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


Terri G.
Terri G8 years ago

No..it's not hard to start when we're talking about the truth...based on the facts, the realities...of the people in question from the people in question themselves. Listen...read...get educated with as close to first-hand info/knowledge as you can get. Anyone can do this as simply as by listening to those in question...right now...i.e. Sotomayor,

It's very difficult to truly rationalize rebuttals that say somebody didn't say or imply something...when you can hear it -- over and over again, if you choose...right from their own mouths! Listen to what has come directly from Sotomayor’s own mouth, look at her body language....and really look at and really read her record.

As for Obama...his ongoing rebuttals for and on “behalf” of yet another poor choice of his...are really sad yet amusing. It's frankly beyond absurd that he can barely speak without the assistance of his teleprompter.....i.e. something typical...“oh uh yeah -- um that's what she ah said but that's not ("big smile") what she meant...uh uh now uh let me splain (“silly smile”)."

And for the naysayers and the "record"...I, too, am a member of not one, but three "groups" considered "minorities". One of those minorities is what Sotomayor and others who support her are attempting to use as a catalyst that somehow supposedly makes her more deserving than others who would be called racist if they made a similar claim in reverse.

Barbara L.
Barbara L8 years ago

Betty, I totally agree with you. I think much ado has been made about little. let us remember that this lady had to be confirmed by the Senate to be a district Court judge and passed with flying colors! Enough mudslinging - it only demeans all of us! Thanks for your clear thinking.

Di B.
P B8 years ago

Betty A.
You have made a lot of good points with which I agree. I have had a house full of company and am trying to catch up with these threads. It is too bad that some cannot understand the meaning of civil rights and respect for the beliefs of others. I have great respect for Sotomayor's achievements and background, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. So, as of now, I am on the fence with this nomination. But, the Rove/Gingrich comments are the type we can expect from these low life scoundrels who have done incredible harm to our country. May they fade into the dust. Religious beliefs should play no role in running a country. Sadly, in some areas, the church/state issue has violated our constitutional principals. We must get back on track with civility

Julia Garza
Julie G8 years ago

This isn't about the GOP. This is about the right to "equality under the law." Any judge who purports to use other criteria, such as race, gender, economic achievement etc. as his or her basis for decision making as stated by Sotomayor will not be rendering a just decision based on equality. This is dangerous for a number of reasons. Our forefathers did not create checks and balances in our governmental branches only to be undermined by the short sighted thinking of social engineers.

M C.
M C8 years ago

On whether Sotomayor's femininity or racial empathy are counter-biases to misogyny, gerontocracy and Aryan-centrism:

If anyone feels this is the case, dig up some decisions and offer some proof, some argument. (Same goes for the silly commentators with unnamed sources, and the silly politicians with zero political capital).

Even if it is the case, the utilitarian principles of the common law tradition are such that it would be justifiable to have an equal balance of biases so as to allow the maximum benefit from bias for every appellant and respondent coming before the court.

That is to say, it would be great to have an even number of men and women - so that either men or women coming before the court get the same amount of bias. It would also be great to have hundreds judges sitting for the hundreds of ethnoracial groups existing in the world (most of which have at least one immigrant in the US which might be subject to legal action in the USSC).

Obviously this is impractical in many ways - with an even number of justices, there would be no tie-breaker; and with a number in the hundreds, the court system would very soon become another form of tyranny of the majority, as opposed to judicial debate and reasoning.

It is impossible to eradicate bias, the important thing to determine is whether the degree of bias is such that it should cause worry that the administration of justice will suffer as a consequence of Sotomayor's appointment; seemingly no.

Tayeko K.
Tayeko K8 years ago

It is surprising that in the 21st Century when access to primary sources and investigative blogs are so available to the public via the internet that so many people just take the statements of a Rove, Cheney, Limbaugh and Gingrich as the gospel truth. Did we not learn anything from the tragedy of the Iraq War? If your neighbor lied, mislead you as much as they did would you now believe anything they said. A democracy demands an informed electorate. The issues are far too important and far reaching to elevate gossip and misinformation to the level of truth. There are 8 valid, non partisan blogs already posted about Sotomayer. I would suggest you research before you support the statements of Rush and Karl. I know that a Yale degree has been tarnished by the fact that Bush was not allowed to fail out of the College, and no one on the right seemed to be bothered by the fact that he was less than an average student who can hardly speak the Queen's English, but to question the intelligence of Sotomayer can only be explained if you acknowledge the fact that these white, older males still do not accept that a woman, and a minority woman at that, has the same intellectual ability of white males. Wake up and recognize sexism, bigotry and racism when you see it.

Lindsey O.
.8 years ago

Sitting on the bench isn't about applying feelings or empathy. It's about doing justice. About interpreting our laws and the Constitution.

I may in some cases "feel" for one particular side in a dispute; however, if the law is against them - it's against them. If precedent doesn't support their position - it doesn't support their position.

And when a Judge empathizes too deeply with one side, it can fall into the realm of bias. A judge is supposed to remain impartial at all times - and is not supposed to "feel" for one side or the other in any way which could cause the Judge to consider any position more or less strongly.

And if we're going to apply the standard of a Latina woman being somehow more qualified to render judgment in cases involving women or Hispanics - then, using the same yardstick, she must also be LESS qualified to judge any case involving a man or non-Latino. That is, if we're using her own criteria....

Wini A.
Wini A8 years ago

When someone or some political party is bankrupt, what more can one expect than inanities from the bankrupt people who belong to said bankrupt party? The mystery to me is not that the media reports these idiotic comments, it's that the press repeats them over and over again all the while the media know that the quotes are from the true intellectually light weights.
Did anyone say that Clarence Thomas was an intellectual light weight? If they didn't, his performance on the court has shown that he is. If he can sit on the court then Sotomayor, his intellectual and experiential superior in so many, many ways is certainly qualified to be a justice of the US Supreme Court. Let's raise the IQ of the Supreme Court and confirm Sonia Sotomayor.

Betty A.
Betty A8 years ago

Linjdsy O. The legal system does have the right to rule but not on Religious dictates but on Scientific ones. Saying that life begins at conception is rather like saying that an egg is a chicken. It Might become one in the future, but as an egg, it is not. I am pro choice and would never have an abortion but to fund viagra on medicare and not contraose. Why are Christians ( and many other religions ) so hung up on sex? If Catholics were more realistic about natural functions, maybe they wouldn't have all the Priest problems. What I am saying is that like other things, a persons religion controls their thinking and rulings. If it a true belief. In my estimation the best and fairest Judge would be an Atheist who had no God to appease and could rule in favor of the citizens, male, female, black, white, brown etc. By the way I am an 80 year old white woman from the Bible belt where Bush carried the State twice. How stupid is THAT? Once at the Beauty Salon where a little old grey headed lady was waxing estatic over Sarah Palin , I asked why there were so many evil people in the world if God is all powerful. She gave me the standard answer that God gives us a choice. . God is pro choice but Christians aren't. I asked. Didn't hear much more from her.

Eric G.
Eric Gilmartin8 years ago

Hey, Karl and Newt, word of advice: Better be nice to her, boys, you may well be appealing your convictions before her and the other eight Supremes someday.(-: