Posted by Mike
June 1, 2009. I thought it would never come. Responsible Republicans are finally speaking out against their most notorious spokesperson’s excessive rantings. I understand that in the heat of the moment any politician or individual speaking out against a political position that they strongly but honestly differ with might not speak calmly and rationally, but Limbaugh and his ilk speak constantly in hyperbole. Among the many over the top comments Mr. Limbaugh made on his Friday May 29 radio show was that Judge Sotomayor in her prepared remarks during a talk in 2001 made “… racist and bigoted comments about her being a better judge than a white guy.” Newt Gingrinch made similar comments in his Twitter note of May 27, and the issue has been picked up and commented on endlessly by conservatives in the media.
The specific quote by Judge Sotomayor in a talk to a group of Hispanic women in 2001 was, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
[The full text of Judge Sotomayor’s speech which was delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Law, can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/us/politics/15judge.text.html?_r=2]
The Judge’s talk was essentially about her ethnic identity and the part that plays in her judicial work and in celebrating the increasing ethnic and racial diversity and the greater participation of women in the judicial system in the United States .
Judge Sotomayer also stated in that talk, “I accept the thesis of …Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School …that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experience and thought.” She goes on to say that “…enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging….As recognized by legal scholars…as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.” She stated that “the seminal decisions in racial and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males,” but goes on to reflect that it was people of color and women who successfully argued those cases before the Court. Within the context of the Judge’s talk, the specific quote above that has been the cause of so much recent controversy was specifically in relation to making judgments on the bench in sex and racial discrimination cases.
It is clear from her talk, however, that Judge Sotomayor believes that in general ethnic, racial, and sexual diversity in judicial setting will provide more representative and more fair decisions. She states, “Personal experience affects the facts that judges choose to see.” She accepts the proposition that there will be a difference “by the presence of women and people of color on the bench.”
Clearly Judge Sotomayor’s statements are not racial or bigoted. She appears to be a realist and is clearly not a Constitutional fundamentalist. Obviously there are many Americans who are fearful of the increasing diversity of the Supreme Court, just as they are fearful of the increasing diversity of values and of the increasing ethnic and racial diversities of the country. If we look at the history of our country, despite our multicultural heritage, we have always experienced resistance to providing equal freedoms, rights and privileges to women and minorities – sometimes extremely prolonged [witness the blocking of Reconstruction in the late 1860’s and the resistance to full freedom and equality for African-Americans until the 1960’s]. Our Founding Fathers clearly had their blind spots, but in the Declaration of Independence they wrote that “all men are created equal,” and they put into the Constitution the goal of “the blessings of liberty” for all persons. Over the past 200 plus years, we have slowly, progressively, in fits and starts moved toward that goal of freedom and equality for all. The appointment of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court will move us just a few more notches in that direction despite anything that Rush Limbaugh and his cronies will have to say!
“The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.” – Thomas Jefferson