Professor Thomas Sowell has an astonishing ability to put the most profound truths into words that everyone can understand. In this two-part essay, he explains why Judge Sotomayor is such a danger to America and should not be confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court.
'Out of Context'
By Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
In Washington, the clearer a statement is, the more certain it is to be followed by a "clarification" when people realize what was said. The clearly racist comments made by Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the Berkeley campus in 2001 have forced the spinmasters to resort to their last-ditch excuse, that it was "taken out of context."
If that line is used during Judge Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings, someone should ask her to explain just what those words mean when taken in context.
What could such statements possibly mean -- in any context -- other than the new and fashionable racism of our time, rather than the old-fashioned racism of earlier times? Racism has never done this country any good, and it needs to be fought against, not put under new management for different groups.
Looked at in the context of Judge Sotomayor's voting to dismiss the appeal of white firefighters who were denied the promotions they had earned by passing an exam, because not enough minorities passed that exam to create "diversity," her words in Berkeley seem to match her actions on the judicial bench in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals all too well.
The Supreme Court of the United States thought that case was important enough to hear it, even though the three-judge panel on which Judge Sotomayor served gave it short shrift in less than a page. Apparently the famous "empathy" that President Obama says a judge should have does not apply to white males in Judge Sotomayor's court.
The very idea that a judge's "life experiences" should influence judicial decisions is as absurd as it is dangerous.
It is dangerous because citizens are supposed to obey the law, which means they must know what the law is in advance -- and nobody can know in advance what the "life experiences" of whatever judge they might appear before will happen to be.
It is absurd because it flies in the face of the facts. It was a fellow Puerto Rican judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals -- Jose Cabranes -- who rebuked his judicial colleagues for the cavalier way they dismissed the white firefighters' case.
On the Supreme Court, the justice whose life story is most like that of Sonia Sotomayor -- Clarence Thomas -- has a very different judicial philosophy from hers.
The clever people in the media and elsewhere are saying that "inevitably" one's background influences how one feels about issues. Even if that were true, judges are not supposed to decide cases based on their personal feelings.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that he "loathed" many of the people in whose favor he voted on the Supreme Court. Obviously, he had feelings. But he also had the good sense and integrity to rule on the basis of the law, not his feelings.
Laws are made for the benefit of the citizens, not for the self-indulgences of judges. Making excuses for such self-indulgences and calling them "inevitable" is part of the cleverness that has eroded the rule of law and undermined respect for the law.
Something else is said to be "inevitable" by the clever people. That is the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. But it was only a year and a half ago that Hillary Clinton's winning the Democratic Party's nomination for president was considered "inevitable."
The Republicans certainly do not have the votes to stop Judge Sotomayor from being confirmed -- if all the Democrats vote for her. But that depends on what the people say. It looked like a done deal a couple of years ago when an amnesty bill for illegal aliens was sailing through the Senate with bipartisan support. But public outrage brought that political steamroller to a screeching halt.
Nothing is inevitable in a democracy unless the public lets the political spinmasters and media talking heads lead them around by the nose.
The real question is whether the Republican Senators have the guts to alert the public to the dangers of putting this kind of judge on the highest court in the land, so that they will at least have some chance of stopping the next one that comes along.
It would be considered a disgrace if an umpire in a baseball game let his "empathy" determine whether a pitch was called a ball or strike. Surely we should accept nothing less from a judge.
'Out of Context,' II
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
As the mainstream media circles the wagons around Judge Sonia Sotomayor, to protect her from the consequences of her own words and deeds, its main arguments are distractions from the issue at hand. A CNN reporter, for example, got all worked up because Rush Limbaugh had used the word "racist" to describe the judge's words.
Since it has been repeated like a mantra that Judge Sotomayor's words have been "taken out of context," let us look at Rush Limbaugh in context. The cold fact is that Rush Limbaugh has not been nominated to sit on the highest court in the land, with a lifetime appointment, to have the lives and liberties of 300 million Americans in his hands.
Whatever you may think about his choice of words, those words and the ideas behind them do not change the law of the land. The words and actions of Supreme Court justices do. Anyone who doesn't like what Rush Limbaugh says can simply turn off the radio or change the station. But you cannot escape the consequences of Supreme Court decisions. Nor will your children or grandchildren.
What does it say about a nominee to the Supreme Court that the most that her defenders can say in her defense is that her critics used words that her defenders don't like?
What does it say about her qualifications to be on the Supreme Court when her supporters' biggest talking points are that she had to struggle to rise in the world?
Bonnie and Clyde had to struggle. Al Capone had to struggle. The only President of the United States who was forced to resign for his misdeeds-- Richard Nixon-- had to struggle. For that matter, Adolf Hitler had to struggle! There is no evidence that struggle automatically makes you a better person.
Sometimes, instead of making you appreciative of a society in which someone born at the bottom can rise to the top, it leaves you embittered that you had to spend years struggling, and resentful of those who were born into circumstances where the easy way to the top was open to them.
Much in the past of Sonia Sotomayor, and of the president who nominated her, suggests such resentments. Both have a history of connections with people who promoted resentments against American society. La Raza ("the race") was Judge Sotomayor's Jeremiah Wright. If context is important, then look at that context.
Sonia Sotomayor has, in both her words and in her decision as a judge to dismiss out of hand the appeal of white firefighters who had been discriminated against, betrayed a racism that is no less racism because it is directed against different people than the old racism of the past.
The code word for the new racism is "diversity." The Constitution of the United States says nothing about diversity and the Constitution is what a judge is supposed to pay attention to, not the prevailing buzzwords of the times.
What the Constitution says is "equal protection of the laws" for all Americans-- and that is not taken out of context. People have put their lives on the line to make those words a reality. Now all of that is to be made to vanish into thin air by saying the magic word "diversity."
The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, like the Constitution, proclaimed equal rights for all, not special rights for those for whom judges have "empathy."
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being debated in Congress, its opponents claimed that it would lead to discrimination against white people. Its supporters declared that it meant no such thing and added new provisions to make sure that it meant no such thing. That was the law that was passed.
It was not the law, but the judges, who changed equal rights into special rights and thereby set the stage for the new mantra of "diversity" that trumps equal rights. Diversity was Judge Sotomayor's rationale for going along with the denial of equal rights for white firefighters in Connecticut.
When all else fails, supporters of Judge Sotomayor say that she is Hispanic and a woman, and that it would be politically dangerous to deny her a place on the Supreme Court. This is as much an insult to the intelligence of Hispanic and female voters as it is to the Constitution of the United States and to those who put their lives on the line for equal rights.
For Professor Sowell's wisdom, click here.