Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Obama Girl

When I first heard of Sonia Sotomayor, it was a few weeks before President Obama nominated her to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was when that infamous video of her first surfaced where she uttered, “The Court of Appeals is where policy is made. . . . I know I should never say that because we don’t ‘make law,’ I know.” As bothersome as that comment was, which she shamelessly tried to cover up, the laughter that it elicited is what said more to me. As I explained in my letter to the local paper, that much probably tells us what Sonia Sotomayor thinks of the Constitution: she disregards the court’s call to interpret the law, attempts to cover up the gaffe with air quotes, and then laughs. How funny.

With this as my initial introduction, I was prepared to utterly detest Judge Sotomayor. Just imagine what sort of judicial activist she must be if she’s this upfront about it. In the end, she appears to have little that resembles a judicial philosophy and despite her gaffes and lack of judgment, it will be all of her personal factors that will make it utterly impossible for the Republicans to mount a serious offensive.

Take, for example, the quote that has easily garnered the most attention: "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."


In what would have ended the career of any white man, the perception that Republicans are inherently racist will likely render this Biden moment moot.

Regardless, the administration and its media lackeys wasted no time in playing the “out of context” card. You need to know the whole context to understand what she really meant, they bellowed. As Steel Phoenix pointed out, the context makes the quote even worse. Instead of making an off-the-cuff remark (off-the-cuff, yet somehow scripted), she has not only uttered that statement more than once, but the time in question (2001 at Berkeley) was intended for publication in the La Raza (The Race) Law Review. I’m unfamiliar with the La Raza Law Review, but if it’s in any way affiliated with the National Council on La Raza, it can only be described as anti-white and anti-American and encourages a Reconquista of the American Southwest.

So if this is true and La Raza Law Review is that La Raza, then she was at best pandering to Hispanics, and at worst giving aid and comfort to a group that is openly treasonous. Either way, that is a serious lack of judgment and ethics unbecoming of a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to mention the notion that her background would help her produce better decisions than say, some white guy.

Now for some of the other issues that are under the radar.

Surprisingly, Judge Sotomayor has a rather vague record on abortion. This is surprising only because the person who nominated her promised Planned Parenthood that Roe v. Wade was going to remain sacrosanct. That makes it difficult to believe that she could possibly be pro-life. But my pro-life brethren needn’t really fret over this issue. If she does turn out to be even the most unshakable of Roe supporters, she is replacing David Souter, not Clarence Thomas. The status quo will remain on this issue.

She has an interesting record on the Second Amendment. Appearing to understand what the amendment means, Sotomayor ruled in Maloney v. Cuomo that the Second Amendment does not pertain to state and local governments. She ruled correctly that the Second Amendment restricts (or is supposed to restrict) the U.S. Congress from infringing on Americans’ right to own a gun. But her ruling indicated that those state and local governments do have the right to restrict people from owning guns. It sounds like she swung both ways on that one: one level of government has the right to take away your right to own a gun, but another patently does not. The point is, you do have the right to own a gun and no government can take it away. Her ruling indicates that it is not a right.

An issue that has not been mentioned among conservatives looking to oppose the nomination is the issue of executive power. Republican appointees John Roberts and Sam Alito and William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor before them backed the Bush administration’s power grabs rather consistently.

It was disappointing for me that conservatives by and large looked the other way or bought the line that the executive needed additional powers to wage war other than the ones prescribed in the Constitution. How short-sighted was that view? Because George W. Bush exercised extraordinary powers, Barack Obama does too, and only looks to increase them. Now many of those same Bush supporters are aghast that President Obama has such penetrating power. I’m confused as to why it’s so surprising: Bush didn’t take his extraconstitutional power back to Crawford with him. It stayed in Washington ready to be used by the next emperor regardless of whether it was Grampsy or The Chosen One.

So what does Sonia Sotomayor feel about increasing executive power? It’s hard to say. Lewis McCrary of The American Conservative had trouble finding rulings on it. But if we recall her comment about the courts making policy, it’s not hard to imagine she would support additional unconstitutional power grabs that would benefit the man who gave her her new job. As President Obama has assumed more powers over the affairs of the country, how she rules on this matter is what should most concern conservatives.

People are having difficulty finding rulings that would indicate a judicial philosophy that directs Sotomayor. With no clear philosophy, that probably points to judicial activism and it will additionally make it even harder for Republicans to oppose her. That will leave Republicans with little else but to harp on the wise Latina (if they dare) and judicial activism comments, which in and of themselves will get them nowhere.

Plus Obama and his pick have the added advantage that her appointment to the federal district court was from President George H. W. Bush. Republicans won’t be able to claim that she’s just another Democratic operative and political appointee. Republicans with the seniority of Mitch McConnell have the votes to prove it. In this regard, President Obama can justifiably say, “Who are you to oppose Ms. Sotomayor now when you confirmed her in 1992?”

In a sense, it was politically golden for President Obama to pick Sonia Sotomayor. She’s Hispanic and a woman, two key Democratic demographics. Republicans are already branded as anti-Hispanic and anti-woman. They don’t need further stigmatization by harping on her wise Latina comment, so expect them to walk on eggshells. And she has a slippery (some might say sloppy) judicial record, even upsetting some liberals, which makes it hard to definitively nail her down.

All the president needs is for one of the Maine Republicans to cross the aisle to confirm a sister.

As far as picking someone to make it onto the high court, Barack Obama probably made the perfect nomination. Now whether she can reliably apply the law is another matter.

In other words, don't expect Sonia Sotomayor to get borked.

(H/T: Steel Phoenix)


Steel Phoenix said...

It was no Biden moment. She used that line in speeches all over the place for nine years!

I think my biggest worry with Obama aligns with your point about the executive retaining Bush powers: If Obama vastly increases the scale of government, even if all of his programs are good ones, in the long run, whether by another Bush style power abuser or just inevitable bureaucratic decline, it will be our downfall.

It seems that these days a justice is nominated on a combination of loyalty to the current executive and a mediocre record (makes them easier to confirm). I don't know if you noticed the update at the bottom of my post, but Sotomayor has come right out and talked about all the positions that she took from more qualified individuals in the name of affirmative action. Video here if you want to hear it straight from the wise Latina'a mouth, and the the Buchanan writeup here.

Carl Wicklander said...

My original line was that it was a Reverend Wright moment. Perhaps I should have left it.

And I have heard her words. The perfect affirmative action baby didn't have the grades. Very interesting.

I also just wanted to talk about something other than the usual line-up of topics that we've been getting. I haven't heard anyone talk about the issue of executive power.

Steel Phoenix said...

Yeah, good post. I often like to take a step back from the news and just write about a political philosophy. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in the same tired issues. There is nothing more tiresome to me in the Supreme Court nomination process than everyone trying to ferret out the nominees position on Roe vs. Wade. It is the media/congressional equivalent of Sotomayor's statement on the making of policy; they know they aren't supposed to ask, and they even say so, but they do it anyway.

TRUTH 101 said...

In my 46 years on God's Earth, it has always seemed to me that Supreme Court Justices bend and interpret the law to fit their beliefs. Thus we have never ending 5 to 4 decisions. I know it's not an exact science, but how could there consistently be the same number agreeing and disagreeing if their decisions were based on the law as written and not as they interpret?

There are other issues regarding workers rights that will come before the Supremes. No matter what the law says, I know 5 of the current Justices will decide against them. Just as the Right knows 4 Justices will decide for them.

All 9 of them will disagree, but ideology matters more than law to them.

Carl Wicklander said...

I basically agree with that assessment about ideology. As you can see, I'm not a huge fan of Republican-appointed judges either. Judges usually end up empowering those that appointed them. Funny how that works.

I think the judiciary is like the legislative branch. There's a lot of arguing between the two sides, but in the end, they usually end up sticking with the status quo. They're just arguing over the finer details. The retention of power is what matters most and in judges' cases, it's til death do they part.

Jeremiah Whitmoore said...

Sotomayer is utterly unqualified for the Supreme Court and is meant to assuage the Latino base of the Democratic Party. However, she's probably the most moderate pick within Obama's shortlist and will not be an intellectual and activist- leftist on the bench. Republicans would be unwise to waste their political capital(if they have any at all) on blocking this appointment.