Fisking some of the Sotomayor cheering *UPDATED*

The applause from Sotomayor on the Left is, you’ll pardon me for saying, canned.  They know Sotomayor is not a solid judicial candidate, so they’re focusing on the usual race and sex packaging.  The excitement isn’t there.  This is rote identity politics.  A good example is Ruth Marcus’s column applauding Obama’s choice, which I reproduce, not in its entirety, but only with the statements I wanted to fisk:

And yet the arguments for picking Sotomayor were awfully strong. Her life story is compelling in a way that mirrors Obama’s own amazing trajectory: the child of Puerto Ricans, rising from the public housing projects of the Bronx to the pinnacles of the legal profession, overcoming adversity (childhood diabetes, the early death of her father) along the way.  [The standards for a compelling life story keep dropping lower and lower.  Apparently the ingredients are ambition, one missing parent, possible health issues and — and this is the important one — minority status, coupled with the correct politics.  As Sally Zelikovsky points out, minority status coupled with the wrong politics is not compelling.  No way.  And as I’ve pointed out, given that Sotomayor went through Ivy League schools, just as Obama did (and, as with Obama, I’m willing to bet that she got in through affirmative action), and given that she’s sucked at the government teat ever since then, her life story is as compelling as a rock.  Also, if I hear the trite phrase “compelling life story” one more time, I’m going to scream.]

She brings an impressive breadth of credentials and experience, from the grittiness of the Manhattan district attorney’s office to the rarefied precincts of intellectual property law to the nuts-and-bolts life of a trial court judge.  [That’s meaningless.  I have no idea what Marcus thinks the “rarefied precincts of intellectual property law” are.  I’ve been there and done that.  Mostly it’s a lot of document review.  As for being a trial court judge, the vast percentage before whom I’ve appeared are either power hungry or activist or idiots, or some combination of all three.  It’s not much of a recommendation.]

And the obvious attractions, both symbolic and practical, of having the first African-American president name the first Hispanic to the high court were not lost on Obama. The Sotomayor choice, of course, satisfies an important Democratic Party constituency; if health care and climate change end up eclipsing immigration reform this year, a Hispanic justice can help reduce the grumbling.  [Aha!  Here’s the meat behind the pander.  Things aren’t going well for Obama, so he’s throwing a bone to Hispanics in hopes that he everyone will stop complaining.  Sadly, it will probably work, at least in the short term.]

Since Obama is likely to have more than one high court spot to fill, picking a Hispanic woman for the first vacancy gives him maximum flexibility for the future — maybe even a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a somewhat endangered species among the justices.  [At least she’s honest.  But given the rubric of identity politics, what kind of WASP does she have in mind?  A lesbian?  A straight female?  Couldn’t be a man, of course, no matter how brilliant and admired he is.]


Indeed, Sotomayor’s supposed assertiveness may have been a plus in Obama’s eyes.

“The question for him was, ‘Is this a person who’s got the toughness, the intellectual capacity, to stand up to John Roberts?’ ” said one senior administration official. “He came out of his interview with her on Thursday and said that he had no concerns whatsoever about her intellectual ability to stand up to Roberts.”  [Pretty much tells you what Obama wants in a judge.  He doesn’t want the best legal mind.  He wants someone to carry out his agenda, and who is too dumb to back away from a fight with intellects greater than hers.]


I’d also like to hear more from Sotomayor herself about some out-of-court statements — for instance, this from a 2001 speech:

“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.”

A bit of hyperbole in the service of diversity (my guess) or a disturbing bit of identity politics (as the National Journal’s Stuart Taylor sees it). Forgive me, though, if I detect a whiff of sexism in the bully-on-the-bench rap; somehow I doubt that a male judge would be so chided for being firm with litigants.  [So let me see if I understand this:  to defense to a manifestly racist and sexist statement from Sotomayor is to . . . accuse her challengers of being sexist.  Is there no serious argument left in this world?]

