist comment uttered by someone of Hispanic descent.
Conservative Hispanics appreciate, as well as any other racial group, that life experiences connoted by their race should have no place in consitutional interpretation. They understand that if there is a place for life experiences to shape law, it isn't as a matter for the judiciary, but rather as part of the legislative process in which their elected representative can exercise proper and expected influence. As Tip O'Neill was often want to say, "all politics is local." And, indeed, where the Hispanic community might have a particular concern, the natural place for expressing such concerns is as part of the legislative process, not in the course of constitutional jurisprudence.
This brings me back to our Friday discussion, Senator, regarding the NRSC's support for Governor Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. You noted in your expose to this site that the GOP has lost certain constituencies in successive elections, which you highlight as including younger voters, Hispanic voters and fiscally conservative voters.
I do not fault you for the NRSC not supporting Mario Rubio and, frankly, would find the pre-packaging of an Hispanic candidate to simply draw back Hispanic vote as offensive as I find Judge Sotomayor's comment. But where it is improper, in my mind, for any political party to play identity politics, it is equally silly to preclude voters from identifying with a new conservative, Hispanic candidate out of deference to the old guard.
Let me be clear - political parties should never venture down the road of identity politics - leave that to the voters, where it is not only proper, but expected in a representative republic. And, leave that to the voters of Florida is exactly what the NRSC should have done.
As alluded to above, Senator Cornyn, you lament the loss of certain core constituencies of support for the GOP. But then, you chose to endorse the candidacy of Charlie Crist, who is antithetical to each of those desired constituencies. He is neither young, nor Hispanic, nor fiscally conservative.
In the process, you have potentially saddled Floridians with a vote between Obama and Obama-lite - the latter curiously being the desired GOP alternative, while a terrific young (and, yes, Hispanic) conservative wonders, "what gives?" Ironically, in this precipitous move, the NRSC has created not only the prospect, but the likelihood of continued minority status. Minority status, mind you, not just in raw numbers, but most importantly in conservative policy development, when one of ours, Mr. Crist, is actually one of theirs. Politely stated, Senator, that's called shooting yourself in the foot.
. . . So, yes, Mr. President, nonsense abounds all over Washington this week. You labeling legitimate concerns over your nominee's racist comment as 'nonsense' was the epitome of nonsense. But, take solace, Mr. President, because as Michael Steele and Senator Cornyn have aptly displayed, 'nonsense' does not observe party lines.