Joy-Ann Reid

Joy-Ann Reid
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December 08
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Journalist and talk radio personality in South Florida. Also blogging daily at reidreport.com

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MAY 26, 2009 10:28AM

The GOP would be crazy to attack Sotomayor... but they will

Rate: 24 Flag

Would the Republican Party, already shrinking away to nothingness under the weight of a demographic tsunami, dare to oppose what would be the first Hispanic and only the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court? Would they risk alienating the multiple interest groups who will be galvanized by the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, including not only Latinos and women, but also Catholics (not to mention New Yorkers and Yankees fans...?) The short answer is no, they wouldn't, unless of course they are collectively insane. And yet, the arguments against Judge Sonia Sotomayor are already gathering, and none of them is helpful ... to the GOPI:

1. She's "temperamental." Not that anyone knows what that means, but Media Matters caught the neocons at TNR attacking Sotomayor without even pretending to do anything more journalistically rigorous than quoting random people who clearly aren't fond of her. Unfortunately for the right, attacking Judge Sotomayor's "temperament" will ring awfully familiar, and not in a good way, in the ears of women, who are used to hearing their strength conviction read by some old school dudes as a tendancy toward tantrums.

2. She doesn't like white people. Righties have already begun dissecting Sotomayor's membership in Hispanic organizations at Princeton and her general empathy for fellow Latinos as somehow disqualifying. John Perazzo wrote ominously in Front Page Magazine about one of those membership organizations:

The other group to which Sotomayor belonged, Princeton’s Third World Center (TWC), was established in 1971 “to provide a social, cultural and political environment that reflects the needs and concerns of students of color at the University.” A 1978 Princeton publication explained that the TWC had arisen chiefly to address the fact that “the University’s cultural and social organizations have largely been shaped by students from families nurtured in the Anglo-American and European traditions,” and that consequently “it has not always been easy for students from different backgrounds to enter the mainstream of campus life.”
Oooh ... sounds subversive ... The other knock on Sotomayor in the race case is the case of Ricci v. DeStefano, the now infamous New Haven firefighter case that raises the specter of affirmative action, "reverse discrimination," and more bluntly, black guys taking white guys' job opportunities away (or in this case, the government doing it.) Sotomayor, who ruled against the white firefighters who filed a discrimination suit after a test they passed was thrown out because from the City of New Haven's perspective, not enough minorities passed, was featured in a Willie Horton style web ad claiming she "didn't give a fair shake to firefighters not promoted on the basis of race." Personally, I think that the city of New Haven was wrong to throw out that test because they didn't like the demographics of the passing scores. But going after Sotomayor on the basis of this racially charged case will only make Republicans look hostile in the eyes of Black and Brown people, something they need no more of at this stage.

3. She's a token. Apparently, Justice Antonin Scalia has been heard to opine that “the next nominee to the Court will be a female Protestant Hispanic”. Funny stuff, Nino. And expect more wingers to complain that Sotomayor is not a white guy, and was selected by the other non-white guy wingers loathe (Barack Obama) on that basis. But again, conservatives do themselves no favors by attacking the fastest growing ethnic and voter group in the nation, in order to placate the dwindling number of Angry White Men, all of whom already vote Republican.

4. She's an "activist judge,"
(which is code for, she's a liberal.) For this one, the righties say they have videotaped evidence, namely a talk Sotomayor gave at Duke University in which she dared to say this:
“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. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don’t “make law,” I know. [audience laughter] Okay, I know. I know. I’m not promoting it, and I’m not advocating it. I’m, you know. [audience laughter]”
To this I'd have to say, so what? The judge properly asserted that the courts don't make law. But she was guilty of a bit of "truthiness," in that in many ways, our courts do set policy. From Brown v. Board, which undid racial separation in schools, to Roe v. Wade, which clearly altered national policy on abortion, like it or not, courts, by interpreting the laws made by legislators, do in effect, make policy. Today, for instance, the California Supreme Court will decide if voters in that state had the right to decide that state's marriage laws. As inartful as Sotomayor's statement about the power of our court system may have been, it was in essence, true, and hardly disqualifying. Besides, since the right has already charicterized Barack Obama as a Marxist, I'm not sure there's room to place Sotomayor much to his left.

