Saturday, May 30, 2009

Best we get a better shovel

Gibbs and his staff needs to read Political Animal three times every day. If he did, this kind of stupidity would never ever happen . . .

Gregg Levine: Late Night: Elephants on Parade

Compare and contrast, if you will.

First, here is how the White House, or, more accurately, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, handled a question about the already explained and dismissed criticism of Sonia Sotomayor’s comments about how her Latina background would influence her legal opinions: "I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor."

Way to go, Gibby! Revive a dead argument, reify hot air, restate a rightwing frame. . . and much, much more!

Now, second, take a look at this miserable excuse for a public figure, former US Representative and Republican presidential wannabe (and current a-hole) Tom Tancredo, when he is asked if he wants to walk back his unbelievably offensive statements about Sotomayor and the National Council of La Raza:

Shuster: Would you like to take this opportunity to apologize?

Tancredo: [Laughs] No.

Notice the difference there? Look again, I know it’s subtle.

The Democrat in the White House, a member of the majority party, part of an extremely popular administration, is confronted with a bit of faux controversy, and shows doubt. Where there was nothing but widely recognized smoke and mirrors, he creates the perception of real, stinky smoke (and thus potential fire).

The Republican, no longer in elected office, member of the minority party, the holder of ideas less popular than elective amputation, spews his filth, is then asked if maybe he just, you know, “misspoke,” and he looks right into the camera and says, “No.”

It is one of the biggest problems of the last eight years (30 years?) in micro-view. Most Americans don’t have a lot of time for parsing and parrying, and so certitude often looks a little like the truth. You’d think our current administration, so very good at message management during the campaign, would know that.

At the end of the day, I expect the Tancredos of the world will lose this fight. Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, but other battles remain, and, sure as shit, the elephants are not going to stop flinging this kind of dead-certain dung.

Best we get a better shovel.

Jamison Foser: Suddenly it's OK to call a judicial nominee a racist

When the nation learned in 2005 that Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito had belonged to a Princeton University alumni organization that advocated a cap on the number of women and minorities allowed at Princeton, the news media quickly circled the wagons to protect the Bush nominee.

When Alito was asked by Senate Democrats about his membership in the organization -- which he touted while applying for a job in the Reagan administration -- the media denounced them for going too far. The merest hint of a suggestion of an implication that Alito was a member of a racist organization was shouted down as an unfair slander; Democrats were pilloried for making Alito's wife cry with their inappropriate questions (though Mrs. Alito didn't actually start crying until Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham took to the microphone).

Gloria Borger, for example, said that the pertinent question was not whether Alito agreed with the Concerned Alumni of Princeton's clearly racist and sexist stance on university admissions, but "whether the Democrats took this a step too far today." Katie Couric added: "Too much to take: Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's wife driven to tears after Democrats question his integrity. Did they go too far?" The media consensus that Democrats went "too far" in questioning Alito continues to this day. Fox News' Megyn Kelly recently claimed that during Alito's confirmation hearings, his wife was "crying hysterically after Ted Kennedy made her cry."

So it seems the news media treat even a suggestion that a Supreme Court nominee might be guilty of involvement in a bigoted organization as a vile slur. Even if the nominee touted his membership in a group that sought to limit the number of women and minorities accepted into his alma mater. Even then, such questions are treated as inappropriate and abusive scrutiny that have no place in civil discourse.

As long, that is, as the nominee in question is a conservative white male, nominated by a conservative white male president.

But as we learned this week, if the nominee is a progressive Latina nominated by a progressive African-American president, you can just come right out and call her a racist -- based on nothing more than a distorted quote and a ruling nobody has read -- and the media will take you seriously. They will amplify your complaints. Far from denouncing you for going "too far," they will pretend that your false descriptions of her comments are accurate.

Eight years ago, Sonia Sotomayor said that she would hope that in judging cases involving discrimination, a Latina woman would reach a better decision than would a white man who hasn't had her experiences. Past Republican Supreme Court nominees like Samuel Alito have said similar things, and it really isn't particularly controversial.

But if you change what Sotomayor said a bit -- drop a word here and there, change a few others -- to pretend that she said Latinas are better than white men ... well, that's racist!

And that's just what the right wing did. Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and other conservative media figures quickly insisted that Sotomayor is a racist and a bigot. They even compared her to David Duke. (Now, at first, you might think that if Rush Limbaugh is calling someone a racist, he must mean it as a compliment. But if you listen to his tone of voice and the full context, it's clear he means it as an insult.)

And the media, particularly cable news, took their complaints seriously. They quoted them, and they adopted the right's inaccurate shorthand version of Sotomayor's comments in order to explain why the conservatives were upset. News reports that explained that conservatives are distorting Sotomayor's comments were few and far between; reports that noted that conservatives have said similar things in the past were even rarer.

Just a few years ago, the mere suggestion that Samuel Alito should explain his membership in an organization that sought to limit the number of women and minorities at Princeton was met with outrage by the media. How dare the Democrats! They've gone too far! But now, with conservatives explicitly calling Sotomayor a "racist" based on manufactured evidence, the media can't even be bothered to point out that they are distorting her comments. Instead, the conservative complaints get taken seriously, as though they are a reasonable and fair interpretation of what Sotomayor said.

So it seems that lying about a Latina in order to call her a racist is just fine, as far as much of the media is concerned. Just don't you dare question why a white male belonged to an organization that sought to keep women and minorities out of his college. That's over the line.

Over the top May 29: Conservatives are escalating attacks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and conservative radio hosts are taking it a bit further, criticizing her race and gender. Rachel Maddow talks about their comments with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Swing and a miss May 29: The current Supreme Court is likely to rule on one of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's cases involving racial discrimination in the New Haven fire department. Rachel Maddow talks about the New Haven firefighter case with Stanford University law professor Richard Thompson Ford.

This is an excellent, political discussion. O'Donnell is always very sharp - and increasingly fearless . . .
GOP steps up attacks on Sotomayor May 29: MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell talks about the right wing's continuing attacks on Judge Sonia Sotomayor, including comments made about her being raised in public housing.

Really very good chapter and verse on the truth about what is known about effective traditional interrogations leading to essential intelligence, and what is known about results from torture . . .
Bush continues to defend torture May 29: Four months after leaving office, former President George W. Bush has joined his former vice president's campaign to defend their torture of people held in U.S. custody. Countdown's Keith Olbermann explains.

Waterboarding hoax? May 29: WSL radio host Erich "Mancow" Muller responds to conspiracies brewing on the Web that he was not actually waterboarded.

What hilzoy said . . .

hilzoy's QOTD:

Seriously: Obama is a serious student of the civil rights movement, which in turn drew a lot of inspiration from Gandhi. Both Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement made brilliant use of the following method: you do something right, which you suspect might lead your opponents to do something wrong. If you are right about them, they discredit themselves, without your having to lift a finger. If you're wrong, you are pleasantly surprised. But you do not have to do anything wrong or underhanded yourself, nor do you in any way have to hope that your opponents are bad people.

That's what he's doing now.

hilzoy: Sotomayor: Actual Facts!

As more or less everyone has already noted, a lot of people have been claiming that Sonia Sotomayor is a racist, would decide cases based on racial solidarity rather than on the law, and so forth. One natural way to check this would be to examine her actual record. She has, after all, been a judge for quite a while, so it should not be all that hard to see how she actually makes decisions.

Over at SCOTUSBlog, Tom Goldstein decided to do just that. He has been reading through all of Sotomayor's opinions in cases involving race. He promises to write more about them tomorrow, but here is what his analysis shows:

"Other than Ricci, Judge Sotomayor has decided 96 race-related cases while on the court of appeals.

Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent's point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case. So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1.

Of the roughly 75 panel opinions rejecting claims of discrimination, Judge Sotomayor dissented 2 times. In Neilson v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 199 F.3d 642 (1999), she dissented from the affirmance of the district court's order appointing a guardian for the plaintiff, an issue unrelated to race. In Gant v. Wallingford Bd. of Educ., 195 F.3d 134 (1999), she would have allowed a black kindergartner to proceed with the claim that he was discriminated against in a school transfer. A third dissent did not relate to race discrimination: In Pappas v. Giuliani, 290 F.3d 143 (2002), she dissented from the majority's holding that the NYPD could fire a white employee for distributing racist materials.

As noted in the post below, Judge Sotomayor was twice on panels reversing district court decisions agreeing with race-related claims - i.e., reversing a finding of impermissible race-based decisions. Both were criminal cases involving jury selection. (...)

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She particulated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking."

I honestly don't know why so many people focus so much attention on their somewhat overwrought interpretations of one line in a speech and so little attention on ascertaining what kind of judge Sonia Sotomayor has been. Her decisions are not classified documents. They are public, and anyone can read them. Moreover, they plainly provide the best evidence of the kind of judge she will be.

I cannot imagine why more journalists have not done the kind of analysis that Tom Goldstein has -- the ratio of reporting on what someone thinks s/he can discern in one line of Sotomayor's speech to reporting on actual cases is just about the reverse of what it ought to be. That makes me all the more grateful to SCOTUSBlog for giving us the kind of analysis we need, but get far too rarely.

One other interesting point: Sotomayor's panel has been criticized for not explaining their reasoning in the Ricci case. Whether this is plausibly construed as an attempt to duck the issues depends in part on how common it is for a panel on the Second Circuit to affirm a district court opinion without explaining why. Goldstein therefore checked this point as he was going through the race-related cases:

"In the roughly 55 cases in which the panel affirmed district court decisions rejecting a claim of employment discrimination or retaliation, the panel published its opinion or order only 5 times."

Good to know.

  • And the NYTimes bites on the RW meme of the day. Sigh.
    Choosing the Next Justice

    Sotomayor’s Focus on Race Issues May Be Hurdle

    Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination has opened a new affirmative action battle, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause.

hilzoy: They Can't Help Themselves

Even by Republican standards, the Sotomayor meltdown is pretty impressive. Tom Tancredo calls La Raza, which is a pretty ordinary advocacy group, "a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses." Newt Gingrich writes that we cannot accept Sotomayor's rather anodyne remarks about experience being helpful in judging "if Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything", which would surely be news to all the African-Americans who are not presently enslaved.

Rush Limbaugh compares Sotomayor to David Duke. Michael Goldfarb and John Derbyshire's readers are going on about the vast privileges enjoyed by Puerto Ricans who grow up poor in the projects. The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes thinks her summa doesn't mean much, since "there's some schools and maybe Princeton's not one of them, where if you don't get Summa Cum Laude then or some kind of Cum Laude, you then, you're a D+ student." (For the record, when I was there, Princeton gave summas to around 5% of its students.)

But really, nothing quite compares to G. Gordon Liddy saying not just that she is a member of La Raza, "which means in illegal alien, "the race"", but this:

"Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when she's menstruating or something, or just before she's going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then."

Think of the possibilities. She could get into one of her quaint native costumes, go berserk, and start writing on the walls in menstrual blood with a tampon, like so:
Liddy's Nightmare

(Yes, of course I know that Quetzalcoatl is an Aztec God, and Aztlan is the mythical home of the Aztecs, and Aztecs are Mexican, and Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican. But I'm channeling G. Gordon Liddy's nightmares here, and do you think he knows the difference?)

Seriously: Obama is a serious student of the civil rights movement, which in turn drew a lot of inspiration from Gandhi. Both Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement made brilliant use of the following method: you do something right, which you suspect might lead your opponents to do something wrong. If you are right about them, they discredit themselves, without your having to lift a finger. If you're wrong, you are pleasantly surprised. But you do not have to do anything wrong or underhanded yourself, nor do you in any way have to hope that your opponents are bad people.

That's what he's doing now. He has chosen a judge who is by any standard exceptionally qualified, and who has, in addition, a fairly conservative judicial temperament. She sticks close to the law; she follows precedent; having read several of her opinions, if I have any criticism of her, it's that not seen much evidence of an overarching judicial philosophy other than restraint. (To be clear: if a judge has to lack something, I'd rather it be an overarching philosophy than devotion to the law as written. But I'd rather have both.)

But she is also a Puerto Rican woman. If the Republican Party were led by sane and decent people, this would not matter. But they aren't. As a result, they seem to be unable to see anything about her besides her ethnicity and her gender. The idea that she must be a practitioner of identity politics, a person whose every success is due to preferential treatment, etc., is apparently one they absolutely cannot resist.

All Obama had to do was nominate an excellent justice, and all that is made plain.

And I hate it. I want to have a reasonable opposition party. I also don't want people of color, and especially kids, to have to listen to all this bigotry. We should be better than this.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wingnut Implosion:Bring the Popcorn Edition

I have to say, watching the disgusting, ugly, racist, rude & angry angry angry reality of the repuglican party utterly exposed, finally, is kinda fun. Actually, it's one of the most entertaining things I have seen in my 55 years. And then there is this . . .

Marshall: The Horror

Catching fire on the right-wing websites, here's the Young Cons rapping the "Young Con Anthem." Basically two nerdy right-winger twenty-somethings preachin' it to liberal power-structure, yo ...

Seriously, you have to see it.

But no sharks!

Yglesias, discussing the woes of right-wing think tanks, alerts us to quality Heritage research: “Pentagon Should Battle Pirates and Terrorists with Laser Technology”.

But the research is sorely lacking — not a mention of putting the lasers on sharks.

You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with [bleep] laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?

Think Progress
Tancredo: ‘I don’t know’ if the Obama administration ‘hates white people.’

Recently, Rush Limbaugh declared that the way to get promoted in the Obama administration is “by hating white people.” On MSNBC this afternoon, when David Shuster asked right-wing extremist Tom Tancredo whether he agreed, Tancredo refused to object to Limbaugh’s characterization:

SHUSTER: Mr. Tancredo, do you agree that the Obama administration hates white people?

TANCREDO: Oh [sighs], I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this –

SHUSTER: You don’t know? In other words, they might?

TANCREDO: What do I — I have no idea whether they hate white people or not!

Shuster also asked Tancredo whether he wanted to apologize for calling the the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization a “Latino KKK.” Tancredo laughed at the idea of an apology. Watch it:

Marshall: Draining the Fever Swamp Jefferson Morley explains how Judge Sotomayor helped puncture the Vince Foster conspiracy theory bubble.

Kurtz: So Many What Ifs ... The American Spectator: What If Sotomayor Were White?

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan today referred to some of Sonia Sotomayor's far-right critics as "idiots." She went on to offer her party some reasonable advice.

"Let's play grown-up." When I was a child, that's what we said when we ran out of things to do like playing potsie or throwing rocks in the vacant lot. You'd go in and take your father's hat and your mother's purse and walk around saying, "Would you like tea?" In retrospect we weren't imitating our parents but parents on TV, who wore pearls and suits. But the point is we amused ourselves trying to be little adults.

And that's what the GOP should do right now: play grown-up.

I'm trying to decide which part of this is more interesting: Noonan's assumption that Republican Party would have to pretend to be grown-up, or that Noonan thinks there's still time for the GOP to, as John Cole put it, "dial back the crazy" on the Sotomayor nomination.

