Sonia Sotomayor's nomination has driven the usual suspects on the right crazier than usual. Attacking the first Hispanic Justice of the Supreme Court as a hack racist is political suicide for a party that is skewing whiter, older, and less educated. But that doesn't mean that the racism charge is a benign one.
Newt Gingrich (R-Serves Divorce Papers to Wife on Death Bed), recovering drug addict Rush Limbaugh, mentally unbalanced fantasist Glenn Beck and company have all set on a simple line of attack against Sotomayor.
The right is obsessively focusing on a line in a 2001 speech in which she clumsily made an argument for diversity by saying that "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."
Sotomayor was speaking about how different perspectives improve the judiciary. She misspoke.
It is clear what she meant. The White House should instruct all of its surrogates to clarify the matter very simply.
What Sotomayor meant to say was that a judiciary composed of Latinas as well as white men is wiser than a judiciary composed simply of white men. No one is intrinsically wiser than another by virtue of their ethnic background. But institutions can become wiser by virtue of having a multitude of experiences and backgrounds.
I think there is little benefit in chasing a demographic tiger in order to compose a court that perfectly reflects America. But all things being equal, there is some importance in appointing people the likes of whom have never been seen before on the Court.
Diversity of experience is almost always a good idea. Ted Soreson has said that that the biggest difference between the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was that the in the first case, the group deliberating was tiny, in the second, quite large.
Similarly, it is certain that, by virtue of differing experience, conservative lawyer Ted Olsen and liberal attorney David Boies will be able to craft better arguments in opposing California's Proposition 8 than either would alone.
Lastly, the Republican charge that Sotomayor is a racist of the kind we have never appointed to the Supreme Court is laughable on its face. Not only is it a perversion of the English language and of common decency to call Sotomayor a racist, but as this excellent collection of items concerning former Chief Justice William Rehnquist documents, racism and Supreme Court Justices have gone together like motherhood and apple pie.
So, let's combat this false, odious charge vigorously. And otherwise, throw no ropes to the GOP. Let them drown in quicksand of their own making.
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