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On Sotomayor… The Great, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Pathetic

The Senate confirmation hearing, committee vote and floor vote have come and gone. Judge Sotomayor is now a member of the United States Supreme Court. May God bless her, guide her and grant her restraint in her rulings.

That said, it is difficult to be optimistic. Justice Sotomayor has expressly, and flippantly, embraced the idea that judges do, and seemingly should, make law. She puts race and sex above reason. And, she was nominated by a President more concerned about empathy than judgment.

Her nomination was an important one – even as conservatives, including a few Republicans, have been fighting a war on multiple fronts, from health care to economics, national defense to abortion, and much more. But the composition of the Supreme Court has as much or more effect – especially in the long run – on our ability to live free from the strong arm of government as any of the branches or levels of our federal (that is, national, state and local) system… which should tell you all you need to know about the state of things.

Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation also raised the issue of the current courtship of the Hispanic population by both democrats and republicans. The media and many democrats will try to make this an anti-Hispanic vote – and indeed, already are trying to do so. So, it was incumbent upon Republicans, at this critical moment in history, to make the case against Sotomayor based on her views, not her race, and to, perhaps more importantly, begin to establish a clear standard for all future nominees.

How did they do? On the whole, they fared much better than expected (partly because we expect so little), but not as good as they should have. Overall Grade: C+.

The Great: A+… Candidate Marco Rubio, and, surprisingly, John McCain.
The Good: B… Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn and a few others
The Bad: C… That same leadership did not extend to a Republican Conference-wide, all-hands-on-deck effort to make the case loudly and clearly
The Ugly: F… Race and the National Rifle Association.
The Pathetic: No grade warranted… Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham and the other Republicans who discarded principle to vote to confirm

In detail:

The Great: A+… Candidate Marco Rubio, and, surprisingly, John McCain. As a candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, Rubio exhibited the characteristic of leadership – unlike his challenger, Governor Crist, who took the easy road… pandering and equivocation. Rubio issued a statement worthy of reading, but of note he said:

In evaluating judicial nominees, what matters most is determining what kind of judges they will be. And nominees who share Sotomayor’s view that their role is to make law rather than interpret it are individuals I cannot support and would urge others not to, as well.

And…

In the final analysis, we are not worthy of Hispanics’ trust or the support of any other Americans if we abandon our principles or cease articulating our philosophical disagreements on the role of the judiciary. I would rather lose an election than diminish the rights afforded by the Constitution. By consenting to a judge whose record demonstrates an inclination to set policy from the bench, we would be undermining our governing document.

Senator McCain likewise made the appropriate and well stated point that Justice Sotomayor’s activist views, by definition, means that she is not qualified for the bench. Indeed, this should be what we refer to from this point forward as the “Republican Standard.”

The Good: B… Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn and a few others did a fairly decent job in asking tough questions, making a good case against her based on her past statements and positions, and by opposing her fairly early. Republicans garnered 31 votes against Judge Sotomayor, compared to 3 against known activist, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and 9 against Steven Breyer. It is especially encouraging that new Republican leadership member, Lisa Murkowski, voted against her confirmation.

The Bad: C… That same leadership did not extend to a Republican Conference-wide, all-hands-on-deck effort to make the case loudly and clearly, because Institutional Republicans still feel the need to pander when it involves race – particularly when it involves Hispanics. That is stupid and short-sighted – and because of it, Republicans left too much for democrats and the media to fill in.

The Ugly: F… Race and the National Rifle Association. Justice Sotomayor is lauded as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, leaving one to wonder when a Justice will be lauded for being, simply, a great Justice. Race, seemingly, is not just a characteristic here, but seemingly a central aspect of Justice Sotomayor’s being. Her comments about a “wise Latina woman,” and her actions with respect to race issues in the CT firefighter (Ricci) case in Connecticut, are troubling to say the least. As Chief Justice Roberts presciently stated, “it’s a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”

The National Rifle Association is a shell of its former self. It is well known among Republican Capitol Hill staffers – and the few members willing to admit it – that the NRA refuses to take any tough stances and plays politics more than it stands on principle. The NRA had to be taken to the woodshed to actually take a position on Justice Sotomayor, and even when it did, it basically sat on the sidelines, hiding behind a letter sent up to the Hill expressing concerns and a threat to “score” the vote. Their website was, effectively, silent. There were not great efforts made. Meanwhile, the organization truly dedicated to protecting gun owners’ rights – Gun Owners of America – not only fights for the 2nd Amendment, but also plays ball on healthcare and other important issues relating to our freedom from an expansive, intrusive government.

The Pathetic: No grade warranted… Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham and the other Republicans who discarded principle to vote to confirm. No need to expand, frankly. Useless does not even begin to describe their contribution to the future of the Republican Party and actually thinking instead of pandering.

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