Playing the “Bully” card with U.S. Supreme Court nominee

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by Juanita Bratcher

 

It is appalling that President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is being subjected to unwarranted attacks by a bunch of bullies labeling her a “racist” and “bigot.” And many of these amplified, strident and incendiary voices are coming from people on the sidelines – not from elected officials who will ultimately make the decision to confirm or not to confirm her – but by some who themselves are looked upon by others as racists.

Shortly after U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his retirement, it was obvious that the battle lines would soon be drawn for verbal combat over his successor. And no matter whom the nominee, there was bound to be a shootout of words between various factions – pro or con, but certainly not expected to accelerate to the ugly level of name calling it has now come to be. President Obama wasted no time in naming Souter’s replacement. That was the beginning of a vicious war of words about his nominee on blog sites across the Internet, talk radio and TV.

There’s nothing wrong with constructive, valid criticism, but in this case, some have gone beyond the pale. Criticism should focus on Sotomayor’s 17-year record on the bench – her judicial career overall – judicial decisions, opinion papers, character, and qualifications. It should never involve name calling, disrespect and bullying.

A lot of the rhetoric is much ado about nothing, just plain political spin talk - character bashing, distorting her words, using selective quotes while omitting some of the content, or not giving the full quote that was made.

 

Then again, perhaps it’s not just about her judicial opinions or persona. Maybe it’s an issue of racism, that she is not entitled to this post because of her ethnicity. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court and the third woman, coming behind Sandra Day O’Connor, who announced her retirement in July 2005 and was replaced by U.S. Justice Samuel Alito on January 31, 2006; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Ginsburg replaced U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White. She was confirmed by a 96-3 vote.

 

Some people just can’t swallow change so easily.

When President Lyndon Johnson nominated Justice Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967, he was the first Black to be nominated for the post. The nomination didn’t sit too well with several southern senators on the Judiciary Committee. His appointment was met with strong opposition from them, but he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a 69-11 vote and was seated on Oct. 2, 1967. Once in an interview, Marshall said he would serve on the court until he was 110 years old. He died at the age of 84.

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the 102nd person to sit on that august body, appointment infuriated conservatives because of her support for the Equal Rights Amendment. However, President Ronald Reagan, in nominating her for the Court, said he saw a sense of fairness in O’Connor. In the end, O’Connor was confirmed by a vote of 99-0.

 

In her 17 years on the bench, Sotomayor has made many decisions and opinions. These are the things she should be judged by.

When President Barack Obama won the presidency, he vowed that change would be coming to America. And indeed it has in a short period of time. There are some who cannot accept change, and change to them can be a bit hard to swallow. Diversity on the court is ideal, certainly a far stretch from its status of many decades ago.

During President Obama’s weekly radio and Internet address Saturday (May 30, 2009), he said of Sotomayor:  ”I am certain that she is the right choice.”

Sotomayor’s confirmation should be decided on her merit, and not a speech she delivered in Berkeley, California, in October 2001, where she reportedly stated 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.”

The White House said Sotomayor admitted that she made a poor choice of words. But even that won’t stop the bullies from attacking; they’ll find something else to whine about.

 

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