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WilliamPitt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-29-09 08:09 AM
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The Most Dangerous Game
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Judge Sonia Sotomayor made brief remarks after President Barack Obama announced that she is his choice to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. (Photo: Getty images)

The Most Dangerous Game
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Friday 29 May 2009

It seemed to me that I had barely reached the Court when people were trying to get me off.

- Justice William O. Douglas

Rush Limbaugh announced on his radio show that President Obama nominated a racist by tapping Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) released a statement questioning Sotomayor's ability to "rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences." Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove have been Twittering their questionable brains out over the last couple of days reasserting the "racist" accusation.

The charges stem from a 2003 case Judge Sotomayor ruled on, Ricci v. DeStefano, a race discrimination case in which Sotomayor decided against white firefighters. But, as Slate's Richard Thompson Ford explained in a recent article, the firefighter's claim was rejected "because the test violated Title VII, the federal civil rights law that prevents discrimination in employment. Title VII requires employers to consider the racial impact of their hiring and promotion procedures in order to prevent discrimination that's inadvertent as well as intentional. Ricci's claim is that the city's effort to comply with Title VII is itself race discrimination (under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and under Title VII itself). This argument would undermine an important part of modern civil rights law."

So, there's that. Beyond the cries of racism, other voices from the right have contended Obama's high court nominee is a liberal activist, a judicial legislator and someone maybe not quite bright enough to sit on the bench.

Needless to say, it's on.

Even the calmest, most deliberate, most awesomely bi-partisan Supreme Court nomination process one can possibly imagine would still be an exercise in bedlam for Washington, DC, politicos and the media. All the oxygen in the city gets sucked into the process, and until the issue is settled, the noise of it has a way of drowning most everything else out. In its worst iteration, the nomination process can level careers, paradigms and whatever else stands in its path. Two such, the failed nomination of Robert Bork and the successful nomination of Clarence Thomas, left behind a residue of resentment and spite that nobody has been able to scrub off the walls to this day.

Before the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, lots of people were expecting President Obama to replace Justice Souter with someone virtually identical to Justice Souter: moderate, even-tempered, contemplative, and above all else, inoffensive to as much of the galaxy of interested interest groups as could be managed. Instead, Mr. Obama nominated someone moderate, even-tempered, contemplative, profoundly experienced, and above all else, guaranteed to hyperactivate a certain segment of those interested interests while putting the Republican Party in an almost inescapable bind.

A New York Times editorial from Wednesday nicely captured the essential reality of the Sotomayor nomination. "President Obama seems to have made an inspired choice in picking Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court," wrote the Times. "She has an impressive judicial record, a stellar academic background and a compelling life story. Judge Sotomayor would also be a trailblazing figure in the mold of Thurgood Marshall, becoming the first member of the nation's large and growing but still under-represented Hispanic population to serve on the court. Based on what we know now, the Senate should confirm her so she can join the court when it begins its new term in October."

The Republican right-wing's campaign of resistance settled into a predictable pattern almost immediately after the announcement. While those voicing opposition to Judge Sotomayor claimed to be surprised and disappointed that Obama chose such a "controversial" nominee, the truth is they've been suiting up for weeks to fight whomever finally got the nod. Their attacks were triggered automatically and would have come no matter what; if Mr. Obama had nominated Jesus of Nazareth to replace Justice Souter, the GOP would now be denouncing Him for favoring a socialist welfare state because He gave away loaves and fishes and circumvented the insurance industry when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

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