Sotomayor

May 29 2009 Published by under General Politics


BikeMonkey Guest Post
TheScienceGirl writes about the Obama SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor and her critics:

The responses from the media are incredibly predictable; already we have claims of affirmative action, identity politics, and reverse racism. All three of these defenses have something in common; they are buzzwords that boil down to one thing: the white male power structure feels threatened.

Hell yes.

So, you can argue until you're blue in the face that affirmative action got her into college (which I seriously doubt, given her demonstrated intellect), but affirmative action doesn't make anyone graduate at the top 1% of a class of Princeton graduates. She then went on to Yale law school, where she was the editor of the Yale Law Journal. I'd like to put this in stark words for you: here is a woman who, through natural intelligence and years of hard work, rose from very humble beginnings to excel at the top universities in the nation, and still, she is reduced to an "affirmative action case."

Well, in the minds of some lame brains, perhaps so. Perhaps so. Makes you wonder just how much stupidity these people are willing to spout in a lost cause. This one isn't getting derailed, we're getting a tan girl on the Court.
Yay!

51 responses so far

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    For an idea of what you can expect from a real Yale graduate, look no further than George W. Bush.
    Considered on that scale, this woman obviously had no business even attending Yale.

  • PalMD says:

    all of this schreiing from the right about her biases inherent in her background---what about the bias inherent in Scalia's or Roberts' background?

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    You're full of it. No one on the right is calling her an affirmative action case. I notice that neither you nor TheScienceGirl provide any links -- because there aren't any.
    Many on the right oppose her views on affirmative action, but that is a different kettle of fish.
    Oh, and could you possibly be any more condescendingly racialist with your last sentence?
    Lame.

  • BikeMonkey says:

    HAHAHA! C'mon, aren't you Docter types supposed to be smart? Everyone knows reichtwing judges are paragons of strict interpretation purity. It is only those DFH librul activist judges that are biased!
    Did you hear Sen Grassley explaining to NPR how it was okay for him to reflect his biased because be was only in policy after all? Might fast tapeancing on this one...

  • BikeMonk says:

    What is "racialist" my fine conservative friend? Are you objecting to my identity politics?

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Thanks for those links I requested -- now at least we cleared that up.
    I didn't hear Sen. Grassley (NPR? what's that?), but I can imagine that he was reflecting on the differences between the legislative branch (where policy is supposed to get made) and the judicial branch. Article 1, Section 1:
    All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States

  • BikeMonkey says:

    Grassley was saying it was perfectly cool for him to reflect his old white male alleged farmer biases as Senator but that the notion that a judge might inevitably reflect her heritage and experiences was a Problem. Totally full of crap. Anyone who thinks there is any such thing as an unbiased human needs the bridge I'm selling.

  • Chris P says:

    If only the media would learn from her that she is NOT the daughter of immigrants. Puerto Rico is part of the US--or maybe we should have said the same about the Bush twins?

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Take it up with Madison, friend. It's called the rule of law.

  • Alex says:

    Oh, ferchrissakes, neuro-conservative. I'm hardly a liberal, but judges do make law. The US Constitution explicitly mentions Common Law, a body of legal precedent going back 8 centuries or more. It's all based on rulings by judges establishing precedents for how legal matters (both civil and criminal) will be handled, how contracts will be interpreted and enforced, how property rights will be handled, etc. These are core functions of the law and they're based on centuries of rulings by courts IN ANOTHER COUNTRY before Parliament had any significant legislative power. This is a system that has spent centuries evolving and continues to evolve. Its evolutionary nature is its strength.
    Now, I'm not necessarily a fan of seeing it evolve in exactly the way that many liberals would like to see it evolve, but all this talk about how judges merely apply what legislators write is complete and utter BS. Judges are applying 8 centuries of precedents written by other judges, many of them in another country.

  • DuWayne says:

    Oh for fucks sake, it's not like "conservative" judges are somehow immune to striking down laws they believe are unconstitutional - and even stretching what unconstitutional means, to fit their ideological preferences. Yes, the legislative branch creates policy. The judicial branch is then occasionally called upon to rule on whether or not the policies created by the ledge pass constitutional muster. Sometimes judges stretch it in either direction - i.e. upholding laws that are not so constitutional or overturning laws that really are.
    Conservative judges are hardly immune. Why? Because while ideally judges should be paragons of impartial virtue, the reality is that they are human. There are a great many judges who actually manage to maintain pretty solid objectivity, but I daresay there isn't a goddamned one of them who manages perfect objectivity.

