- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Every time we talk to Republicans working on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, breathless fearfulness creeps into their words. Why, if we ask hard questions about Judge Sotomayor, they say, every Hispanic in America will turn against us. In short, they have bought the Democratic spin.

The Hispanic vote is hardly monolithic — and many Hispanics remember how poorly Miguel Estrada was treated by the Democrats when he was nominated by President George W. Bush for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2001. Indeed, the experiences of the two nominees deserve a closer look.

In many ways, Mr. Estrada and Judge Sotomayor have similar backgrounds, but Mr. Estrada might have better “street cred.” He was 17 and spoke little English when he and his mother came to the United States from Honduras. By contrast, Judge Sotomayor, whose family hails from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, had the advantage of growing up in New York City. As a result, Mr. Estrada speaks both Spanish and English fluently while Judge Sotomayor is merely conversant in Spanish, according to the Hispanic Leadership Fund. They both went on to graduate from Ivy League universities and law schools.

What sets them apart is how they were treated by Democratic senators. In 2003, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said: “The White House continues to obstruct any progress toward resolving this matter by its unprecedented refusal to turn over documents requested to determine whether or not Miguel Estrada should sit on the second highest court in the land, for life. Mr. Estrada’s nomination is apparently being sacrificed by the administration for its own partisan, political purposes.”

The Democrats were requesting confidential memorandums drafted by Mr. Estrada while at the Office of the Solicitor General. This request was unprecedented. All seven living former solicitors general, Republican and Democrat alike, agreed with Mr. Estrada.

Democrats were forthright in their opposition to Mr. Estrada precisely because he is Hispanic. A staff memo to Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin on Nov. 7, 2001, referred to liberal concern that Mr. Estrada was “especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment.”

Then-Rep. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who now represents the Garden State as a cigar-chomping U.S. senator, said he did not consider Mr. Estrada to be the right kind of Latino. “Being Hispanic for us means much more than having a surname,” Mr. Menendez said in February 2003. It means being a predictable liberal.

Judge Sotomayor has enjoyed a comparably easy ride to the Senate. Mr. Estrada waited more than two years for his nomination to come to a vote in the Senate, but a Democratic filibuster never allowed an up-or-down vote to occur. Judge Sotomayor already is experiencing her first Judiciary Committee hearing less than two months after her nomination was announced.

So, Judge Sotomayor will soon make her way to the Supreme Court, while Mr. Estrada is left with only the balm of what might have been. Like Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” this tale too ends in an unnecessary tragedy brought on by an unruly mob that cannot see individuals, only groups.

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