Marshall: Putting Out Fire with Gasoline
We explained earlier how the Sotomayor battle has blown up the until-now simmering fight between GOP pragmatists (want to get reelected) and fire breathers (want to fundraise and burn heretics at the stake) by injecting the explosive issues of race, nativism and gender into the equation. Now Newt Gingrich has responded to Sen. Cornyn's call to basically shut the hell up by turning the volume way up on the Sotomayor as anti-American racist freak by invoking the Civil War, civil rights and arguing that American civilization itself may be at stake if her brand of 'racism' isn't defeated.
  • Kleefeld (TPM): Gingrich Digs In On Sotomayor-Bashing
    Newt Gingrich does not seem to be deterred by the new message of the Republican leadership, such as Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), that he and Rush Limbaugh should stop calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist.

    Gingrich has now sent out a fundraising e-mail, asking for help to send blast faxes to every member of the Senate demanding that the Sotomayor nomination be defeated. He even says that she shouldn't even get a vote in the Senate, but should just have to withdraw.

    Gingrich warns that all of American civilization is at stake here. "If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept that conclusion," he writes. "It is simply un-American. There is no room on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for this worldview."

  • Sudbay: Rush fires back at GOP Senator Cornyn and compares Sotomayor to David Duke
    This morning, I wrote about Senator Cornyn's criticism of Rush and Newt. It wasn't a very strong condemnation, but Cornyn ventured into that dangerous territory for Republicans -- criticizing Rush:
    How long before Cornyn has to apologize? The new commandment for Republicans is that no one shall ever criticize Rush. And, it's perfect that he complained about Rush and Newt on NPR, a station which most conservatives loathe.

    Try as he might, the Texas Senator doesn't deliver the GOP message. Rush and Newt do. And, there's nothing Cornyn can do about it.
    No surprise, Rush didn't take it well. He clearly has Cornyn in his sights. Courtesy of Media Matters:

    Rush is just playing with Cornyn now. It's going to get uglier. Keep in mind, Cornyn runs the campaign committee for the Senate Republicans. He needs to have a happy base of contributors -- and for most of them, Rush is their one true leader. We all know Cornyn is going to have really get on his knees and beg for Rush's forgiveness. No Republican can ever defy Rush. No Republican ever really will.

    Meanwhile, Rush upped the ante of ugliness today, too. He compared Sotomayor to notorious white supremacist and former GOP candidate, David Duke. Seriously.

    UPDATE: Noting that Rush compared Sotomayor to David Duke, Eric Kleefeld at TPM asks the right question:
    So why isn't he supporting her?
Stuart Taylor, one of Sonia Sotomayor's more enthusiastic detractors, offers this anecdote from the judge's time at Princeton.

In October 1974, Princeton allowed Sotomayor and two other students to initiate a seminar, for full credit and with the university's blessings, on the Puerto Rican experience and its relation to contemporary America.

Now, I look at that as pretty impressive. Willow Rosenberg notwithstanding, students are rarely offered opportunities to teach before they graduate. That Princeton extended Sotomayor a chance to lead a for-credit seminar, in addition to her summa cum laude degree and the prestigious Pyne Prize, suggests she must have been quite remarkable young woman.

The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb doesn't see it that way. His headline reads, "More Preferential Treatment?"

I went to Princeton but somehow I never got to teach my own class, or grade my own work. One wonders how Sotomayor judged her work in that class, and whether the grade helped or hindered her efforts to graduate with honors.

Hmm. When a prestigious university offers a Latina student an opportunity to teach, and fails to offer a white male student the same opportunity, it could be the result of "preferential treatment" relating to the Latina student's ethnicity. Then again, it could have something to do with -- and I'm just throwing this out there as a possibility -- the fact that the Latina student was simply smarter and more impressive than the white guy. Really, it happens.

Where Goldfarb sees evidence of "preferential treatment," I see evidence of excellence. Chalk it up to competing worldviews, I guess.

Post Script: Also, note Goldfarb's suggestion that Sotomayor's seminar may have "helped" her graduate summa cum laude. The argument seems to be that she may have graduated with honors, but that was made possible by her "preferential treatment," such as the chance to "grade [her] own work."

In other words, we're to believe Sotomayor's summa cum laude honor is less than what it appears to be. How sad.

Update: Making matters worse, it looks like Goldfarb's criticism isn't even based on fact -- Sotomayor didn't teach her own class.

  • John Cole: Get This Man a Column

    I’ll note with glee that Bill Kristol’s jockstrap, Michael Goldfarb, appears to be just as fast and loose with the facts as his boss:

    So Goldfarb’s snide comments about Sotomayor teaching her own class and grading her own work seem to be completely baseless: she didn’t teach the class.

    It is, however, increasingly clear why Goldfarb’s Princeton career didn’t go the way Sonia Sotomayor’s did, and it has less to do with Sotomayor receiving “preferential treatment” than with Goldfarb’s limited reading comprehension abilities.

    With Goldgarb’s history of accuracy, I simply have no idea why Fred Hiatt is not paying him for an occasional column.

JedL (DK): Sean Hannity, judicial activist

Conservatives like Sean Hannity love to rail against judicial "activism" — unless it means they won’t get their way.


HANNITY: Why doesn’t he get the promotion?

JULIE MENIN: Because you have to apply the precedent that’s in front of you, and the second circuit...

HANNITY: No, they don’t have to. A judge does not have to.

MENIN: But then you’re an activist, if she overturned that...

HANNITY: You don't believe in equal justice under the law, and I do.

MENIN: Oh, that's true at all.

So...Hannity believes in equal justice under the law? Well then, he must support marriage equality, right? Who knew Hannity was so progressive? (Or maybe he's just a lying sack.)

And here I thought Tom Tancredo, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh would be the most offensive conservative critics of Sonia Sotomayor. How could I forget this clown?

Yesterday on his radio show, conservative host G. Gordon Liddy continued the right wing's all-out assault on Judge Sonia Sotomayor. [...]

"I understand that they found out today that Miss Sotomayor is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien, 'the race.' And that should not surprise anyone because she's already on record with a number of racist comments." [...]

"Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when she's menstruating or something, or just before she's going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then."

So, according to this prominent conservative media personality, the Spanish language is synonymous with "illegal alien," and women are, by nature, poorly suited to serving as justices.

I'm not sure what I expected, exactly, from the right during this confirmation process. It was easy to imagine them attacking Sotomayor, but I more or less assumed they'd be subtle. The racist and misogynistic attitudes would be there, I assumed, but they would be vague, indirect, and phrased in a way to make deniability plausible.

But here we are, just a few days after Sotomayor's introduction, and some corners of the right just can't seem to help themselves. They know it's hateful, they know it's offensive, they even know it's likely to do long-term damage to their party.

And yet, they do it anyway. It's like a sickness.

John Cole: Direct Fail

Richard Viguerie:

“The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor unites all wings of the conservative movement—economic, foreign policy, social, traditional, neocon, and libertarian—in a way we haven’t seen since the early Clinton years.

“Judge Sotomayor frightens all conservatives. As the debate over her nomination heats up, conservatives will provide the primary opposition to Sotomayor and will quickly launch a massive educational campaign using direct mail, the Internet, talk radio, cable TV, You Tube, and other forms of new and alternative media.

That was two days ago. Pretty impressive collapse since.

John Cole: Unpure of Heart and Weak in the Knees

Time to fire up operation leper and throw John Cornyn out of the party:

A top Senate Republican is taking aim at recent statements from conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich suggesting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is a “racist.”

“I think it’s terrible,” Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NPR’s “All Things Considered” Thursday. “This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent.”

