- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 30, 2009


Since when did securing a Supreme Court seat become a high-hurdles contest? The White House and Democrats have turned 2nd U.S. Circuit Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination into a personal Olympic event. Pay no attention to her jurisprudence. She grew up in a Bronx public-housing project. She was diagnosed with childhood diabetes at 8. Her father died a year later.

Oh, and by the way, did you hear that she was poor?

It’s a “compelling personal story,” as we heard 20,956 times on Tuesday. Judge Sotomayor is a “real” person. Why, she even read Nancy Drew as a young girl, President Obama told us. She has “faced down barriers, overcome the odds and lived out the American dream that brought her parents here so long ago,” he said.

If Judge Sotomayor were auditioning to be Oprah Winfrey’s fill-in host, I would understand the over-the-top hyping of her life narrative. But isn’t anybody on Judge Sotomayor’s side the least bit embarrassed by all this liberal condescension?

Republicans are not allowed to mention Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity lest they be branded bigots, but every Democrat on cable television harped on her multicultural “diversity” and “obstacle”-climbing. Mr. Obama made sure to roll his r’s when noting that her parents came from Puerrrrto Rrrrico. New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer stated outright: “It’s long overdue that a Latino sit on the United States Supreme Court.” Color-coded tokenism dominated the headlines, with blaring references to Judge Sotomayor as the high court’s potential “first Hispanic.”

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill - one of the leading Democrats tasked with guiding Judge Sotomayor through the nomination process - carried the “compelling personal story” talking points to the tokenist extreme in an interview on Fox News:

“If you look at what this woman has been through, and the obstacles that she has had to overcome, I think she does have a richly, uniquely American experience that makes her incredibly qualified to pass judgment on some of the most important cases in our country,” Ms. McCaskill asserted. “Overcoming incredible odds, and I think that is an experience that is new to the courts. There have been a lot of privileged people that have landed on the Supreme Court. The fact that she has lived the life of the common American, trying to grow up in public housing, reaching for scholarships, reaching for the courtroom as a courtroom prosecutor, all of those things will make her a better and wiser judge. And I don’t think that is identity politics. I think that is the American experience.”

Clever. Challenging Judge Sotomayor’s credentials and extreme views on race and the law is not merely anti-Hispanic. It’s anti-American!

More significantly, Ms. McCaskill waved the high-hurdle card after being asked to defend Judge Sotomayor’s infamous statement in a 2001 speech at the University of California at Berkeley asserting brown-skin moral authority: “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.” Ms. McCaskill actually denied that Judge Sotomayor had made the remarks, then argued that the words were taken out of context.

You want context? It’s even worse than that sound bite. As National Journal legal analyst Stuart Taylor reported, “Sotomayor also referred to the cardinal duty of judges to be impartial as a mere ‘aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others.’ And she suggested that ‘inherent physiological or cultural differences’ may help explain why ‘our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.’ ” The full speech was reprinted in something called the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal. “La Raza” is Spanish for “the Race.” Imagine if a white male Republican court nominee had published in a law review called “the Race.”

The selective elevation of hardship as primary qualification demeans the entire judiciary. If personal turmoil makes one “incredibly qualified to pass judgment on some of the most important cases in our country,” let’s put reality-show couple Jon and Kate Gosselin on the bench. Millions of viewers tune in to watch their “compelling personal story” of life with eight children on television. It’s a “richly, uniquely American experience” of facing obstacles and overcoming the odds. Get them robes and gavels, stat.

The lesson is that not all compelling personal stories are equal. Ms. McCaskill’s assertion that “overcoming incredible odds” is “new to the courts” is ridiculous. Is she arguing that Thurgood Marshall, Felix Frankfurter and Sandra Day O’Connor faced lower hurdles than Judge Sotomayor? And how about Clarence Thomas, a descendant of slaves who grew up in abject poverty in the South without a father? His crime, of course, was embracing the wrong ideology. So his incredible set of odds and obstacles doesn’t count in left-wing eyes.

Democrats are eager to celebrate diversity, you see, as long as the diversely pigmented pledge allegiance to the left for life.

Michelle Malkin is the author of the forthcoming “Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies” (Regnery 2009).

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