Ditto, with a bit of racism thrown in, the barely sourced and inadequately supported suggestion of Sotomayor as an intellectual lightweight. I find it awfully hard to reconcile that with graduating summa cum laude from Princeton.  [Sad to say, I can’t get excited about her graduating summa cum laude from Princeton.  For one thing, getting good grades in college is an entirely different skill set from being a quality legal analyst, a fact to which I can personally attest.  A legal brain is a rather unique thing.  If it’s allied to an intelligent person, that’s great, but not all intelligent people have good legal brains.  The other thing is that the Ivy Leagues and other top private colleges are renowned for grade inflation.  For one thing, since parents are paying through the nose for the privilege of their children attending these schools, the schools want to give bang for the buck, with bang translating, not as a good education, but simply as good grades.  Also, teachers are afraid to give minorities bad grades.  When it comes to these schools, the product is so cheapend, anyone with sense takes its reports with a grain of salt.]

In any event, for all the disparaging of hearings as useless Kabuki, in my experience they’ve served remarkably well in elucidating, for better (David Souter, Roberts) or worse (Clarence Thomas), the nominee’s intellectual capacity and temperament.  [Did I just understand Marcus to rank Souter up with Roberts as an intellectual, while denigrating Thomas?  I’m speechless.  Has she ever read anything these judges have written?  I have.  Roberts is a delightful writer and a first class thinker.  Thomas is a business-like writer and a first class thinker.  Souter is an idiot.]

As to the portrayal of Sotomayor as flaming liberal, I defer to the judgment of Tom Goldstein of the invaluable ScotusBlog:

“There is no question that Sonia Sotomayor would be on the left of this Supreme Court, just not the radical left,” he wrote. “Our surveys of her opinions put her in essentially the same ideological position as Justice Souter.”  [Um, so she’s a liberal idiot?  And this is a recommendation?]

Bottom line:  Marcus’ optimism notwithstanding, Sotomayor doesn’t have the chops to make much of a difference on the court.  She is indeed a perfect replacement for Souter, since she’s about his intellectual and ideological equal. Jennifer Rubin explains, though, what’s really going on here, which is a bit more worrisome:

[T]he president is not concerned about an intellectual powerhouse who can lure Justice Kennedy to “his side.” He thinks there will be plenty of time to tip the court with future nominations. He wanted a constituent-pleasing, safe “liberal” vote on the court.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin just savages the “compelling life story” pabulum.  Is this beautiful, or what?

If Sotomayor were auditioning to be Oprah Winfrey’s fill-in host, I’d understand the over-the-top hyping of her life narrative. But isn’t anybody on Sotomayor’s side the least bit embarrassed by all this liberal condescension?

Be Sociable, Share!
  • suek

    “or worse (Clarence Thomas)”

    But but…what about Clarence Thomas’ “compelling life story”? And my goodness…he’s _black_!!

    They are _such_ hypocrites.

  • David Foster

    The real issue we should be talking about is the class rigidity and waste of talent caused by the increasing emphasis on “elite” college attendance.

    It is still possible in America for a person to become successful and wealthy without a degree from an “elite” college and indeed without a graduate degree of any kind. That is very disturbing to some people.

  • Charles Martel

    The real shame is going to be the backlash against minorities as it becomes ever more evident that we have affirmative-actioned ourselves into rule by mediocrities whose only qualification is their skin color.

    If the best Latina we can put on the highest court in the land is an ill-educated racist and sexist whose peers hold her in thinly veiled contempt, the impression rubs off on millions of people that Hispanics can’t bring anything better to the table.

    Is this woman the role model we want for Latino kids who may actually want to aspire to something more than having white Democrats pat them on the head, saying, “There, there, run along now and be a good little victim”?

  • Zhombre

    SueK: the Compelling Life Story (CLS) is only truly compelling if, after various hardships, travail, disadvantages and struggle, the protagonist of the CLS not only triumphs but also carries the appropriate ideological baggage. Otherwise it is not a true CLS but merely personal detail, or worse a tragedy of He (or She) Who Has Turned His (or Her) Back On His (or Her) Humble Origins, and probably become a Conservative or embraced other heresies against the Trinity of Race, Class & Gender (RC&G).