  • Anonymous says:

    "You're full of it. No one on the right is calling her an affirmative action case. I notice that neither you nor TheScienceGirl provide any links -- because there aren't any."
    Does Pat Buchanan count as 'the right'?
    http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200905260066
    Not to mention the pile-on of rightist bloggers parroting the theme. Gosh, amazing what you find with ten seconds on Google...

  • ---"the white male power structure feels threatened"----
    Bin-freaking-go!
    This is the basic reason for the remnant popularity of the modern republican party and conservative movement.

  • neurolover says:

    The Grassley NPR segment was absolute farce. I honestly thought he was going to say, well "it's not big deal, because of course, who I am (a farmer from wherever) influences my decisions." But then, he went on about how he excepts justices to be different, "like the blind justice statue." I guess he's planning on picking all the justices from Vulcan. (well, and we suspect, an artifice even on Vulcan).
    David Brooks threw this myth away "blind justice" in his column. Megan McCardle at the Atlantic, too, is pointing out the bankruptcy of the anti-affirmative action argument: "I've been thinking of this a lot watching some of the attacks on Sotomayor, but I'd frame the critics as suffering from the terrible, pervasive fear that some brown person, somewhere, is getting away with something."
    But, Doonesbury is reporting G. Gordon Liddy bringing up the PMS diatribe. Ugly. I think the "right" is sputtering. I can see the spittle from over here.

  • Rich says:

    The whole idea that "conservative" judges simply apply the law as written is ridiculous.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/5/27/735899/-A-Little-Reminder-About-Judicial-Activism

  • Adrienne says:

    There are certainly people on the right calling her an aff-am case. Pat Buchanan on vdare.com for one (not giving direct link; you can Google if you want).
    She probably did get an aff-am boost to get into Princeton, but the woman graduated summa from there on her own merits.

  • Cashmoney says:

    Bush was no dummy DC, he just played one for public consumption.

  • Makes you wonder just how much stupidity these people are willing to spout in a lost cause.

    Eleventeen bajillion infinities! Any other questions?

  • natural cynic says:

    Bush was no dummy DC, he just played one for public consumption.
    Au contraire, Cashmoney. Who do you think Rove was refering to when he said he know some dumb people who had graduated from Ivy League schools.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    As usual when politics comes up here, it's a pleasure to see the diversity of opinion and spirit of open-minded inquiry on display.
    By the way, Pat Buchanan has not been a part of the conservative mainstream for nearly two decades, since he was essentially "excommunicated" by Bill Buckley and National Review in 1991. He is a racist, anti-Semitic cartoon caricature of a conservative, which is why MSNBC gives him such a prominent role on their network.

  • pinus says:

    I put forth that the conservatives of 1991 don't have that much in common with the conservatives of 2009.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Speaking as someone who was conservative in 1991 and 2009, i put forth that you are wrong.

  • Cashmoney says:

    No true Scotsman, neuro-con?

  • lylebot says:

    Michael Goldfarb in the Weekly Standard:

    Does anyone dispute that Sotomayor has been the recipient of preferential treatment for most of her life?

    Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard and Bill Bennett:

    BARNES: They’re not supposed to be ruling on the basis of their life experience, even when it sounds pretty great. I think you can make the case that she’s one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.
    BENNETT: Yeah, well, maybe so. Did she get into Princeton on affirmative action, one wonders.
    BARNES: One wonders.
    BENNETT: Summa Cum Laude, I don’t think you get on affirmative action. I don’t know what her major was, but Summa Cum Laude’s a pretty big deal.
    BARNES: I guess it is, but you know, there’s some schools and maybe Princeton’s not one of them, where if you don’t get Summa Cum Laude then or some kind of Cum Laude, you then, you’re a D+ student.

    (Let me guess: this one doesn't count since they're just "wondering".)
    A reader of John Derbyshire of the National Review writes:

    The woman grew up in the capital of the world, went to two Ivy League schools, and was blessed by Providence with the precisely correct right race-gender two-fer for the moment.
    This is a story of privilege, dammit, not adversity.

    Derbyshire agrees. Note that having the right "race-gender two-fer" is considered "privilege" by these two. Even if they're not using the phrase "affirmative action", it's very clearly implied.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    I am hardly making an ad-hoc argument, Cashmoney. Most mainstream conservatives and Republicans have gone out of their way to distance themselves from Pat Buchanan for 20 years. Even if you missed the 1991 special issue of National Review that excoriated him, you may have noticed that he left the Republican Party 10 years ago.

