Last year, I decided that Maureen Dowd had lost her verve. After a litany of weekly essays knifing Hillary Clinton and worshipping Barack Obama, she appeared robotic and unoriginal. But, Dowd's latest essay shows some of her old sparkle. In classic Dowd style, Dowd goes after the Republican Senators who have questioned Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's impartiality, temperament, and honesty. Dowd praises Sotomayor for maintaining her cool in the face of hostility, concluding that: "A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not know that a gaggle of white Republican men afraid of extinction are out to trip her up." Regrettably, I agree.
Prior to the Sotomayor nomination, I published many essays on this blog that defend Republicans from liberal attacks. For example, I defended Michael Steele (here, here, here, and here), Sarah Palin (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), Rush Limbaugh (here and here), and John McCain (here, here, here, and here) from unfair criticism. I also criticized "the liberal media," liberals and Democrats, including President Obama, when other progressives refused to do so (too many links to list). Although I continue to criticize liberals, my search for material to defend the GOP has been largely unsuccessful since the Sotomayor nomination.
The GOP's False and Offensive Anti-Sotomayor Narrative
Despite her excellent academic and professional credentials, many Republicans have decided that she is an intellectual lightweight, a partial judge, a bigot, and an ideologue. Given her nearly 20 years of judging, if these allegations were true, then the hundreds of opinions she has written would back up the claims. Nothing in Sotomayor's record as a judge, however, legitimates the Republicans' allegations.
Lacking any credible proof that Sotomayor is unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court, Republicans have resorted to distortion. They have extracted one case (Ricci) from her long legal career, and despite the fact that several other judges reached the same conclusion as Sotomayor, Republicans have pointed to her position in the case to argue that she is biased against white men.
Republicans have also extracted one sentence from one speech that Sotomayor delivered, distorted its meaning, and have attempted to define Sotomayor with their own misrepresentation of her words. Clearly operating under White House directions, Sotomayor has (wisely) said that she should have chosen other words to convey her message. She even apologized for any pain her words caused (but conservatives oppose "victimology"). Nevertheless, the spewing continues.
Embracing Principles or Committing Political Suicide?
Sotomayor will sit on the Supreme Court. All of the Democrats and even some of the Republicans will vote to confirm her. Meanwhile, the Republican Party will likely take a political hit from the hearings -- especially among blacks and Latinos, whose support for the GOP is already in the toilet.
Ironically, Republican Senators like Jeff Sessions are leading the attacks against Sotomayor. President Reagan nominated Sessions for a federal district court judgeship, but his nomination never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Many committee members were not amused by some of Sessions's prior comments on race, which appear to praise the Ku Klux Klan and which describe the NAACP and ACLU as "un-American." Send in the clowns.
One could argue that the GOP is valiantly embracing its principles in the face of wide opposition and deep political risks. But that argument requires a showing that principles are actually dictating the behavior of Republicans. On that point, the record is weak. Portraying a highly successful woman of color with a long and distinguished judicial record as a dumb shrill racist partisan is not only factually inaccurate, but it amounts to political suicide for a party that needs to capture the attention of women, moderates, and persons of color. Rather than adhering to principles, it seems that the GOP is on a suicide mission. For those of us who favor a multi-party system, this is bad news.