I love the write-up there, CNN. They haven’t been suggesting it, they have been SCREAMING it for days now.

At any rate, what will happen to John Cornyn, now that he has crossed Dear Leader, El Rushbo? He was already on the hot seat because of his support for Crist over Rubio in the primary. Will Rush stick the shiv in today, or will he spare his life? Will Cornyn be forced to crawl back and kiss the ring?

Also, I’m taking this opportunity to once again link that ridiculous Cornyn campaign video from last year:

We’ll see who is big and bad shortly.

I am loving this!

QuestionOTD: How long will it take Rush Limbaugh to lash out at the General? What about Newt and Rove?

C&L: Gen. Petraeus: US violated Geneva Convention, the court of law could try terrorists: we made mistakes after 9/11: Close Gitmo

Gen. Petraeus joined FOX News and Martha MacCallum today and gave a blockbuster interview, but probably not the one Fox expected. Once again, he called for the responsible closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also said that mistakes were made after 9/11 and that the Army Field Manual is all that we need to use to interrogate prisoners. In addition, he said that we have to have faith in our judicial system and we should try the Khalid Sheikh Muhammads in a court of law.

Martha tried to give him the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture and he really didn't bite. He did say maybe an Executive Order could be appropriate, but that it really wasn't necessary. Petraeus repudiated pretty much most of what Limbaugh Republicans and the Rove/Newt/Cheney Party have been saying.
(rush transcript)

MacCallum: Where do you think those people should go?

Gen. Petraeus: Well, it's not for a soldier to say. What I do support is what has been termed the responsible closure of Gitmo. Gitmo has caused us problems, there's no question about it. I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has been used by the enemy against us. We have not been without missteps or mistakes in our activity since 9/11 and again Gitmo is a lingering reminder for the use of some in that regard.

MacCallum: What about the concern that a Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or anybody of that ilk might be tried here in a US court and the possibility that some of the treatments that were used on them that they could go free.

Gen. Petraeus: Well, first of all, I don't think we should be afraid of our values we're fighting for, what we stand for. And so indeed we need to embrace them and we need to operationalize them in how we carry out what it is we're doing on the battlefield and everywhere else. So one has to have some faith, I think, in the legal system. One has to have a degree of confidence that individuals that have conducted such extremist activity would indeed be found guilty in our courts of law.

MacCallum: So you're confident that they will never go free.

Gen. Petraeus: I hope that's the case.

MacCallum: (Ticking time bomb scenario)

Gen. Petraeus: ....T here might be an exception and that would require extraordinary but very rapid approval to deal with, but for the vast majority of the cases, our experience downrange if you will, is that the techniques that are in the Army Field Manual that lays out how we treat detainees, how we interrogate them -- those techniques work, that's our experience in this business.

MacCallum: So is sending this signal that we're not going to use these kind of techniques anymore, what kind of impact does this have on people who do us harm in the field that you operate in?

Gen. Petraeus: Well, actually what I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool which again have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion? When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions, we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it's important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.

Wow, there was a lot in that interview. I couldn't transcribe it all. He admits that we violated the Geneva Convention. Is he saying that the Bush/Cheney administration failed our "value system" in their leadership in the two wars and how America responded to the 9/11 attacks?

He obviously is against torture. He is also saying to let the chips fall where they may in prosecuting these detainees and use our legal system to try terror suspects. Martha didn't go into the military commissions, but if they come here, just let them stand trial. All the conservatives and Republicans anointed Gen. Petraeus as the true leader of the wars when George Bush decided he didn't want to take the heat on the war any longer.

Remember when to question him was sacrilegious? Will they now disavow what he is telling them today?

After the interview, the other Fox host predictably tried to intimate that Petraeus was working for Obama now so, ya know, he's in the tank for him. Whatever happened to listening to the generals on the ground being critical to our "victory" in Iraq? He said that our values as a country do change in a time of war -- a scary notion -- so Bush is just all right. Don't they ever give up with their Bush-hero worshiping?

How long will it take Rush Limbaugh to lash out at the General? What about Newt and Rove?

John Cole: Israel and the Settlements

A pretty fascinating piece in Foreign Policy by Laura Rozen about the current administration’s message to Netanyahu and the rationale behind it:

Last night, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told journalists that the Obama administration “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a confidante. Referring to Clinton’s call for a settlement freeze, Netanyahu groused, “What the hell do they want from me?” according to his associate, who added, “I gathered that he heard some bad vibes in his meetings with [U.S.] congressional delegations this week.”

In the 10 days since Netanyahu and President Barack Obama held a meeting at the White House, the Obama administration has made clear in public and private meetings with Israeli officials that it intends to hold a firm line on Obama’s call to stop Israeli settlements. According to many observers in Washington and Israel, the Israeli prime minister, looking for loopholes and hidden agreements that have often existed in the past with Washington, has been flummoxed by an unusually united line that has come not just from Obama White House and the secretary of state, but also from pro-Israel congressmen and women who have come through Israel for meetings with him over Memorial Day recess. To Netanyahu’s dismay, Obama doesn’t appear to have a hidden policy. It is what he said it was.


“We’ve been watching the move in Congress, especially among certain high profile Jewish American members—people like Representative Gary Ackerman, Representative Robert Wexler, and Representative Howard Berman,” Ibish said. “What has occurred—and this has been greatly intensified by the election of Obama: There has been a growing sense of members of Congress who are well-informed on foreign policy … that peace is essential to the American national interest and the Israeli national interest. And there’s been a growing sense that the possibility of a two-state agreement is time-limited and that things like the settlements are incompatible with the goal of creating two states.”

You need to read the entire thing, but what is striking to me is that there seems to be a unified policy coming from the United States in regards to Israel. The Washington Post has more:

The road-map plan commits Israel to dismantling settler outposts and freezing “all settlement activity,” including building to accommodate what is known as “natural growth.” But the near-daily barrage of U.S. demands that Israel halt settlement growth has surprised Israeli officials, who argue that they greatly restrained growth under an unwritten 2005 agreement with the Bush administration. Under that deal, Israel was to stop providing incentives for settlers to move to the West Bank and was to build only in areas it expected to keep in future peace agreements.

But the continued growth even in those settlements—and an unwillingness by various Israeli governments to dismantle outposts—has left the Arab world doubtful that Israel would agree to a peace deal. The Obama administration appears to have calculated that pressing Israel on settlements will help demonstrate to the Arab nations that the United States is serious about pursuing peace, even at the risk of appearing to undermine Netanyahu’s nascent government.

If any of you have links to more about this, I would love to see them.

Froomkin: Is Obama Getting Tough With Israel?

President Obama heads to the Middle East next week, where on Thursday he'll make a much-anticipated address in Cairo aimed at repairing American's ties with the Muslim world.

He has a big advantage simply not being George W. Bush, of course -- and having abolished the most egregious, Crusade-like aspects of this country's approach to counter-terrorism.

But what can he tell the world's Muslims to assuage their anger about their most long-standing grievance: America's reflexive support of Israel?

As I've written before, there are signs Obama will promote a new regional peace initiative for the Middle East, much like the one championed by Jordan's King Abdullah.

And now along comes the first distinct signs that Obama is willing to play hardball with Israel.

Paul Richter, Christi Parsons and Richard Boudreaux write in the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama and top Israeli officials staked out sharply opposing positions over the explosive issue of Jewish settlements Thursday, propelling a rare dispute between the two close allies into full public view just days before the U.S. leader is due to deliver a long-awaited address in Egypt to the world's Muslims.

"Speaking after a White House meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama reiterated that he had been 'very clear about the need to stop building settlements, to stop building outposts' on Palestinian territory.

