Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cooler Heads

After hearing Newt Gingrich carry on like his home was in a tree about Judge Sonia Sotomayor (not to mention convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy speculate about her lady bits), it’s a relief to hear some conservative commentators telling the rest of the wild bunch to dial it back. Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post:

When Republicans appoint justices (seven of the nine currently serving), they’re merely brilliant men who happen to be Italian American or African American — without any political or identity considerations whatsoever.

Then again, perhaps Sotomayor is an experienced jurist who happens to be a woman (check) and a Latina (check), who also happens to have the qualities Obama prefers, plus a spiffy résumé: Princeton University Pyne Prize winner, Yale Law Journal editor, 17 years on the federal bench. Some call that a trifecta. Yet, you’d think from the onslaught that she runs a chain of abortion clinics.

Although her judicial record has raised some legitimate concerns, Sotomayor isn’t so easily characterized as the radical liberal that some on the right have suggested. She has ruled favorably toward abortion protesters and unfavorably toward minority plaintiffs.

Nevertheless, most criticism has been aimed at perceived racist-sexist remarks from a 2001 diversity speech in which Sotomayor suggested that she, as a Latina, could be more qualified than a white guy. Pause: Don’t most women think they’re more qualified than most men when it comes to making wise decisions? Kidding, kidding.

What she said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Sotomayor may be misguided, but she isn’t necessarily a sexist-racist. I say this as a mother of white males (perfect in every way) and author of “Save the Males.” Notwithstanding the preceding, I see her point.

Could a white man get away with saying something comparable about a Latina? Of course not. After Latinas have run the world for 2,000 years, they won’t be able to say it ever again either.

And Peggy Noonan, who still lights incense sticks at her little backyard shrine to St. Ronald, tells the right wing to act like grown-ups.

Some, and they are idiots, look at Judge Sotomayor and say: attack, attack, kill. A conservative activist told the New York Times, “We need to brand her.” Another told me a fight is needed to excite the base.

Excite the base? How about excite a moderate, or interest an independent? How about gain the attention of people who aren’t already on your side?


Barring extraordinary revelations, Judge Sotomayor is going to be confirmed. She’s going to win. She does not appear to be as liberal or left-wing as others who could have been picked. She seems reminiscent of the justice she will replace, David Souter. She will likely come across in hearings as smart, spirited, a middle-aged woman who’s lived a life of grit, determination and American-dream proving.

Republicans can be liberated by the fact that they’re outnumbered and likely about to lose. They can step back, breathe in, and use the Sotomayor confirmation hearings to perform a public service: Find out what the future justice thinks and why she thinks it, explain what they think and why they think it, look at the two different philosophies, if that’s what they are. Don’t make it sparring, make it thinking.

Don’t grill and grandstand, summon and inform. Show the respect that expresses equality and the equality that is an expression of respect. Ask and listen, get the logic, explain where you think it wrong. Fill the airwaves with thoughtful exchanges.

Based on the Republicans’ performance since the inauguration of President Obama, I think there’s a better chance that Rush Limbaugh will don a tutu, then flap his arms and fly to the moon. And right now, he and people who talk like him are the ones running the show.

It’s beginning to dawn on even the more reliable right-wingers that some of their brethren have gone into Cloud-Cuckooland and that if they don’t dial it back they will be relegated to the same place as the urine-soaked homeless guy who stands on the corner of the street and screams about the implants in his head. And this is only five months into the first term of the Obama administration.