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5/27/2009
PRINCIPLE SHOULD TRUMP PRAGMATISM IN SOTOMAYOR VOTE

Jeanne Cummings of Politico is making too much of a big deal over the fact that opposition to President Obama’s pick to replace the retiring David Souter in the Supreme Court has not gelled as of yet. But her column does raise the salient issues that will be debated over the next couple of months, until Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings get underway.

To filibuster or not? Attack her liberal record and statements away from the bench or perhaps concentrate on specific decisions like Ricci or Didden?

No doubt a combination of the latter will be visible. But the question of whether to filibuster the nomination by trying to coax a couple of Democrats to cross the aisle and vote with the GOP (assuming the party can keep their caucus on the same page) will probably divide the opposition, as the article makes pretty clear:

“The Republicans have got to take a stand on this one,” said Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and a proponent of a filibuster. “If they don’t, they can kiss their chances of ever getting back into power away,” he added.

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, an anti-abortion rights activist, is urging members to block a Senate vote on Sotomayor.

“Do GOP leaders have the courage and integrity to filibuster an activist, pro-Roe[v. Wade] judge?” asked Terry, who argued that Democrats - including then-Sen. Obama - opened the door to such action after threatening to filibuster Justice Samuel Alito’s nomination in 2005.

In addition to pressuring Republicans, Terry is urging supporters to send e-mails to Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), both of whom oppose abortion rights.

Meanwhile, the Judicial Confirmation Network, an umbrella group representing more than 60 organizations, is trying to build a more traditional case against Sotomayor by culling through her prior statements and cases and questioning her qualifications.

“We’ve always said a filibuster is not appropriate for judicial nominees,” said Wendy Long, counsel to the network. “A filibuster is a legislative tool designed to extract compromises. A judicial nominee is a person. You can’t take the arm or leg of a nominee.

What this really boils down to is how much political courage will Republican senators demonstrate both at her confirmation hearings and on the floor of the senate?

In other words, are the principles involved in this nomination fight so important that a Republican senator should be prepared to go down to defeat rather than act pragmatically and tone down their opposition and perhaps even vote to confirm?

It may come as a shock to some of you but us pragmatists have principles too. One of the greatest political pragmatists in American history, Henry Clay, stood on principle time and time again in order to save the union. Through the Missouri Compromise, the nullification crisis of the 1830’s, and finally, the Compromise of 1850, Clay went against the wishes of many of his party, his constituents, and his friends in order to broker agreements that saved us from civil war. For Clay, pragmatism was a means to uphold his overarching principle of saving the union. While the firebreathers on both sides condemned him, and his last compromise drove a stake through the heart of his own party - the Whigs - Clay put his principles above everything else in order to keep the union together.

So in the SCOTUS nomination, I don’t see any way around it. There is little doubt that Sonia Sotomayor, while qualified to sit on the high court based solely on her experience as a 10 year jurist on the Second Circuit, would nevertheless be a disaster for America. Given that fact, and given that the principles that conservatives should stand for are at risk of being obliterated by justices like Sotomayor, there should be no other option for a principled politician than to stand up and be counted as a proponent of equality of opportunity, fair and impartial justice, and the rule of law.

For politicians, there’s a time for pragmatism and a time where standing for one’s principles cannot be avoided. This is the a time for the latter. No matter the personal or political cost. No matter what their constituents might want them to do. This is a “Profiles in Courage” moment for those senators who claim to be proud consrevatives around election time. They know what must be done. They know the right thing to do.

John Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage listed many examples of politicians who braved the wrath of their party and constituents in order to stand on principle. Among those profiled by Kennedy was Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster who welcomed political defeat in order to save the union during the compromise of 1850:

Daniel Webster was a Massachusetts Senator (Whig) and one of the most distinguished members in Senate history. His trial by fire began in 1850 when he agreed to help Henry Clay of Kentucky push through a compromise bill that would keep the Union together. Webster’s famous “Seventh of March” speech in favor of Clay’s compromise bill asserted that slaveholders were entitled to property rights, that fugitive slave laws should be strengthened, and that the issue of slavery should be put aside in order to keep the Union together at all costs. The speech enraged his constituents and ended his career as a Senator, since Webster knew that his speech would make him unelectable in Massachusetts thereafter. On July 22, 1850, Webster resigned from the Senate to become secretary of state.

