Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich:Sonia Sotomayor Is an Intellectual Lightweight and A Racist
It’s hard to know where to start when discussing the Republican smear tactics aimed at President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Racism? Check! Sexism? Check! Hypocrisy? Check!
Let’s start with hypocrisy.
Did Republican leaders not realize that Sotomayor was originally nominated to federal court by George Herbert Bush? Or that she has been already been confirmed by the Senate twice for federal court positions? Or that Sotomayor comes to the confirmation hearings as one of the most qualified judges ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court authoring some 400 legal opinions during her time on the bench? But don’t take my word for it. Here’s The Guardian’s Scott Lemieux on Sotomayor’s qualifications:
“But her formal qualifications – advancing from poverty in the Bronx to Princeton, editor of the Yale Law Journal and nearly 20 years of distinguished service on the federal courts – are comparable or superior to any recent nominee.”
Lemieux goes on to note that Sotomayor is much MORE qualified than “conservative icons” William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas. Rehnquist has NO judicial experience and Thomas had served less than two years as a judge. In fact, Lemieux points out that Sotomayor’s qualifications mirror those of current Justice Samuel Alito.
In fact, Lemieux calls accusations by the usual Republican blow hards Karl Rove, Rush Limbuagh, and Jeffrey Rosen “absurd.”
On to racism and sexism which I’ll discuss together because I find it difficult to separate out the racism and sexism in most of the insults Republican spokesmen and Senators have directed toward Sotomayor.
Let’s start with the easy targets first. Mike Huckabee apparently thinks all Latina women are named Maria based on his original statement against the nomination of “Maria” Sotomayor. Whoops!
And on Twitter this morning, Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) joined Republican colleagues Sen. James Inhofe and Rep. Lamar Smith in calling Sotomayor a racist for claiming that judicial diversity is important when determining “race and sex discrimination cases.” (Here’s my response tweet to @newtgingrich by the way.) Imagine that! A bench full of white male judges might not always have a full understanding of how plaintiffs are affected by sex or racial discrimination? Say it ain’t so. What Newt and the boys are really worried about is a bench full of women and minorities because they might lose a little bit of that male privilege they love so much.
Karl Rove called Sotomayor an “intellectual lightweight” no doubt encouraged by Jeffrey Rosen’s New Republic article in which unnamed sources are quoted as saying Sotomayor is “not that smart.” Let there be no doubt that implying phrases like “intellectual lightweight” and “not that smart” are code for “woman” and/or “hispanic.” Ramesh Ponnuru’s claim that Sotomayor is Obama’s Harriet Miers is ignorant, not to mention ridiculous.
Let’s get real here people. Sotomayor has the same academic and judicial qualifications that Samuel Alito did when he was nominated to the Supreme Court, but I don’t remember anyone alleging that he wasn’t qualified or that he was “dumb and obnoxious” or an “intellectual lightweight” when all evidence points to the opposite. So what’s different about Sotomayor besides her lack of conservative credentials? And why are they trying to focus attention on Sotomayor’s “empathy” and her understanding of the role of a Supreme Court Justice? Because empathy is weak. Because empathy is feminine. Because empathy is the opposite of intellect in the minds of Republicans. In their simple world, men have intellect and women have empathy so focusing attention on Sotomayor as an empathetic judge reminds everyone that she’s a women and potentially intellectually weak. As pointed out on the SCOTUSblog, Justices Alito and Roberts were always described as eminently qualified and intellectually capable. And the difference is………..?
The difference is that Sotomayor is a Latina–a woman, and a woman with darker skin than most of the men making such dumb and obnoxious allegations.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Yglesias