June 03, 2009

Sotomayor Nomination Offers Lesson to Democrats on Playing the Race Card

The Democratic party has frequently mounted opposition to Republican efforts in almost every area by essentially calling them racists.  It is interesting to see whether Republican charges of racism against Sotomayor, likely deployed in part to expose this hypocrisy, will teach them to be more careful in slinging around the race card.  Two recent posts shed light on this issue.  

Mona Charen uses the nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to make her point.

"The Democrats succeeded in torpedoing Pickering's nomination -- not to mention assassinating his character. More than "insensitive," he was called a crypto racist with a "segregationist past" (Paul Krugman). When President Bush offered Judge Pickering a recess appointment to avoid a Senate filibuster, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., breathed fire: "Here we are, on the weekend before a national holiday when we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, and George W. Bush celebrates it by appointing Charles Pickering, a known forceful advocate for a cross-burner in America, to the federal court of the United States."

In point of fact, Judge Pickering had been a friend to civil rights throughout his career. To its credit, the New York Times actually quoted longtime associates of the judge and members of the black community in Pickering's hometown who "overwhelmingly support his nomination . . . and admire his efforts at racial reconciliation." The black chairman of the city council told the Times, "I can't believe the man they're describing in Washington is the same one I've known for years." They recalled that as a young prosecutor in 1967, Pickering had endangered his career (and perhaps more) by testifying in court against the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He was known for hiring black staffers at a time when few white Mississippians did. Pickering encouraged the chancellor of University of Mississippi to form the Institute for Racial Reconciliation and served on its board for many years. Pickering, unlike some white southerners (and many Democrats currently serving in Congress), chose to send his children to integrated public schools."

She argues in closing that, "Republicans should seize this teachable moment to remember all of the fine candidates -- Pickering, Miguel Estrada, Robert Bork -- and many more who were so shamefully treated by the Democrats who have suddenly discovered the evil of baseless accusations."

Ed Whelan makes a similar argument in comparing the rulings of two initially anonymous judges.

"Judicial Nominee # 1 joins an en banc appellate opinion that affirms an administrative ruling that the use of an ugly racial slur—the n-word—by a public employee did not justify the sanction of terminating her employment. Far from condoning the racial slur, the opinion clearly states that the “unwarranted use by a state employee of any inflammatory or derogatory term when referring to or directly addressing a co-worker is an action that cannot be justified by any argument.”


Judicial Nominee # 2 reviews the case of a police officer who was fired from his job for anonymously mailing racially bigoted materials—including printed fliers that asserted white supremacy and ridiculed black people—to police departments.  In dissent from the majority opinion, Judicial Nominee # 2 opines that the police officer’s firing violated his First Amendment rights. "

He later reveals the names of the nominees and the reactions to their two opinions.

"Judicial Nominee # 1 was President Bush’s Fifth Circuit nominee Leslie H. Southwick. Based in large part on left-wing activist groups’ wild distortions of the ruling described above, then-Senator Obama was the first senator to oppose Southwick’s nomination and recklessly alleged that Southwick “has shown hostility towards civil rights and a disregard for equal rights for minorities, women, gays and lesbians” and that his nomination even “threaten[ed] the very basis of our freedom and democracy.”  (emphasis added) (Southwick, in the end, was barely confirmed.)


Judicial Nominee # 2 is, as you’ve probably guessed, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor (in Pappas v. Giuliani, 290 F.3d 143 (2002)).  Sotomayor has received the ardent support of the same left-wing activist groups that smeared Southwick."

Maybe Sotomayor's nomination will finally convince Democrats that, as Charen titled her piece, "It's Not Fair To Casually Call People Racist."