Think of how difficult it was for Webster to make that speech and yet, his principled stand defending an unprincipled practice in order to head off civil war remains an example to be followed when the very idea of America as we know it is at stake.

The Republican party must speak with one voice on this nomination, shouting from the top of the Capitol dome that justices like Sotomayor who believe the law should be twisted so that the proper “outcome” is achieved have no place on the Supreme Court. At risk, gun rights, property rights, impartiality, and equal justice under the law for all.

But will they? They might if enough of us hold their feet to the fire and remind them that even going down to defeat is honorable if one is standing on their principles while doing so.

Whatever tactics the opposition decides upon, there must be a clear message sent to the American people that the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor is a bridge too far and is antithetical to the founding principles of the republic. On that, Republican senators should reflect before genuflecting to Obama’s crass identity politics and cynical use of the race card to pander to a minority constituency.

By: Rick Moran at 8:38 am
28 Responses to “PRINCIPLE SHOULD TRUMP PRAGMATISM IN SOTOMAYOR VOTE”
  1. 1
    busboy33 Said:
    9:17 am 

    Assuming the GOP does decide to filibuster, how do they deal with all the video clips that will fire off of them decrying the filibuster tactic against a GOP-annointed candidate? How do they go down this path without appearing blatantly patrisan? As you said, she’s qualified on a basic level. You can’t say she’s not as qualified as Alito or Roberts in terms of ability and experience. How does the GOP make clear that they are not opposing her purely because she’s a Dem nominee? If “not the best” means “doesn’t agree with us”, then they’re going to be feeding the Blue PR machine.
    The Dems have been effective with “The Party of No”, and if this isn’t handled carefully the GOP is just going to underline that tag. The problem I see is that the opposition is going to be divided between trying to discredit her . . . and making speeches to excite the hardcore Reds. Every one of those campaign-targeted speeches is going to be a huge step backward. To lock in votes that they already have, they’re going to drive potential middle votes even farther away.

  2. 2
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    9:59 am 

    Sotomayor, while qualified to sit on the high court based solely on her experience as a 10 year jurist on the Second Circuit, would nevertheless be a disaster for America.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA… ha ha… ha. Right. A disaster for America. Sure. Disaster? Really? Isn’t that what the Democrats told me about Alito? Puh-leeeeze. There are much more pressing disasters for America than this one.

    Republicans like to spew crap about liberal activist judges and other such nonsense even though a look at their own house reveals exactly the same garbage.

    If Sotomayor doesn’t get in, some other liberal eventually will. The half-hearted and mandatory freakout by both parties every time a SCOTUS nomination comes up is as predictable and laughable this time as it ever has been in the past. It’s like you guys just pass the “Oppose Nominee” script between you.

    It’s so great reading about the “outrage” and “concern” of Republicans when I remember so clearly the exact same thing from Democrats not to long ago.

    Newsflash: DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS ARE THE EXACT SAME PARTY. Congratulations on that.

  3. 3
    Shaun Said:
    10:01 am 

    The sound you hear is Henry Clay spinning in his grave.

  4. 4
    jackson1234 Said:
    11:37 am 

    Sotomayor is qualified only in that her resume bears what you point out, a 10-year stint on an appellate court courtesy of a political appointment. When the substance of her opinions and statements are analyzed, though, she is at best an utter mediocrity and at worst the lawless ideologue you fear. Neither is acceptable.

    I otherwise agree with you. For the same problems of poor reasoning and no grasp of the constitution, I would not have voted to confirm Bork (and, yes, you read that correctly). For the very same reasons I would refuse to confirm Sotomayor. I hope Republican senators and those few Democratic senators left who can exercise independent judgment come to the same conclusion.

    I further submit those Democratic senators who claim moderation are on trial with this one.