  • DuWayne says:

    Ahh, so conservative = republican. And more importantly, conservative = what neuro-conservative says conservative means...
    I know a lot of former republicans who would beg to differ on the former and a few Buchananites who would beg to differ on the latter.
    Try again.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    lylebot -- I notice that you do not provide links -- probably because you know that you are distorting and taking these quotes out of context.
    DuWayne -- You need to work on your reading comprehension. I explicitly did not equate conservative = republican. I said "most mainstream conservatives and republicans" because they are two separate (though partially overlapping) groups.

  • juniorprof says:

    Neuro-conservative,
    Way to accuse lylebot!! It took me all of 1 min to find the original quotes, including the audio for the second one through google. I posted the links but they're held for moderation (hopefully DM will release them).

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    In the first one, Goldfarb is specifically not referring to affirmative action or admissions preferences. He is referring to several specific instances (designing her own course; being on a committee selecting the dean) in which she received unusually favorable treatment, for whatever reason.
    In the second one, Bennett and Barnes momentarily consider the possibility of affirmative action, and then discount it. Barnes then goes on to make a (correct) observation about grade inflation in the ivy leagues.

  • DuWayne says:

    Dance around your implications all you want NC, pretend that people aren't saying what they fucking well are. Bury your head in the sand and pretend your precious conservatives - however the hell you want to define conservative, aren't making the sorts of claims they are - or if they are they aren't somehow conservatives. You're full of shit, you will continue to be full of shit and no one here is likely to suddenly decide that you're not full of shit, because you find some other way to obfuscate.

  • Neuroconservative says:

    DuWayne -- Chillax, dude.
    I know it is easier to simply imagine that your political opponents are a bunch of racist yahoos, but there actually are legitimate reasons for differing points of view. It's called democracy. You should try it sometime. Works better than tantrums.

  • DuWayne says:

    NC -
    Being a condescending pecker isn't going to make you any less full of shit. I'm not the one sticking his fingers in his ears shouting "NAH, NAH, NAH - I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!!"
    And you calling me out for reading comprehension...That's a huge funny, coming from the moron who somehow equated anything I said, with accusing anyone of being a bunch of racist yahoos. Also bonus points for somehow reading that I have issues with democracy or that you have the slightest idea who my political opponents actually are - a hint, I didn't vote for Obama and I am extremely glad that I didn't.

  • juniorprof says:

    Neuroconservative, I would agree that Goldfarb is avoiding the affirmative action issue. In my view he is jumping straight by it to something much more pernicious. The argument is that they she received extraordinary favorable treatment and he does not name a reason. The problem is that we all know what this unspoken reason is implied to be, that she is a latina. What he is doing is pretending that these are favorable treatments when in fact they are routine parts of education for highly gifted individuals at elite universities. I know this, I got the same "favorable treatment". I would venture to guess that Goldfarb got this treatment as well, you may well have too.
    I'll just draw some simple parallels to myself, a white male, who also attended one of these elite universities and graduated summa (like she did). I designed two, not one of my own courses, served on the dean's council (for two years), got a full ride (including stipend) for 3.5 years and got to do numerous other things that might be considered "favorable treatment". I got to do these things because I demonstrated that I was a top student and those are the things that happen to top students at elite universities. She was clearly also a top student, you cannot graduate summa if you are not. Hence, I would argue that her experiences do not constitute "favorable treatment", rather they were the experiences of an accomplished student who was invited to excel based on demonstrations of excellence. Goldfarb could have just have easily taken these facts about her time at Princeton and written a highly praising article about her. She was an overachiever! She was politically active!! She stood up for the rights of minorities at a time when doing so was risky to her future goals!!! Instead he placed all of these extraordinary qualities in an unfavorable light and cast aspersions on whether she deserved them with some tricky language. I think that he did this because she is latina and because the meme that she was a recipient of AA awards was already out there (from Rush and others).

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    DuWayne -- Your rather, uh, heated style of discourse is not particularly helpful to advancing this discussion.
    Juniorprof -- You assert without evidence that the meme of AA has been promoted by Rush. I may be mistaken, but I have not heard him ever suggest such a thing about Sotomayor. Again, he is concerned about her views on affirmative action as evidenced in the New Haven firefighter case, and he has described her statement about "wise Latinas" as "reverse racism."
    Indeed, this whole thread illustrates that the left has generated this appeal to racial sympathies to avoid talking about Sotomayor's substantive record.

