Thursday, May 28, 2009

And so the vicious right-wing smear campaign against Sotomayor is in full swing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The invaluable Media Matters is right: "Conservatives react to historic Supreme Court nominee by smearing Sotomayor as 'racist,' 'bigot'."

It's Dear Leader Rush (spewing venom with every last ounce of his being); it's Glenn Beck (full, as usual, of mind-boggling glennbeckery); it's John Yoo (taking time off from defending torture to torture the truth about Sotomayor); it's Mark Levin (one of the more reprehensible voices in right-wing talk radio, which is saying something); it's Ramesh Ponnuru (a somewhat smarter conservative than the norm, but hardly immune from conservative nonsense); it's Newt Gingrich (who, like Limbaugh and others, is playing the racist card, calling Sotomayor herself a racist, presumably for being Hispanic); it's Tom Tancredo (in his usual nativist mode; he probably thinks Sotomayor should be detained and deported); it's Karl Rove (asserting without any evidence whatsoever that Sotomayor is "not necessarily" smart); and it's so many more (like National Review's Mark Krikorian (complaining, in true nativist fashion, about the Spanish pronunciation of her name).

As I put it yesterday, the opponents of Sotomayor's nomination are going with a kitchen sink approach here, vomiting up any and every smear it can make up and hoping something sticks. (And why wouldn't something stick, what with an all-too-eager media establishment making sure these lies get equal time and lapping up all the right-wing smears it can get its hands on with enthusiastic glee (if there's a "liberal media," as conservatives claim, it's only liberal to the extent that it liberally fertilizes the "news" with conservative manure).

Let me go back to Newt for a moment. The media love him (why else would they give him such an extraordinary amount of airtime?). And, with Limbaugh, he's leading the charge against Sotomayor. Consider what has led him to call her a racist:

  • In a 2001 speech, Sotomayor said this to a Hispanic group in Berkeley: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
  • In response, Newt tweeted this: "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.' new racism is no better than old racism."
How is this racism? What Sotomayor was saying was that her experiences matter, that they contribute to a fuller appreciation and understanding of what might come before her as a judge. As Greg Sargent explains (via Sullivan): "Read in context, it's clear that Sotomayor was merely saying that it’s inevitable that a judge's personal race-based and gender-based experiences will impact judging, particularly in race and sex discrimination cases." (The White House has already "hit back" at Newt.)

It's too much to expect right-wing partisans like Newt and Rush to take context into account, and so it comes as no surprise that their smears depend heavily on taking everything out of context. And there will certainly be more of this to come.

Thankfully, though, it seems that Republicans in Congress -- those who have their political survival to consider, who must answer to the American people, and who must at least be somewhat responsible -- likely will not go all-out against Sotomayor. (That is, Senate Republicans won't -- and they're the ones that matter. The generally more extremist House Republicans likely agree with Rush and Newt and the rest of the smearers.) As Politico is reporting, "the GOP plans no scorched-earth opposition to her confirmation as a Supreme Court justice." Which is good and promising news, if true.

Ultimately, it looks like the smear campaign will prove ineffectual and fizzle out. Sotomayor is a smart, qualified nominee -- she's no Harriet Miers (another line of attack against her) -- and there just isn't a reasonable case to be made against her.

But conservatives will continue to try -- and will continue to take things out of context, to make things up, and to hurl the kitchen sink at her. As long as she and her supporters stand firm, which they (we) are, there shouldn't be much problem repelling the right's ugly smear campaign and guiding her towards a relatively easy (and deserved) confirmation.

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  • Very well said indeed. Every time we think we've reached the bottom of the barrel we find another, deeper barrel.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:49 AM  

  • Tell me how the following was taken out of context. During a Duke University panel discussion in 2005, Sotomayor stated: "All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is -- Court of Appeals is where policy is made." You want to put a woman who doesn't even understand the separation of powers into the highest court in the land? This is the height of buffoonery.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 8:20 PM  

  • Kevin, you might want to ask Justice Antonin Scalia the same thing. He wrote two opinions for the Court that noted that the lower courts "make law".

    The height of buffoonery, right?

    By Blogger Mustang Bobby, at 6:32 AM  

  • Oh, please, this isn't a burlesque show and we're all sick of the phony indignation.

    Not understanding the separation of powers isn't what one would get from the statement unless you were looking for it to bolster a position founded on other things, and if you're a member of the party which has diminished that separation more than any other has done, buffoonery doesn't really cover it.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:18 AM  

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