  5. 5
    Anonymous Said:
    11:39 am 

    As you’ve pointed out, Obama is a Chicago pol… he could be even craftier that you think. In addition to giving the Republicans a nasty dilemma, he could get an advantage in the Franken issue. The Republicans can only filibuster if they string out seating Franken. Obama can then point out that they are so anti-Sotomayor that they are holding up Franken, too. That way, he can throw some dirt on Pawlenty as well.

    As it appears right now the Senate Republicans will, er, “go to the mattresses” for delaying the vote until after the term starts… not exactly a principled fight… more like a minor legislative point, so that they can congratulate themselves that their prerogatives were not completely trampled.

    As Shakespeare put it, “… full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

  6. 6
    KenGirard Said:
    12:45 pm 

    @jackson1234
    “those few Democratic senators left who can exercise independent judgment come to the same conclusion”

    So if someone comes to a conclusion that is different then what you want them to belive then they are not capable of excercising independent judgement?

    My independent judgement says you are wrong on this.

  7. 7
    jackson1234 Said:
    12:49 pm 

    Ken: “So if someone comes to a conclusion that is different then what you want them to belive then they are not capable of excercising independent judgement?”

    No, if someone claims moderation and votes for someone this far out of the mainstream, they are liars. I’ll be looking at the Nelsons and Webbs closely on this one.

  8. 8
    Davebo Said:
    1:48 pm 

    No, if someone claims moderation and votes for someone this far out of the mainstream, they are liars. I’ll be looking at the Nelsons and Webbs closely on this one.

    If she is indeed that far out of the mainstream then why did Bush appoint her to the appellate court and the senate confirm her. Confirmed unanimously no less.

  9. 9
    Davebo Said:
    1:52 pm 

    And Rick, are you claiming that she was an affirmative action choice?

    It seems to me that to ignore her qualifications for the job (she has more time on the bench than any other the current members of the court had when confirmed, you are proving that the need for affirmative actions still exists today.

    Did Bush also play the race card and engage in identity politics with Gonzales, Rice or Powell?

    Or for that matter with the nomination of Roberts? He too has a race you know.

  10. 10
    jackson1234 Said:
    2:14 pm 

    Davebo:

    If she is indeed that far out of the mainstream then why did Bush appoint her to the appellate court and the senate confirm her

    It was part of a deal between then Sens. Moniyhan and D’Amato–they would each get six left-wing and six right-wing judges approved. No one ever thought the more extreme nominees like this one would even be considered for the high court.

    Again, the nation’s eyes will turn to so-called moderate Democrats like Tester, Baucus, Conrad and so forth, along with every Republican, when the roll is called. I assume here that the full extent of her background will be known.

    I accept there will be a liberal, activist justice. I don’t accept that someone this whacked out will be confirmed.

  11. 11
    Davebo Said:
    2:38 pm 

    I accept there will be a liberal, activist justice. I don’t accept that someone this whacked out will be confirmed.

    Well, regardless of your acceptance barring some scandal coming to light it’s going to happen.

  12. 12
    Augustine Said:
    2:43 pm 

    “I accept there will be a liberal, activist justice. I don’t accept that someone this whacked out will be confirmed.”

    What exactly is the term ” this whacked out” intended to represent? From what I’ve read this woman is a typical liberal jurist. Why don’t you give us your example of a ” liberal activist ” judge that isn’t ” whacked out”. Please point to decisions where this woman is beyond the pale in liberal ideology.

    Hell, many liberals are complaining she isn’t liberal enough or intelligently liberal enough to compete with the Scalia / Roberts wing of the court. ( Rosen @ TNR ).

    My sense is that any liberal justice is going to be ” too whacked out ” for you, stop hiding your contempt of Dems / Libs behind Sotomayor’s robes.

  13. 13
    Augustine Said:
    2:52 pm 

    I’m not old enough to remember all the details surrounding the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. But I have to think that G.H. Bush was giving a sly smile at the idea of having Dems oppose a black american to the court. Identitiy politics cuts both ways doesn’t it?

  14. 14
    Kevin Brown Said:
    3:02 pm 

    This is a situation that comes as a result of elections ie elections have consequences. Is Judge Sotomayor a judicial disaster and mediocrity, yes. But then again she is merely replacing another mediocrity and disaster namely Justice Souter.