"Only hours earlier, the Israeli government said it would continue to allow some growth in the settler communities in the West Bank.

"The exchange underscored the unusually hard-line position Obama has taken publicly with Israel early in his administration. Most U.S. presidents, aware of the political sensitivity, have worked hard to keep disagreements out of sight, when they existed."

The issue of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories is incendiary for Palestinians, and nearly defining for the right-wing Israeli political bloc that newly re-installed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu depends on in order to retain power.

Farah Stockman writes for the Boston Globe: "As he prepares to fly to the Middle East next week to give a speech on his policy toward the region and US-Muslim relations, it seemed clear yesterday that his administration is willing to risk prickly relations with one of the closest US allies - and possible anger from some Jewish voters - to try to create a Palestinian state."

David S. Cloud writes for Politico: "Obama's willingness to place much of the initial onus on Israel for resuming peace talks is clearly greater than his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who rarely allowed any hint of public difference between himself and Israel. The strategy also carries some domestic political risk for Obama. That was clear Thursday when 329 House members and 76 senators sent him a letter advising against putting too much public pressure on Israel."

Glenn Kessler writes in The Washington Post that the 2003 "road map" for peace, "commits Israel to dismantling settler outposts and freezing 'all settlement activity,' including building to accommodate what is known as 'natural growth.' But the near-daily barrage of U.S. demands that Israel halt settlement growth has surprised Israeli officials, who argue that they greatly restrained growth under an unwritten 2005 agreement with the Bush administration. Under that deal, Israel was to stop providing incentives for settlers to move to the West Bank and was to build only in areas it expected to keep in future peace agreements....

"The Obama administration appears to have calculated that pressing Israel on settlements will help demonstrate to the Arab nations that the United States is serious about pursuing peace, even at the risk of appearing to undermine Netanyahu's nascent government."

Steven Thomma writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "President Barack Obama Thursday ratcheted up what might be America's toughest bargaining position with Israel in a generation."

Thomma also writes: "It's noteworthy that Obama this week announced that he'd go to Saudi Arabia early next week for a private dinner with King Abdullah, en route to Cairo.

"'If what Obama is trying to do is get states like the Saudis to actually do things now, not only will he have achieved something pretty significant, he'll make it almost impossible for the Israelis to say no,' Miller said. 'No Israeli prime minister can afford to mismanage Israel's most important relationship, especially at a time when the Iranians are closer to nuclear power.'"

It's also possible that Obama is willing -- heck, even eager -- to see Netanyahu's government collapse. The prime minister has been a longtime skeptic of proposals to create a Palestinian state and refused to commit to the concept during his U.S. visit.

Laura Rozen blogs for Foreign Policy: "According to many observers in Washington and Israel, the Israeli prime minister, looking for loopholes and hidden agreements that have often existed in the past with Washington, has been flummoxed by an unusually united line that has come not just from Obama White House and the secretary of state, but also from pro-Israel congressmen and women who have come through Israel for meetings with him over Memorial Day recess. To Netanyahu's dismay, Obama doesn't appear to have a hidden policy. It is what he said it was....

"Even one veteran Washington peacemaker who had grown skeptical that Washington can overcome obstacles to get substantive progress on Middle East peace admitted to being impressed by the Obama team's resolve. 'What I'm beginning to see is that the Obama administration may be less concerned with actually getting to negotiations and an agreement and more interested in setting new rules and rearranging the furniture,' said Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Institute. 'They may have concluded that they can't get to a real two state solution with this prime minister. Maybe they want a new one? And the best way to raise the odds of that is to demonstrate that he can't manage Israel's most important relationship: with the U.S.'"

Jackson Diehl writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "From its first days the Bush administration made it clear that the onus for change in the Middle East was on the Palestinians: Until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major concessions from Israel.

"Obama, in contrast, has repeatedly and publicly stressed the need for a West Bank settlement freeze, with no exceptions. In so doing he has shifted the focus to Israel."

This is not a good thing, Diehl writes, because in so doing, Obama "has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud."

But in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth translated by M.J. Rosenberg, Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a former United States ambassador to Israel, suggests that Obama is on a larger mission.

"Netanyahu should listen to Obama because Obama is telling him, in essence, that resolving the conflict is an American interest," Indyk said. "What is happening at present is that the Israeli-Arab conflict serves as an instrument in the hands of America's enemies — Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. Time is not working in Israel's favor or in favor of peace."

Indyk says Obama's new message to Israels is this: "[A]ll these years, the US has been strengthening you precisely for this purpose — so that you can take the risk of making peace. How exactly can the Palestinians destroy you? The real existential danger is that you will not succeed in parting from them."

Lunchtime Video & Reading

Kurtz (TPM): Yup, This Captures The Madness
TPM Reader DW condenses the conservative logic: "If the Republicans make legitimate arguments against Sotomayor, they'll be accused of doing it because of her race; thus, they're left with only racial arguments."
Sully: The Cookie Option

It would not appeal to paranoid fantasists and incompetents like Cheney, but it did the trick in interrogating one key terrorist. From a forthcoming Time piece by Bobby Ghosh:

“The most successful interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative by U.S. officials required no sleep deprivation, no slapping or ‘walling’ and no waterboarding. All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.”

They're human, remember?

I find the title to this series of segments way over the top but, given the current political climate, I understand the sentiment. If you don't watch this, your life will be forever diminished.

A partisan war on car dealerships? WTF?!?! May 28: Countdown's Keith Olbermann questions the right wing's latest conspiracy theory that Democrats are out to destroy Republican car dealerships.

The Politico had an odd item late yesterday, arguing that with so many unhinged conservatives accusing Sonia Sotomayor of "racism," it's incumbent on the White House to address the issue.

"Some Democrats and political analysts are urging the White House to shift course and concede that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made an error when she suggested in 2001 that Hispanic women would make better judges than white men," Josh Gerstein reported, before quoting Lanny Davis and Chris Lehane.

But she didn't "suggest" Hispanic women would make better judges than white men. An honest reading of the 2001 speech in question makes this clear (even to conservatives who are disinclined to support her nomination). She explained, quite clearly, that one's background and experiences can help shape a judge's perspective, but added that he or she must remain cognizant of that to prevent biases from dictating outcomes. Indeed, her detractors have it backwards -- Sotomayor said in the same speech she's committed to "complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives."

In reality, it's not the White House that needs to respond to bogus Republican accusations of "racism," it's GOP leaders who need to weigh in. Yesterday, that's exactly what happened.

A top Senate Republican is taking aim at recent statements from conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich suggesting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is a "racist."

"I think it's terrible," Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NPR's "All Things Considered" Thursday. "This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent." [...]

"Neither one of these men [Gingrich and Limbaugh] are elected Republican officials. I just don't think it's appropriate. I certainly don't endorse it. I think it's wrong," he said.

Good call. Cornyn no doubt realizes the damage -- short and long term -- that Republican leaders like Gingrich and Limbaugh are doing to their party, and it makes sense to have a top GOP official like Cornyn disavowing their offensive attacks.

It's what makes the Politico article all the more mistaken. When prominent Republican voices launch ridiculous attacks, it's not up to the White House to lend the criticism credibility; it's up to the GOP to disassociate itself with the nonsense.

And better yet, it's up to political reporters at major outlets to explain to the public why the attacks are false. I can't help but notice that isn't happening much.

Sargent: Levin: CIA Torture Documents Cheney Wants Don’t Prove Squat

There’s some important news about Dick Cheney and torture in a speech that Senator Carl Levin gave before the Foreign Policy Administration this week.

Specifically: Levin confirmed that he’d seen the classified CIA documents that Cheney has been asking the CIA to declassify and release — and said that they don’t prove Cheney’s claim that torture worked by any stretch.

Levin’s comments are highly newsworthy because they give us the most detailed picture yet of what’s in the documents Cheney wants. You can watch Levin’s speech right here at TPM. This is what Levin said about the documents:

Mr. Cheney has also claimed that the release of classified documents would prove his view that the techniques worked. But those classified documents say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of the abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified so that people can judge for themselves what is fact and what is fiction.

If this is true, it’s big. A Senator who has seen the documents Cheney claims will prove that torture saved lives says that those docs contain absolutely nothing about whether the torture techniques were actually responsible for yielding any valuable intelligence.

Networks such as MSNBC have given literally hours of airtime to Cheney and his daughter Liz to claim endlessly that these docs will prove Cheney’s torture assertions. These claims have gone almost entirely unchallenged, due to the classified nature of the documents. You’d think that a contrary claim from a well-respected Senator who has also seen the docs would merit a few passing mentions, too.

Kleefeld (TPM): Levin Calls Cheney A Liar On Torture

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) spoke last night at a dinner of the Foreign Policy Association, where he lambasted former Vice President Dick Cheney's speech last week for dishonestly claiming that the interrogation techniques he approved were not torture, and were not connected to Abu Ghraib -- saying that Cheney "bore false witness":

"I do so as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which recently completed an 18-month investigation into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and produced a 200-page bipartisan report, which gives the lie to Mr. Cheney's claims," said Levin. "I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back."

Levin also went after Cheney for claiming that "enhanced interrogation" saved American lives, and that it was no different from what is done to our own people in SERE training:

Regarding Cheney's claim that classified documents will prove his case -- documents that Levin himself is also privy to -- Levin said: "But those classified documents say nothing about the numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction."


It appears that our European allies have noticed the rhetoric -- and recent bipartisan votes -- from Congress on Gitmo.

The Obama administration's push to resettle at least 50 Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Europe is meeting fresh resistance as European officials demand that the United States first give asylum to some inmates before they will do the same.

Rising opposition in the U.S. Congress to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil has not gone over well in Europe. Officials from countries that previously indicated they were willing to accept inmates now say it may be politically impossible for them to do so if the United States does not reciprocate.

"If the U.S. refuses to take these people, why should we?" said Thomas Silberhorn, a member of the German Parliament from Bavaria, where the White House wants to relocate nine Chinese Uighur prisoners. "If all 50 states in America say, 'Sorry, we can't take them,' this is not very convincing."

Imagine that. These European governments were largely inclined to help out when they assumed a wide variety of nations would share the detention burden. But now that these foreign officials have heard U.S. lawmakers -- from both parties -- suddenly come to believe that Guantanamo detainees are far too dangerous for U.S. soil, their willingness to cooperate is waning.

American politicians are assuming that their constituents will never tolerate a process that allows dangerous detainees in their states/districts. European politicians are, not surprisingly, wondering how they'll respond to their own constituents about the same dynamic, especially if U.S. lawmakers are unwilling to accept any detainees at all.

This is especially true of Uighurs who were bound for Germany, which has the continent's largest expatriate community of Uighurs, and where the group would likely find temporary homes and job opportunities. German diplomats expressed a willingness to accept nine Uighurs, a position that grew stronger after a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder. The director of social services for the city of Munich said, "If the Uighurs should come to Munich, we would take care of them."

Then German officials heard rhetoric from members of Congress, which has put the arrangement in jeopardy.

Congressional cowardice has not gone unnoticed on the international stage. It's a real problem.


Within an hour of Sonia Sotomayor's introduction as a Supreme Court nominee, the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes was on Fox News, parroting the line that the judge is "not the smartest."

While that was in line with the garden-variety smear that's predictable from Barnes, yesterday, on Bill Bennett's radio show, he went further.

BARNES: I think you can make the case that she's one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.

BENNETT: Yeah, well, maybe so. Did she get into Princeton on affirmative action, one wonders.

BARNES: One wonders.

BENNETT: Summa Cum Laude, I don't think you get on affirmative action. I don't know what her major was, but Summa Cum Laude's a pretty big deal.

BARNES: I guess it is, but you know, there's some schools and maybe Princeton's not one of them, where if you don't get Summa Cum Laude then or some kind of Cum Laude, you then, you're a D+ student.

Barnes' comments were probably just par for the course this week, but here's the follow-up question: how do you know Sotomayor has "benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously"? The entire smear is predicated on ugly assumptions: a young Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx, raised in a single-parent household, couldn't have found success without affirmative action. He doesn't try to defend it; he just knows it.

It's this insidious bigotry, perhaps not as blatant as that of Tancredo, that lingers too often on the right. Sotomayor couldn't have earned her accomplishments, Barnes (and Limbaugh, and Buchanan) assumes. Even if it were true that her ethnicity helped Sotomayor reach an elite Ivy League institution, she obviously thrived in a competitive environment, based on nothing but her own skills and hard work. But when told the judge graduated Summa Cum Laude from Princeton, Barnes still can't get past his original supposition.

Adam Serwer asked the question the other day I'd love to hear Barnes answer: "[H]ow many Ivy League degrees does a person of color have to have before they're as good as a white person, and no longer reducible to an 'affirmative action hire'?"

Friday Wingnuts - Just Can't Help Themselves Edition

Kleefeld (TPM): Schwarzenegger: Limbaugh Not The 800 lb. Gorilla -- He's Down To 650 lbs.

There's at least one high-ranking Republican office-holder willing to insult Rush Limbaugh. Check out what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said last night on CNN:

"Well I think that they say that Rush Limbaugh is the 800 lb. gorilla in the Republican Party," said Schwarzenegger. "But I think that's mean-spirited to say that -- because I think he's down to 650 lbs. I think one should be fair to him about this whole thing."

In all seriousness, Arnold talked about the need for a big tent. He acknowledged that the right wing does have an important place. "But we also need to create a center of the Republican Party," he said, "and I think that the bigger our tent is, the better it is."

Krugman: A note on identity politics

The attacks on Sonia Sotomayor are getting crazier by the minute. The pronunciation of her name is unnatural. Her fondness for Puerto Rican cuisine — sorry, her “claimed” fondness (you never know) — may cloud her impartiality. She doesn’t have enough money in her retirement account.

But is this any crazier, when you come down to it, than the Cult of Bush that ruled much of Washington for years? It was positive, not negative (though there was plenty of that too), but it was similarly about identity politics — you were supposed to support Bush, not because of how he did his job, but because he was, drumroll, a regular guy. Remember Peggy Noonan

I was asked this week why the president seems so attractive to the heartland, to what used to be called Middle America. A big question. I found my mind going to this word: normal.

Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He’s normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He’s not exotic. But if there’s a fire on the block, he’ll run out and help. He’ll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, “Where’s Sally?” He’s responsible. He’s not an intellectual.

Of course, a year and a half later there really was a fire on the block — actually a flood in New Orleans, but basically the same thing — and what he actually said was, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” But I digress.

The thing that is really driving conservatives crazy, I think, is that their identity politics just isn’t working like it used to. Their whole approach has been based on the belief that Americans vote as if they live in Mayberry, and fear and hate anyone who looks a bit different; now that the country just isn’t like that, they’ve gone mad.

Supreme strike out May 28: It appears that a lot of right wing attacks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor are beginning to collapse. How are their attacks being debunked? Rachel Maddow is joined by NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Josh Marshall: Red Cape

To take the public conversation on its face, a key dynamic in the Sotomayor story is that Republicans can't easily level what would otherwise be legitimate criticisms because some will see them as evidence of prejudice or hostility toward a Latina woman. In other words, the GOP is hamstrung on this battle and has to fight it with one rhetorical arm tied behind its back.

In theory, that could be a problem. But a couple days in, it's actually playing really differently. While elected Republicans are keeping their powder mainly dry and avoiding -- in all but a few cases -- racial charged remarks. But you can't say that for professional Republicans. We've heard that her taste for 'ethnic' food might throw into question her judicial reasoning, that she's a product of affirmative action, that she's a racist, that she's challenging English language dominance by insisting on an alien Spanish pronunciation of her name, that she belongs to a scary group called 'la raza' that might want to help Mexico reconquer the southwestern United States and make it Mexican again and on and on. All told, there's a chorus from the right that Sotomayor is a scary Mexican, understood in the sense of 'Mexican' as anybody with a Spanish last name who isn't actively working to keep the Cuban embargo in place.

And to the extent that there's political calculation at work it seems more likely that it's the realization that any Latina nominee would bring out the rightwing crazies like moths to a flame. They simply can't help it.

  • Josh Marshall: Truly Can't Help Themselves

    Here's your next emerging meme. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Blood & Soil) just went on CNN attacking Sonia Sotomayor for belonging to La Raza which he called a "Latino KKK."

    As I said this morning, it's painfully revealing how conservatives simply cannot helping going hard on the race front with Sotomayor or, as David Kurtz just put it, can't help imagining that everyone else is as racist as many of them are.

    For those who aren't familiar with it, La Raza is basically a Latino equivalent of B'nai Brith or the NAACP. Garden variety and uncontroversial unless you thinks it's a public safety issue if more than a handful of Mexicans or Puerto Ricans get together in one place at the same time.

    There's much more of this coming.

Yglesias: Tancredo Accuses Senators McCain and Martinez of Complicity in KKK Activities; Will They Fight Back?

Earlier today, Representative Tom Tancredo, a noted anti-immigrant extremist, went on television and denounced Sonia Sotomayor for her association with the National Council of La Raza. NCLR is a Latino advocacy group akin to the NAACP. But to Tancredo it’s the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan, a violent racist terrorist organization:

TANCREDO: If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is “All for the race. Nothing for the rest.” What does that tell you?

SANCHEZ: Alright. We’re not talking about — we’re not talking about La Raza –

TANCREDO: She’s a member! She’s a member of La Raza!

Check out the video:

Now as Dave Meyer points out, this is not just a vile slur on Sotomayor and the NCLR, it’s a serious slur on Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who delivered the keynote at NCLR’s 2004 conference and also addressed the group in 2008. Meanwhile, Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) accepted an award from NCLR earlier this year.

The question arises as to whether McCain and Martinez are going to stand for this. Will they take on the maniacs in their own party who are slandering them, or will they decide to just lay low and hope that nobody notices what’s going on. I know that if someone accused me of having delivered the keynote address at a Klan rally, I’d be mad as hell. Is McCain?

John Cole: We’re On a Road to Nowhere

This is what punditry looks like on autopilot:

In the case of the Sotomayor appointment, while she’s likely to coast through the Senate given the Democrats’ sheer numbers, the American public needs to understand why this is such a radical pick. The Obama/Sotomayor idea that judges, instead of making impartial rulings based on the law and the Constitution, should base their decisions (at least in part) on their own experiences and ethnic background, is outrageous. It is perfectly appropriate for Republicans and conservatives to make this point, and there’s no reason why they can’t do so in a respectful manner. In short, the upcoming Sotomayor fight isn’t really a fight about whether she should be confirmed—Republicans pretty much lost that one last November—it’s a fight about whether Obama gets to define Sotomayor as a “moderate.”

Noticeably absent from this critique, of course, is any evidence that Sotomayor has ever made any ruling that was based on something other than the law. Not one case. In order for Republicans and conservatives to “make that point,” they would in fact have to have one.

But they don’t. They just have a word salad they barf up every time they think it is appropriate- “reverse racist!” “activist judge!” “legislate from the bench!” “not a strict constructionist.” And that is pretty much what we can expect the next couple of months.

Sonia Sotamayor has more judicial experience than any other person nominated to the Supreme Court in decades. There are literally hundreds of rulings and opinions of hers out there. Surely they could come up with some examples of her “basing her decisions on her ethnic background.” Surely there must be a paper trail. Surely Mr. Klein can come up with some evidence for his smears and assertions.

We’ll be waiting.

Headlines from the Times:
Choosing the Next Justice

Nominee’s Links With Advocates Fuel Her Critics

Sonia Sotomayor’s work as a board member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund may become an issue during her confirmation hearings.

Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament

Conservatives opposed to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination see her demeanor on the bench as a potential vulnerability.

  • Josh Marshall: One Might Almost Say Shrill

    "Some lawyers just don't like to be questioned by a woman. It was sexist, plain and simple." -- Judge Guido Calabresi, Judge Sotomayor's colleague on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, on suggestions that her tough questioning from the bench suggests a problem with her 'temperament.'

    This is from an article in the Times with the headline "Sotomayor's Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament." It's by Jo Becker and Adam Liptak, two of the best, though I'm personally more familiar with Becker's work since it's been in areas where I've done reporting too.

    Read the article. It is, I think, an example where the headline is not quite borne out by the article itself and where -- choosing my words carefully -- the 'both-sides' imperative of conventional newspaper journalism made lead to placing two unequal arguments on equal terms. The piece itself reads like Sotomayor is tough and can be intellectually combative and that her gender leads some to describe those qualities in, shall we say, much less flattering terms. Compare to Scalia. Give it a read. I'd be curious to know what you think.

Think Progress: Barnes: Sotomayor ‘benefited’ from affirmative action ‘tremendously.’

On MSNBC yesterday, Pat Buchanan repeatedly attacked Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an “affirmative action candidate,” echoing right-wing claims that she has “been the recipient of preferential treatment for most of her life.” On Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning, Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes argued “that she’s one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.” When Bennett noted that she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Princeton, which he called “a pretty big deal,” Barnes dismissed it, saying “I guess it is”:

BARNES: I think you can make the case that she’s one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.

BENNETT: Yeah, well, maybe so. Did she get into Princeton on affirmative action, one wonders.

BARNES: One wonders.

BENNETT: Summa Cum Laude, I don’t think you get on affirmative action. I don’t know what her major was, but Summa Cum Laude’s a pretty big deal.

BARNES: I guess it is, but you know, there’s some schools and maybe Princeton’s not one of them, where if you don’t get Summa Cum Laude then or some kind of Cum Laude, you then, you’re a D+ student.

Listen here:

On Tuesday night, former Bush adviser Karl Rove said that despite her stellar academic credentials, Sotomayor was “not necessarily” smart. “I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools,” said Rove.

Josh Marshall: High Brow and Low Brow

When we go through this ritual of Supreme Court nomination and confirmation, the brainier publications look at the interest groups and great legal questions. But there's another part of the story -- in some ways bigger in terms of the result and often more gripping to my attention-- that is everywhere but too little discussed. And that is, the cast of spinmeisters and freakbots on the cable shows either smearing or carrying the water of the nominee.

And right out of the gate the chief anti-Sotomayor rabble rouser seemed to be a woman named Wendy Long. You can see her yacking it up on all the shows. You've probably seen her somewhere. In our ed. meeting this morning Brian Beutler raised the point that Curtis Levey -- another highly visible freakbot -- is not only the chief TV spinner for his group The Committee for Justice but also runs the group. And Long is only the TV yacker for her group, the Judicial Confirmation Network. And he even says that Levey's group has more muscle. So I had to take Brian to task and explain that he shouldn't waste my time with all those details. Wendy Long is the chief freakbot on TV. And really, what else matters?