  • Zhombre

    PS : just read at NewsBusters too, legal scholar Jonathon Turley saying much the same thing about Sotomayor. She is no intellectual powerhouse and is not going to be a counterweight on the left to Scalia. Or Roberts or Alito, for all that. I think after the CLS hoopla plays out, Sotomayor for Souter will do no more than retain status quo on the court. Justice Psuedosouter.

  • suek

    >>…or worse a tragedy of Him (or Her) Who Has Turned His (or Her) Back On His (or Her) Humble Origins, and probably become a Conservative or embraced other heresies against the Trinity of Race, Class & Gender (RC&G).>>

    Of course. I’ll have to remember that. How could I have forgotten….

    That’s the really _critical_ stuff to remember…

  • Zhombre

    Victor Davis Hanson says it more succinctly than I:

    I think we are in an Orwellian time, and it is not just explainable by identify politics. Remember the grilling of Alberto Gonzales and the hysteria over Miguel Estrada. So the point is not just having a so-called minority profile, but having one compatible to the ‘progressive’ left. If an African-American nominee (cf. Justice Thomas) or Hispanic proves to be conservative, then race can often count against them, inciting a sort of furor on the left that such independent thinking individuals are not suitably deferential to liberals for their trail-blazing work.

    Or perhaps the liberal mind feels that de facto it is beyond racial reproach, and therefore can engage in a sort of viciousness that exceeds even that shown non-minority conservatives. In short, the inspirational story of a Hispanic is relevant only to the degree that the nominee favors an agenda of the elite progressive left-without that requisite ideology, the candidate is reduced to an ingrate or a victim of false-consciousness, or a traitor of sorts.

  • suek

    The truth is, they have their agenda.

    Then they have their talking points.

    If you’re compatible with their agenda, then the talking points kick in. If you’re NOT ok according to their agenda, then a different set of talking points kicks in.

    In other words, there are _good_ racial/ethnicity talking points, and there are _bad_ racial/ethnicity talking points. Which set of politically correct talking points kicks in depends entirely on whether you further their agenda or not.

    Thought not required.

  • Ymarsakar

    Soto looks like a nice sock puppet that will vote whatever Obama tells her to vote. Which can certainly be particularly useful when it comes to un-Constitutional decrees that Obama will issue in the future. Although how he will counter-act Roberts and Co will be another thing entirely. Character assassination can only work so far against justices for life.

  • Ymarsakar

    Btw, Democrats are extraordinarily authoritarian. They believe what their intellectual authorities tell them to believe. And “authority” in the eyes of the Left is the same as “intelligent” and “smart”, not to mention the more powerful you are and the more corrupt you are, the more you got ahead by using Leftist causes and favors, the more authority you have on the Left.

    Thus a Sarah Pallin that got a journalism degree from a non-Ivy League, non government affirmative action program, and non-Leftist enabled victim slave group, is considered “dumb” as in “lacking in authority”.

    The Left also likes the authority of the bench. Instead of liberty, allowing people to make their own choices, informed or uninformed, they deliberately force the issue so that a judge, an arbitrator or high aristocrat lord, gets to decide issues and then everyone must obey the so called “rule of law” which has now become nothing but the rule of Obama and the powerful Leftist aristos.

    And of course, it does make perfect sense that the Democrats and their Leftist allies are the first to call Hitler and Bush authoritarian. As if the “right wing” was authoritarian, or even that Hitler was on the right rather than a left wing nut job that allied with communists and other socially deviant Leftist freaks.

  • Oldflyer

    The saddest aspect of all this is that there seems to be no one to oppose our drift away from the Constitution.

    The GOP Senators are already making noises that confirmation is assured; and perhaps it would not be politically expedient to oppose her vigorously. Oh my!