    The larger point that is being lost by the right is that we have to endure the next two to four years with litte ability to influence events because of the results of the 2006 and 2008 elections. We need to accept the situation as is and wait for the day when events will require us to rise to the occasion and push forward our adgenda. I am confident that the day is coming but I want to make sure that we can minimize the damage quite frankly who cares about a mediocre justice who is replacing a mediocre justice.

    We need to save our ammunition for the large battles to come namely healthcare and cap and trade. I think if the President’s agenda is implemented legislatively on either or both of those issues than quite frankly the situation may not be correctable.

  15. 15
    michael reynolds Said:
    4:05 pm 

    Help, we’re all gonna diiiiiiieee! It’s a Sotomayor! Noooooooo!

    I see the crazy has come to Rightwing Nuthouse.

    I think we should make a grand bargain: the right wing groups can tell us how much money they hope to raise. We can all pitch in and pay the money. And then they can stop making asses of themselves. Sort of like some PBS stations will cancel the fundraising week if you just pay up.

  16. 16
    busboy33 Said:
    5:02 pm 

    @ Mike Reynolds:

    Are you high?!?

    I stocked up on popcorn and beer for this show! Watching whack-a-doodles compete to out-whack-a-doodle each other is the most entertaining T.V. I can look forward to until the NFL season starts . . . and that’s a looooooong way away. Who knows when the next GOP full court press will come around.

    Whack-a-doodles: If you say Sotomayor three times while looking in a mirror, you catch teh gay. Totally verified. Somebody start a chain e-mail with lots of CapLock ranting about this, please!

  17. 17
    michael reynolds Said:
    5:16 pm 

    Busboy:

    You know what? You are absolutely right. I blame the fact that I’m tired today. The show must go on!

  18. 18
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    5:26 pm 

    Even if Sotomayor looses the Senate vote or withdraws her nomination, what’s stopping Obama from picking somebody else more liberal for the high court? From what I’ve read, this candidate is not out of the mainstream on very much. Aside from one dumb speech over 10 years ago on the alleged wisdom on latina judges, there’s not a whole lot to go on to make the case that she is unfit.

    Most of the country believes that a president is entitled to his own choices for judges, so a big confirmation hearing debate won’t do much to sway the voters anyway. (Also, this is happening so early in Obama’s first term that even fewer people are going to remember it in 2012.) Attacking Sotomayor is a dead end for the GOP, and the sooner they realize it, the better off they will be.

  19. 19
    Joe Said:
    6:43 pm 

    “Sotomayor will be a disaster for America” WTF? Thats about as off the wall as anything you have ever said Rick. Did you look into your crystal ball for that one? No one knows how she’ll turn out to be, anything like that is just partisan hackery…plain and simple. Come back to earth and join the rest of the world. Top of her class at Princeton Law for the love of man, get real.

    Holy Jesus! Who the fuck cares what her grades were in college! How can that possibly qualify her to be a SCOTUS? That is moronic.

    As for the partisan hackery, if you don’t know by now that I call em as I see em, then you never will. Given the way I’ve trashed the GOP over the last couple of years (with people like you cheering me on) your idea of partisan hackery is strange indeed. Evidently, if I disagree with you, I am a partisan hack. If we agree, I am a “serious conservative.” That too, is moronic.

    ed.

  20. 20
    yoyo Said:
    9:02 pm 

    WOW rick I’ve been reading you for the past month as one of the few serious conservatives but you really jumped the shark on this one. A disaster HUH? Have one of those shock jocks now running the GOP got you tied up in a basement? tap three times for yes.

    See my comment to Jojo below. The fact that both of you repeat the same talking point pegs you both as brainless, Democratic twits.

    ed.

  21. 21
    Eric Florack Said:
    7:36 am 

    In other words, are the principles involved in this nomination fight so important that a Republican senator should be prepared to go down to defeat rather than act pragmatically and tone down their opposition and perhaps even vote to confirm?