Most importantly, Judge Sotomayor is bringing a heavyweight resume to the table: 17 years on the federal bench, educated at Princeton and Yale, editor of the Yale Law Review (President Harvard Law Review had to love that), not to mention her incredible life story, rising from the projects in the South Bronx to potentially, the highest court in the land. Given her qualifications, and her back story, the right bears a hell of a lot at risk in potentially attacking this nominee. Whether they do it anyway will tell you a lot about the mental state of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Meanwhile, the GOP has tried to stop Sotomayor's ascent before, namely, back in 1998:
Senate Republican staff aides said Trent Lott of Mississippi, the majority leader, has agreed to hold up a vote on the nomination as part of an elaborate political calculus; if she were easily confirmed to the appeals court, they said, that would put her in a position to be named to the Supreme Court. And Senate Republicans think that they would then have a difficult time opposing a Hispanic woman who had just been confirmed by the full Senate.

''Basically, we think that putting her on the appeals court puts her in the batter's box to be nominated to the Supreme Court,'' said one senior Republican staff aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ''If Clinton nominated her it would put several of our senators in a real difficult position.''
At that time, Pat Leahy described Republican opposition to her this way:
'Their reasons are stupid at best and cowardly at worst,'' he said.

''What they are saying is that they have a brilliant judge who also happens to be a woman and Hispanic, and they haven't the guts to stand up and argue publicly against her on the floor,'' Senator Leahy said. ''They just want to hide in their cloakrooms and do her in quietly.''
Let's see who's hiding in the cloakrooms this time.

Cross-posted at The Reid Report.

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I think she's a good choice even though I'm white, male, anglo, atheist and liberal.
Joy-Ann, a Republican pundit just questioned her "intellectual abilities" on MSNBC. He also stated the blatantly racist remark that she was more like Thurgood Marshall who was also intellectually challenged. This is what America has become. It's the 1960's all over again for the Republicans.
When are we ever going to get past "she is the first Hispanic", or "he is the first Black", or "she is the first woman"?

Why not just sayshe/he is absolutely qualified for the job?

Sotomayer has excellent qualifications. Nuff said.
Excellent post. I'm quoting these lines because I love reading them:

" At that time, Pat Leahy described Republican opposition to her this way:

'Their reasons are stupid at best and cowardly at worst,'' he said.

''What they are saying is that they have a brilliant judge who also happens to be a woman and Hispanic, and they haven't the guts to stand up and argue publicly against her on the floor,'' Senator Leahy said. ''They just want to hide in their cloakrooms and do her in quietly.''

And this:

"Given her qualifications, and her back story, the right bears a hell of a lot at risk in potentially attacking this nominee. Whether they do it anyway will tell you a lot about the mental state of the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

It's a done deal, Joy-Ann.

Rated and Thank you.
I am excited by the choice of Sotomayor, cautiously optimistic about her ability to make her way through the confirmation process. Thank you for the talking points - they provide a partial blueprint for writing our Senators. This is the second post of yours that I've read and felt the same about the first one - deserves a rating not only for excellent information but for providing a framework for action!
She is an above average political choice. I hope she makes a decent Justice should she be confirmed...which I think she will be.

I doubt the Republicans will make a big thing of this one. They have almost nothing to win, because unless there is a huge bomb hidden, she will be confirmed no matter how much they fuss.

I say they give this a pass...with just token opposition.
@ blackflon - I can vote today as a direct result of those who dreamed of 'seeing things in ways that are truly without prejudice'.

Additionally, Barack Obama is President of the United States as a direct result, in part, of that selfsame Idealism.

We agree that "the person who should get a job, any job, should be the person who is most qualified ..."

... However, shouldn't presidential nominations, at the very least, attempt to reflect the make up of the nation including race, gender and orientation provided the qualifications are stellar? So far, that hasn't happened because we have not been truly without prejudice in this country, have we?

Remember: Since it's inception, until a mere 30 years ago, the high court was made up entirely of --white-- males. Takes time to break through ceilings....
Thanks for the comments, all!

Kind of Blue: I heard the pundit in question. Interesting, huh? And I'll bet that same pundit thought Harriet Miers was the Albert Einstein of jurisprudence.
By the way...I would not be astonished to see the Republicans try to get some political mileage out of this by doing a pro-forma endorsement of the pick.
Looking forward to John Kyl of Arizona opposing the first Hispanic for the Supreme Court. Is there no end to the damage that the GOP can do to itself in its never ending quest to create a "racially/ethnically pure America?"
As an aside, I cant help but wonder how Arlen Specter would have treated this nominee if he still held the position of the #1 Repub on the Judiciary Committee.
Sotomayor is a fine choice.

@Kind of Blue- Hilarious that a Repub would attack ANYONE'S "intellectual ability". If the GOP has any intellectuals, they're hiding from the Luddite Rwing, lest they be burned at the stake.

@rwnutjob
If you had examined the New Haven case, you might understand why it got kicked upstairs to the USSC. It's not as simple as a Limbaugh-ish analysis would have it. Hell, is anything?
You're underrating the importance of Number 2 here. The problem there is not a racial one, but a legal one. From what I've seen in of the case, Sotomayor made the wrong decision. You seem to agree, Joy-Ann. But saying that we can hide poor legal judgement behind political correctness is exactly what the GOP wants us to do. The GOP won't look bad bringing this one out because nobody is going to buy that they are doing so out of racism. It certainly doesn't look like you think there is racist intent in opposing this decision, and nor do I.

So it sounds like what you're saying is, "even if Sotomayor is wrong to favor racial quotas over merit, we can continue to let her do so by accusing her detractors of racism." Is that really a winning position?
Sotomayor didn't make a ruling in the New Haven case, other than to uphold the lower court ruling. It's not as simple a case as emotions would have it. There are several laws and precedents that apply, and at least one set of conflicting intent of the laws.

Either way, it would have been appealed, and the 'no decision' ruling was an easy way of getting it where it should be and was argued- before the USSC.

It always helps to read the actual rulings......
I hope the Rs attack her and marginalize themselves with women and latinos even more.

It amazing to hear the ones say that for judges it should make no difference what your gender or color is. It's mostly white men saying that, and some delusional white women. God, how hard is it to figure out that people from different backgrounds have a different perspective? Or that that's valuable.

Thank God for a very belated leap toward a bit more diversity on the court.
Wasn't the New Haven ruling (or rather, non-ruling, I guess, since it let the lower court's ruling stand) by a panel of 3 judges?
I tend to concur with Frank. I don't think there will be much conflict or controversy over this nomination.
As to the so-called "talking points" on the TWC: yeah, so what? It was the early 70's. Organizations advancing different groups whether they were female, ethnic, nationality, etc. proliferated on campuses. They were forums. They were activists. Hooray for them. That's what the 70's were all about. That's why it was such a stimulating time. Great change was fermenting and it was a wonderful time to be involved, aware and engaged. I the early 70's the exception was people of color in law schools, ivy league schools, etc. These people paved the way for it to become a normative part of our higher education environment and our society. If any naysayers want to try to use this as a club, then to hell with them.
I believe it was Jonathan Turley on MSNBC that criticized her "intellectual ability" and made the Marshall comments.

Turley is a legal scholar at GWU. I am pretty sure he is NOT a Republican; he has been beating the drum on Rachel Maddow's show for quite some time now to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes.

He is a strong advocate for civil liberties and upholding the Constitution.

I have been a fan of his and generally appreciate his commentary. Thus, I was shocked and disappointed to hear his comments regarding Sotomayor this morning. Further, I can't think of any of the current Justices that I would consider an "intellectual heavyweight."
"It amazing to hear the ones say that for judges it should make no difference what your gender or color is."

Really? Amazing? I'll say that proudly. In fact, I'll say it should make no difference what gender or color you are for any government job. Equality is based in laws, not in personal preferences. Should black people be happy that they have Clarence Thomas sitting on the bench, bringing a different shade of skin-tone to the court?

Please. The answer to racism is not racialism.
clarification:

Should black people be happy that they have Clarence Thomas sitting on the bench, bringing a different shade of skin-tone to the court if he is also inspiring their ire by voting against what many perceive to be their collective interests?
@rwingnutjob

The "no ruling" ruling was based on law and precedent.

Let's examine your first comment:

"The New Haven firefighter case is the issue. Had the races been reversed the left would be screaming bloody murder instead of just ignoring her actions. The logical and rational choice is to award the jobs to those with the highest test scores. The fact she could not understand/give a crap about this basic concept absolutely should disqualify her.

Supreme Court justices need to act on legal facts, not emotion or what THEY may feel is an injustice. The law is the law. Since the Executive branch and Congress can't seem to understand the rule of law, we need to make sure the Supreme Court gets it. (Regardless of their race, sex or party affiliation)"

With your second paragraph you decry rulings that are based on emotion, and not the Rule of Law.

In your first paragraph you denounce Sotomayor because she (and the 2 other judges) didn't ignore the Rule of Law to make a ruling based on emotion.


I hope ya don't mind if I kick back and let you destroy your own argument.
"The short answer is no, they wouldn't, unless of course they are collectively insane."

Which means you can get ready for the filibuster.
Agree with Paul.
When you download and read the Sotomayor et al ruling, they don't make any written ruling, they just affirm the district court judge.
"UPON CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED."
"Wasn't the New Haven ruling (or rather, non-ruling, I guess, since it let the lower court's ruling stand) by a panel of 3 judges?"