    There are serious questions that should be debated and forced into the public consciousness. This whole justice by empathy argument is inherently dangerous and intellectually dishonest. As has been said, empathy in a trial judge may be desirable; as long as the judge stays within the law. Injecting human considerations into individual cases seems not unreasonable. The decisions have a narrow application. But, it was also pointed out that empathy has no place on the Appeals Bench or on the Supreme Court. These courts decide issues that may have wide ranging impact, and often modify existing law. Straying willy-nilly from the Constitution and established law is inviting chaos.

    The American people need to be educated on the role of courts at the various levels; and the impact of Judging in the manner advocated by the likes of Obama and Sotomayor. This confirmation is a great opportunity to conduct those lessons. Will the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee undertake this task? I am afraid not. So, she will be confirmed without serious dissent because of political cowardice. Another opportunity to argue for principle will be lost and the next nominee will bring more of the same mind-set or worse.

  • Ymarsakar

    As to the portrayal of Sotomayor as flaming liberal, I defer to the judgment of Tom Goldstein of the invaluable ScotusBlog:

    You’ll defer to the judgment of anyone with the will and strength to make you their slave and tool. You are not a particularly unique instance of this effect.

    You will defer to whomever is powerful enough to control you. I do not lambast you for this, for it just simply means our side must become powerful enough to be the one doing the controlling. War is not fair. It is not just or kind on the innocent or the “neutral”.

  • suek

    >>You will defer to whomever is powerful enough to control you. >>

    Nobody can know everything, Y. At some time, at some point, you have to trust. The trick, of course, is knowing when and whom.

    Someone offered this as a discussion point when talking to Lib friends (and spouses!).

    Consider someone on the SC like Sotomayor. Good, right? Ok…now assume that this person has Cheney’s political views.

    Still good?

  • Ymarsakar

    Still good?

    The Left never believes their crimes against humanity will ever be exposed, thus they do not believe they will ever have to suffer the consequences of when the pendulum “swings back”. They do not have a long enough vision. They lack foresight, because they lack wisdom.

    They are corrupted both by wealth and power into believing that short term results is the only thing that matters.

    They will never believe that they will be held accountable for their crimes, either in the eyes of their victims or in the court of God.

  • suek

    It’s not exposure of crimes to be considered here. It’s a question of whether they’d be willing to accept someone of Sotomayor’s approach who favors a group they do _not_ favor. They’re happy as pigs in mud if the Sotomayor approach agrees with _them_ on who should be favored. If the person is one who favors the WASP who is wealthy and/or influential, then it’s a different story.

  • Ymarsakar

    It’s a question of whether they’d be willing to accept someone of Sotomayor’s approach who favors a group they do _not_ favor.

    But it isn’t. A question that is. It is not a question to the Left, posed by their enemies. It is not a question arising of the Left or from the Left, posed against themselves and others of like mind. It is not a question, whatsoever.

    It is not that they are intellectually incapable of understanding that “what goes around, comes around” or that there is a “slipper slope”, it is that they believe it does not matter. They never ask the question because it never matters to them, they are not told that it matters, and they do not have a personal curiosity to find out otherwise.

    It cannot be a question when people like Mr. Bookworm simply say to you, after you have posed the question, “you are hallucinating” or even “I don’t remember you asking a question”.

    In this sense, communications wise, perceptions matter more than reality.

    For furthers examples, consider the mass murderer and sociopath. They get to kill others and have power on them, but does the question EVER ARISE that when the state is in a power to end their lives, that this is just, necessary, or “Right”? No, the question never arises, Suek. It does not exist. Only the consequences of execution or no execution, successful appeal or affirmation, exists.

    The question does not, when the question is not asked or recognized.

    It is never a question to the narcissist of whether what he does to others is right or wrong, because other people are just inanimate objects to the narcissist. The question of right or wrong never comes up, because they have no meaning in relation to inanimate objects.

    It’s a question of whether they’d be willing to accept someone of Sotomayor’s approach who favors a group they do _not_ favor.

    Thus, in the end, it is not a question of whether they’d be willing to accept any such thing. But it is a question of whether they expect or believe that they will be held to account for their crimes against humanity. This is what determines whether a person is capable of even considering the fact that something like a “tables turned” will happen. And until they consider that as relevant, other questions will not follow.