A liberal, activist, racist, minority judge

Published 9:33 am Friday, June 5, 2009

It’s summer, the slow time of politics when losers plot for a brighter future and winners sit back and enjoy the fruits of victory.

But this summer there is a summer long party, with colorful balloons, crepe paper strings and Mint Juleps galore. Why? Because there is a Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sotomayor, on the summer menu, and fun to be had for all.

The Republicans have had most of the early fun, claiming the moderate judge to be a racist. Although, to be fair Newt Gingrich has recanted the racist charge this week.

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Now Newt says Sotomayor was never personally a racist, just her remarks were…an interesting retreat that makes one less than confident in the objectivity of Mr. Gingrich.

And then of course prior to Sotomayor the Republicans threatened a filibuster against the unnamed candidate, assuming they would oppose anyone named because well, what is an opposition party for if not to oppose whatever?

But the nomination has had one divisive effect on Republicans.

The elected Republicans have taken a much more careful rhetorical stance, noting that the voting power of Hispanics who are excited about the Sotomayor nomination might not care for the dishonest attacks on her character and may remember those words at the next voting opportunity.

The Republican talking heads on the other hand, like Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity, have had no such compunction to withhold their extreme and inflamed comments.

At the end of the day it will all work out about the time fall arrives. Sotomayor will be confirmed and about 30 Republicans will vote against her just because.

They would vote against Jesus if nominated by Obama … too empathetic. And if Jesus stepped aside for God, they would vote against God … favors the Jews you know. But Sotomayor will be confirmed and join the Supreme Court.

On the way to confirmation Republicans will try to move as slowly as possible, knowing that face time in the media is hard to come by and this is a great opportunity to use the Sotomayor nomination to contrast the conservative perspective against the liberal Obama.

There will be charges of Sotomayor as an “activist” judge, which is basically one who disagrees with conservative views.

There will be charges of a “liberal” judge, though no one actually viewing her record could make that claim with a straight face. But, in the end, Sotomayor will be seated on the court.

Sadly, all of this perverts the actual process that should be advice and consent by the Senate. There are real questions that should be considered of this candidate.

What is her position on Roe v. Wade? She upheld a very conservative position that the Bush administration could not only withhold federal funds for abortion, but could restrain agencies receiving those funds from complaining about the funding restrictions. But there are no other rulings that indicate how she might rule on abortion.

In Ricci, the case of potential reverse discrimination in firefighter’s promotions Sotomayor followed law and precedent, but here conservatives wanted an activist judge to protect the oppressed white majority. Was Sotomayor right to rule conservatively, or should she have taken a more radical approach as suggested by the Republicans?

Finally, on the question of her background, does it matter what background a Supreme Court Justice has, or are qualifications all about objectivity? And are there completely objective judges at any level on any court. Unfortunately, it is unlikely any of these questions will be answered by the ranters on the right or the Mint julep folks on the left.

It’s summertime in Washington.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.