  • juniorprof says:

    Come on neuroconservative, he said, and I quote, "she is an affirmative action case extraordinaire". The video only ran about a thousand times on every channel (of course, being the liberal I am I see it daily on MSNBC). Here it is on CNN:
    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/05/27/limbaugh-slams-sotomayor-reverse-racist-2/
    That link is probably going to put my comment into moderation hell again but oh well, you want links!!
    Re: the New Haven case, Sotomayor sided with the New Haven Fire Dept and did not overturn the decision because it violated a federal statue, title VII. Hence, they are not her views on affirmative action, they are her rulings on existing federal law. I think we can all agree that we want judges that are knowledgeable about our federal statutes.
    On the personal side, being married to one such "wise latina", I am hopeful that the Sotomayor nomination will not only bring us an excellent supreme court judge but will facilitate an examination of our nation's severe problem with racism against people of latino heritage. It is a persistent and ugly thing that we do not discuss openly nearly enough.

  • juniorprof says:

    should be: would have violated a federal statute... messed that one up royally

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Juniorprof -- Thank you for your reasonable approach to disagreement. It is refreshing.
    Re: the New Haven case. The Title VII argument was hardly as clear-cut as your comment would make it seem. The 2nd Circuit en banc decision was 7-6, and Sotomaypr's decision is likely to be overturned by the Supremes.
    To many conservatives, this is another classic example of unelected liberal judges using the power of the courts to create policy that would not succeed democratically. You may agree with that policy, which is your right, and is worthy of debate.
    I think that Chris Caldwell says it well in his essay in Time:

    Sotomayor was on the three-judge panel that okayed New Haven's decision to nullify the tests. The panel did so in a one-paragraph blow-off that ignored a host of pressing constitutional issues and was striking for its lack of empathy, compassion and all those noble qualities that are supposed to come with growing up in the South Bronx...If the New Haven opinion is fair, it is the kind of fairness you learn at Yale Law School, not the kind you learn in the South Bronx.

  • juniorprof says:

    NC, I simply cannot understand your reasoning. She upheld the ruling based on Title VII, an existing federal statute. How is that creating policy? The Federal govt created the policy, not her. I don't think that the supreme court will overturn that case either way. At least I hope not.
    I am well schooled in reasoned debate with conservatives... coming from a family of republicans you learn quickly that its hard to maintain a family life when you get mad all the time 🙂 . It is difficult not to lose my patience, however, with people of your view point because I honestly cannot understand it. Then again, I find this problem exceedingly interesting and imagine that you probably also find my view point very hard to understand (but I may be wrong).

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Juniorprof -- I found a good discussion of the New Haven case at the National Journal. A key quote from dissenting judge Jose Cabranes (also a Clinton-appointed Hispanic judge, incidentally):

    "At its core, this case presents a straightforward question: May a municipal employer disregard the results of a qualifying examination, which was carefully constructed to ensure race-neutrality, on the ground that the results of that examination yielded too many qualified applicants of one race and not enough of another?"

    re: your last point -- I don't know enough about you, in particular, but in general, I think I have a basic grasp of the liberal viewpoint.
    I can't find the quote but I believe it was John Podhoretz who noted the asymmetry in the developmental history of conservative and liberal intellectuals. Conservatives who attend elite universities must become fluent in both liberal and conservative arguments, whereas liberals can easily go through their entire education without ever even seeing a detailed exposition of conservative thought. Unfortunately, this knowledge does not make my life any easier.

  • "conservative thought"!?!?!?!?!?
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! That's a good one!

  • BikeMonkey says:

    Ahh but for the rest of us schmucks who did not attend elite universities we receive nothing but a right wing philosophy unleavened by much in the way of genuinely leftwing thought argued intelligibly. Furthermore the extreme has been ceded without much fight- unlke the right wing where the extreme is essentially mainstream. Tax policy, personal moral issues, State (big S) role in healhcare and education.. Right down the line the extremist right is at he table. Extreme left is nowhere to be found. So stop with the fraudulent "oh poor persecuted conservatives" routine.
    DuWayne, I do feel like you ramped it up unjustifiably- N-c's positions are perfectly legitimate. I think s/he is wrong and all but I see no reason for the vitriol at present..?