There were 3 judges — two female, one male. The other two judges were not selected for a Supreme Court vacancy however. They go free at this time.

" At a stated Term of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, in the City of New York, on the 15th day of February, two thousand and eight.

Present: ROSEMARY S. POOLER,
ROBERT D. SACK,
SONIA SOTOMAYOR,
Circuit Judges"
We finally have a suitable replacement for Thurgood Marshall. Well written. Congrats on the EP..........
Very insightful and well-wrote. And all too true. Rated.
Rwnutjob…question if I may:

You wrote: “ Sotomayor did not rule based on law. All affirmative action legislation is based on emotion. (Although I understand the intent)”

Is that a fact…or just your take on things. I honestly do not know…and I am wondering about the underpinnings. If you are a legal scholar and know there is nothing in law to sustain affirmative action…I’d really like to understand it.
Excellent post. Rated. The Republicans do seem to be descending into the depths of self-parody, don't they?
Sometimes appellate courts uphold lower court decisions because the think the issue should be "kicked up." Happens all the time. I don't see anything really scary about her so far. There is another post on OS that attempts to hoist her on a 'not liberal enough' petard, but she didn't write the opinion, and maybe didn't think the case was important enough to write a concurrence (the facts in the case cited were awful for the plaintiff, and not ones to base new law upon).

Bottom line is, trying to figure out why a judge did something and opining thereon is an old hobby for lawyers and pundits.

I just moved to the DC area and am in a looong waiting period for a final interview, so I am hoping to attend the at least some of the confirmation hearings in the peasant section.
You left out another GOP talking point: she's not a 'REAL AMERICAN'
I am with Blackflan on this. Nice post!
RWNutjob: Perhaps you should examine the difference between our branches of government. Equal Employment Opportunity laws are legislated. Try reading, oh, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That would be a good start.

Application of the law to the facts is the job of judges.

--Elizabeth Camp
I am very happy today! She is an outstanding selection.
Everyone please see the current issue of the New Yorker, which will show you why rwnutjob's comment:

"Supreme Court justices need to act on legal facts, not emotion or what THEY may feel is an injustice. "

...is nonsensical. The article is a thorough outline of Chief Justice Roberts' history and opinions, particularly his emotional response to race issues. All the justices bring "emotion" and "what THEY may feel is an injustice" to their decisions. Ginsberg brings a feminist outlook; Scalia brings (sometimes) libertarianism and (always) homophobia; Clarence Thomas brings his set of resentments, and so on. They're human, after all.

And all pundits and bloggers will tell you that any decision they agree with is based "on legal facts, not emotion," while decisions they don't like are "emotional." T'was ever thus.
rwnutjob: I haven't seen the NH opinion, so have none of my own. A question I have is what was the legal standard of judicial review? If it was the common "abuse of discretion" standard, then it may well have limited what the 3-judge panel could decide.
I'm very excited about this appointment. Compare this appointment to what's her name (the private atty. Bush tried to appoint -- Harriet Something) who was so vastly underqualified.
So if I were to say this:
"I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a latina female who hasn’t lived that life,” you'd think I'd be qualified for the supreme court? Really?

But Judge Sotomayor said just that:
"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.”(nytimes)

Question: why did this quote somehow miss being included in your rather extensive article?
One phrase talking heads invited to present an opposition to her appointment on 24/7 news seem to repeat over and over is she supposedly said "a brown woman can interpret law better than a white man." I interpret that statement as "differently" rather than "better" because white men (and women) or "brown" men (so sorry for that reference) have provided the interpretation so far. If the majority minority in the United States is to be Hispanic then a justice who understands or even empathizes with that group is almost required on the Supreme Court.

The talking head invited to speak on MSNBC last night repeated that white man/brown woman phrase NINE times.
Joy-Ann, at a time when the GOP is out in the wilderness, you would think that they are not crazy enough to attack Judge Sotomayor. But they know the only way to keep their base is to do just that. The base is all they have!

It was 40 year for Moses to find his way out of the wilderness… could be the same for the GOP, maybe more.

-rated
gmgaston is right- the Right will turn this into a huge anti-affirmative action thing. Let's face it- affirmative action is very, very unpopular among a lot of people in this country. The Right is going to milk this for all it's worth.
Is it me or does "temperament" sound like a code word for Latina as well as woman? In any case, it has been entertaining to watch the GOP shoot themselves in the foot over this highly qualified jurist.
I am a Republican, and I think attacking her is real, real dumb, unless there is something I don't know about.rated
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124354041637563491.html

You should all take the forty or so minutes to listen to the court proceedings and come to your own conclusions about the fairness of the test and whether the decision to throw it out was a judicious one.