Barack Obama’s legacy is coming sharply into focus, four years early. He’s out to transform “a nation of laws,” once the pride of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and exemplar to the world, into “a nation of feelings.” We won’t need judges, just social workers damp with empathy.
This is in line with the president’s larger vision, to cut America down to a size a community organizer could manage, making it merely one of the nice nations of the world, like Belgium or Brazil. The home of the brave and the land of the free would become what our English cousins call “wet,” weak, ineffectual, fragile, fearful, and inconsequential.
Sonia Sotomayor is one of the building blocks of the president’s envisioned Mediocre Society. She’s a perfect first nominee to the Supreme Court, “untouchable” for anyone tempted to look at who she really is, a lawyer of good grades - she graduated summa cum laude from her university and even won the class spelling bee in elementary school - but a judge with a modest record, confident of entitlement, and determined to help the president render America harmless, armed with good intentions but at the mercy of ravenous rivals. We may one day look back at her as the best of the worst.
The president is the master of demographic politics, playing the race card in a way that no one else could. Miss Sotomayor was presented not first as a jurist distinguished by learning and accomplishment, but as a Latina, a woman of empathy and delicate sensibility. He’s counting on male gallantry, if not male timidity, to carry the day. Robert Gibbs, the president’s press agent, was an unapologetic intimidator, warning everyone to be “exceedingly careful” in talking about her. Criticism of Miss Sotomayor is to be regarded as proof of racism, sexism and maybe even fascism. Criticize the little lady at your own risk.
Miss Sotomayor herself has played the game skillfully. When, interviewing for a job during her final year at law school, she was asked whether she thought she would have been admitted to the prestigious school had she not been of Puerto Rican extraction. It was a recruiter’s legitimately provocative question, but she cried “racism!” and demanded an apology. Her credentials were impressive enough to suggest that she could stand up to tough and even impertinent questions. Her professors could have used the incident as a teaching moment: learn to answer the tough questions because being a lawyer means dealing with tough questions. Instead the professors, as if eager to protect a delicate feminine psyche, demanded that the law firm send her a craven letter of apology.
Miss Sotomayor’s much remarked assertion of her own racial superiority - “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” - requires no apology to white males. It’s reward enough for “white males” to see her friends, beginning with her friends at the White House, wriggle and squirm as if they were sitting in wet skivvies. Such a bald lapse into racism - there’s nothing “reverse” about it - can’t be defended and her defenders can only say she didn’t say what she said. The president’s press agent tried to rewrite her, substituting “different” for “better,” but even the docile White House reporters scoffed: “She said ‘better.’ ”
The prospect is not that Republicans will be too tough, but not tough enough. Miss Sotomayor has a damning paper trail, and the Republicans have a responsibility to ask vigorous, even robust, questions. Mr. Obama has the votes to prevail no matter how she answers the questions, but the nation is entitled to know who the president puts on the nation’s highest court.
President Obama himself leaves no one under any misunderstanding about how he intends to remake America. “It is experience that can give a person a common touch of compassion,” he said on introducing Sonia Sotomayor, “an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.” Not much there about the law and the Constitution.
This is scary enough, but he told a Hollywood audience this week that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” The twinklies suddenly felt limp, wet and warm. Senators should rise above that, but a prudent man bets the other way.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.