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    BM -- I find it hard to believe that you did not find a left-leaning professoriat at any major university this side of Lynchburg, VA. Student body is another matter.
    It is true that, relative to Europe, this is generally a center-right country -- extreme left views have not been mainstream until very recently. But at the same time, we don't really have an extremist right of the sort that has been prevalent in the recent European past.
    BTW -- I do not feel "persecuted." I just wish that academia was not such an intellectually intolerant institution.

  • DuWayne says:

    BM -
    I'm not keen on condescension and choose not to pretty up my feelings by pretending to be civil about it. NC is making a lot of condescending remarks and making a lot of assumptions about the left and who here actually qualifies as a lefty - I don't. Not that it bothers me too much, as I generally fall a bit left of center on many issues - but I am far from being a liberal by any stretch.
    Bottom line, NC is absolutely full of shit and playing fairly typical extremist games - right and left extremist games. Most especially making this entire discussion about polarization and strawman caricatures of what he thinks people involved in this discussion believe. You may choose to engage him in good faith - I don't. He's already indicated that he has no interest in actual discourse with people about what they think and what others think.

  • DuWayne says:

    Oh, and it does boil down to me being rather an asshole with no tolerance for assholes trying to pretend they aren't.

  • Dr. J. says:

    white male power structure feels threatened
    Indeed. And there is a cause for concern. Please note that we, white males, have designed cultural norms, legal systems, business environment and so on (call it a power structure), and let's not try to discuss if this system is bad or good, it just is. Right? Well, for sure right, because the term "white male power structure" must represent something real, otherwise we would have to call that rant we are discussing an utter rubbish.
    And now comes my biased opinion:
    It's not us, white males, who go to other countries to impose our views on their citizens. It's the world's shitholes exporting their people here (fine, America is the country of imigrants), but also their culture, which made these countries shitholes they are (not fine!). One would wonder if the "white male power structure", which, after all, made this country worth immigrating to, does not actually deserve being preserved...

  • Isabel says:

    >For an idea of what you can expect from a real Yale graduate, look no further than George W. Bush.
    GWB got into Yale because he was rich, not because he was white.
    Most white American kids feel they don't stand a chance in hell of attending Princeton or Yale. They must compete for limited scholarship slots with everyone else. And making up for lack of racial equality in the top caste by giving preferential treatment to non-whites in the 'low-income' category hurts low-income whites through no fault of their own.
    The 'equating' I am concerned with in this discussion is that between white New Haven firefighters and whites attending elite private universities like Yale. These are separate groups with NO overlap. They may live in the same city, but their paths rarely cross...many of those working class firefighters sacrificed greatly to prepare for those exams, only to be denied their promotions - once again, lower caste whites paying the price for the racist sins of the rich white minority.

  • Anton says:

    I'm not sure I understand why the liberal commenters on websites (like DrugMonkey) resort so readily--and creatively!--to personal abuse, name calling and ad hominem arguments. Thanks for your calm, measured tone NC.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    I've always assumed it had something to do with the Podhoretz quote I cited above. Juniorprof expressed his perplexity in an forthright and mature fashion, but unfortunately many do not. I am open to other possible explanations, but this one seems to fit the data as I have observed it.

  • DSKS says:

    I think the GOP line is that her nomination to SCOTUS is politically motivated (duh, well yeah...). I don't think the mainstream hold the view that her entire career is an example of Affirmative Action.
    At least, George HW Bush didn't seem to think so when he nominated her to an NYC district court back in the day.
    Personally, I think she's a spectacular pick. Centre-right, no history of overt activism that I can see (as many others have pointed out, she partly upheld the finding of the lower courts inre the firefighter case because there was not substantial reason to overturn it; i.e. she was being judicially "conservative"), and she consistently rules in favour of individual rights and respects privacy (even preventing a racist from being fired for being a racist on the basis that he was only openly a racist on his own free time).
    Given that she's very much a dark horse inre: abortion, and that the admin could certainly find more liberal nominees that were more firmly pro-Roe, I'm surprised the GOP doesn't just shut the fuck up and call this a break.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I'm surprised the GOP doesn't just shut the fuck up and call this a break.
    Well, they have seemed rather tone-deaf for about 10 months now, haven't they?
    And I agree. Obviously Obama was looking for a no-fight centrist...unless he knows some sekrit stuff about how she's a Souter type who will veer left. The objectors on the right are setting themselves up as completely unreasonable for when his next one comes along and is (gawd I hope) an activist liberal as a counter to the highly activist right wing on the current court.

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