    You’d better hope so, Rick. Republicans have felt themselves needing to be pragmatists for so long that the majority of them have forgotten what principles are, and so are going to find themselves ill equipped to fight for them. I don’t wanna hit this one too hard, but frankly, such is the cost of leaving principles behind.

    There’s no question in my mind that she’ll be confirmed. That said, however, there is much more at stake than knocking down this nomination. The entire identity politics meme, for one thing. there’s no way to stop this nomination from becoming confirmed. As disasterous as that will be for this country, at least we can kneecap the identity politic as the racist nonsense it is, thereby saving us this exposure in the future.

  22. 22
    aoibhneas Said:
    7:41 am 

    Indubitably- give the Latina a complete pass because POTUS should choose those judges he wants and he WON. Of course you liberals were fine with the treatment of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas by the Judiciary committee. Teddy Kennedy was just so eloquent and truthful in his bork speech. And poor Anita Hill was indeed Thomas’ sexual harrassment victim.

  23. 23
    JoJo Said:
    7:48 am 

    Perhaps…. no, take that back…. Undoubtedly the most asinine statement Rick has ever made on this site. I didn’t think Rush, the junkie, was giving him his marching orders.

    1. What statement.

    2. Why trot out the Democratic talking point? No brains of your own, huh?

    ed.

  24. 24
    c3 Said:
    10:45 am 

    Rick;
    I’m trying to understand how this will be a “disaster”. If Justice Souter was seen as generally leaning left, how will Justice Sotomayor change that?

    Boy, the Bork nomination sure has changed everything. I can’t remember a nomination that did not lead to emotional, “this is horrible…” reactions from the other party.

    It is certainly appropriate for Republicans to raise issues of concern and principle in the hearings. A filibuster would be a disaster in my estimation. As I see it the President has the perogative to nominate who he/she sees fits. The Senate must do its due diligence but ultimately it comes down to the votes. If principles are so much at stake in this nomination then its shame on the Republicans for not “selling” those principles well enough to the electorate. Yes, I see principles involved in this nomination but I see far more politics.

    Finally, I grew up with the Warren court and all of its sweeping decisions. My hunch would be that the majority of Americans have sympathy with the Sotomayor “make policy” statement.

  25. 25
    Eric Florack Said:
    8:12 pm 

    I’m trying to understand how this will be a “disaster”. If Justice Souter was seen as generally leaning left, how will Justice Sotomayor change that?

    Tell ya what, c3… Soromayor managed to slip off my radar after the bout of nomination-itis we had with her back in 1998. I’ve gotten to look at her record since, and I’ll tell you true; Sotomayor manages to do something I’d often thought impossible. She comes down to the left of Souter.

  26. 26
    bobwire Said:
    1:40 am 

    “There is little doubt that Sonia Sotomayor, while qualified to sit on the high court based solely on her experience as a 10 year jurist on the Second Circuit, would nevertheless be a disaster for America”

    she might replace Souter. And how was he? A disaster?

    You will live to eat your words. How many times can you shoot your wad at your age?

  27. 27
    bobwire Said:
    2:03 am 

    rick will inform us how Souter made his live miserable. And how Sotomayor will make his life a disaster.

    Is not rick our heartland barometer?

  28. 28
    dewey from detroit Said:
    9:08 pm 

    Based on the much reported statement that Sonia Sotomayor made in a speech in 2001(“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,”), here are a couple of questions I would ask if I were on the Judicial Committee:

    “Judge Sotomayor, would you say that a wise black woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman? How about a wise black man? Where might he fall in your spectrum of ‘good conclusions’? How about a wise Latino man? And I guess I’m also curious as to how you think an Asian woman might stack up.

    “Also, among wise Latina women, is there a distinction between the wisdom of a Latina from Puerto Rico and one from Mexico? Or Cuba? And what about Guatemala?

    “We assume, Judge Sotomayor, that white males would come in dead last, but I’m just wondering if perhaps, for future appointments to the bench, you could share with us some of your Latina wisdom and help us rank the full spectrum of color and gender combinations. That way we could ensure that all subsequent appointments will go only to those that are capable of reaching the wisest conclusions.”

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