So if you want to know a bit more about her, here's our run-down.

We want to keep an eye on Long though. So when you see her on TV, pay attention to what she says. And she says anything particularly nuts, drop us a line. And you have any more relevant background, let us know about that too.

Dougj: It’s just emotion that’s taking me over

Michael Gerson has written what may be the ultimate anti-empathy manifesto today. It briefly left me wondering what might be next battlefield in the Global War Against Empathy. Then it hit me, at the end of this (quite reasonable) Brooks piece on empathy, which must be quoted if only because of the Two Great Conservative Thinkers who are mentioned at the end:

Right-leaning thinkers from Edmund Burke to Friedrich Hayek understood that emotion is prone to overshadow reason. They understood that emotion can be a wise guide in some circumstances and a dangerous deceiver in others. It’s not whether judges rely on emotion and empathy, it’s how they educate their sentiments within the discipline of manners and morals, tradition and practice.

It’s a slippery slope from empathy to emotion. And I think we all know how emotional Latinas are, right? I wonder if we’re going to see suggestions that Sotomayor lets her spicy, fiery Latin temperament cloud her judgements.

Following up on an item from earlier, Republicans are pointing to the 2003 fight over Miguel Estrada's judicial nominee as offering key lessons in 2009. I think that's true, but for far different reasons.

For some, the point is that Democrats opposed Estrada, but didn't suffer political consequences, so Republicans need not worry about taking on Sonia Sotomayor and losing support from Hispanic voters now. It's a misguided comparison, for a variety of reasons.

But the reference to Estrada is nevertheless a helpful reminder. In 2003, the mainstream Republican attack -- repeated over and again, by officials at a variety of levels -- was that opposition to a Hispanic judicial nominee was necessarily evidence of Democratic racism. I pointed earlier to Trent Lott and Rush Limbaugh making the argument.

The Media Matters Action Network found plenty of additional examples.

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl Said "I See This, Really, As A Slap At Hispanics." As reported by the Washington Times: "Republicans have seized on Mr. Estrada's stalled nomination to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party and Hispanic voters, whose ranks are growing faster than any other minority group in America. 'I see this, really, as a slap at Hispanics,' Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said Wednesday." [Washington Times, 3/14/03; emphasis added] ...

Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla Said Opposition To Estrada Was "The Biggest Anti-Hispanic Crusade This City Has Ever Seen." As reported by the Washington Times: "Senate Democrats yesterday again blocked the nomination of lawyer Miguel A. Estrada to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The vote sustained for the second time a Democratic filibuster of the Estrada nomination. His supporters responded with accusations of racism and President Bush declared that 'the judicial confirmation process is broken.' 'It's a sad day,' Rep. Henry Bonilla, Texas Republican, said after the vote. 'This is the biggest anti-Hispanic crusade this city has ever seen.'" [Washington Times, 3/14/03; emphasis added]

In case the point isn't entirely obvious, these attacks were pathetic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Democratic opposition had nothing to do with ethnicity. Republicans were engaged in the laziest thinking possible: Estrada was a Hispanic nominee, so to oppose him was to be anti-Hispanic.

I suspect these same Republicans -- Jon Kyl is now the #2 GOP leader in the Senate -- would be outraged to see the same standard they used in 2003 applied to themselves in 2009.

  • From Wikipedia: Democratic Senators opposed the nomination, noting Estrada's lack of any prior judicial experience at the local, state, or federal level. Democratic Senators also objected to the refusal by the Office of the Solicitor General to release samples of Estrada's writings while employed there. Republicans, however, stated that the Democratic concerns were actually just an attempt to deny Estrada a circuit court seat because of his conservatism.

Glenn Greenwald: A revealing anecdote about Sonia Sotomayor

The same right-wing extremists who drove the country into the ground continue to attack Sonia Sotomayor with blatant and ugly stereotypes. She's one of those judges selected "for their readiness to discard the rule of law whenever emotion moves them," claims the highly credible legal scholar Karl Rove today in The Wall St. Journal. According to Rove -- whose profound respect for the rule of law is legendary -- she makes decisions based on her emotional "concern for the downtrodden, the powerless and the voiceless" rather than legal considerations. Because of her background, ethnicity and gender, hordes of people who know nothing about her and haven't bothered to examine what she's actually done as a judge instantaneously believe this caricature, while the media keeps repeating these accusations without, as usual, any critical scrutiny.

As happens virtually always, the facts are now starting to be examined and they reveal just how deliberately false are these right-wing smears. They just make things up without having any idea if they're true. Not only is that caricature of Sotomayor false, the opposite is true: if anything, Sotomayor's flaw is that she is excessively legalistic in her approach. And the assumption -- from both sides -- that she is some sort of pure, doctrainnaire liberal seems quite dubious at best.

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne says that today "liberals would be foolish to embrace Sotomayor as one of their own because her record is clearly that of a moderate." The New York Times' Charlie Savage suggests that pro-choice groups are worried about how reliable a vote she will be. And Daphne Evitar thoroughly examines Sotomayor's judicial record and concludes that liberals "may end up being disappointed with the president’s choice" because "it’s starting to sound like Obama nominated a highly capable technocrat."

My writing about this issue from the start has not been based on my view that Sotomayor is the best choice for the Court. There is still too much unknown about her to reach a conclusion in that regard (though see this encouraging snippet of her at Oral Argument in a critical case). My interest has been due to the fact that the smears against her were both totally unrecognizable, driven by very ugly sentiments and enabled by reckless "reporting" methods. Along those lines, I want to recount the facts behind a case I had before Judge Sotomayor because it helps to demonstrate just how false and baseless are the attacks thus far against her:

That case, Norville v. Staten Island University Hospital, involved one of the most sympathetic plaintiffs I had in my legal career. The plaintiff, Wendy Norville, was a black woman who grew up in poverty in the Carribean, moved to the U.S., and put herself through nursing school while working as a maid and raising her children as a single mother. After graduating at the age of 44, she went to work at SIU hospital as an R.N. in the neurology unit, where, for the next 12 years, she compiled an exemplary record of uniformly excellent performance reviews.

During her 13th year as an R.N., while working in the neurology unit, a very tall male patient had a seizure while lying on a table. Norville attempted to restrain the patient to prevent him from injuring himself or falling on the floor, and when doing so, she sustained a very severe back injury. She was unable to work for a full year, but after extensive rehabilitation, she told the hospital she wanted to return to work, but her back injury imposed some mild physical restrictions -- such as limitations on her ability to lift heavy objects -- and she requested that they find a nursing position for her where heavy lifting was not required.

The hospital claimed that the only positions they could offer her were ones that were part-time or would require her to lose all of her union seniority and benefits, and after a couple of months of pretending to search more, the hospital notified her that there were no comparable positions for her and they thus fired her. Because she was 56 years old and disabled by then, she was unable to get hired by another hospital. So after working for 12 years as an R.N., she was left fired and unemployed -- all because of an injury she sustained on the job, while helping a patient. She then sued the hospital (which was large and fully insured) for failing to accommodate her disability under the ADA and for race and age discrimination (they had accommodated white nurses far more injured than she and also rejected her for the one open nursing position in favor of a much younger nurse).

If ever there was a case where one's "emotions" for "the downtrodden, the powerless and the voiceless" would be strong, it was this one. This was a poor, black and highly admirable woman who -- through no fault of her own -- was left jobless and impoverished at the age of 56, suing a large and fully insured corporation. And her case was not only emotionally compelling, but legally strong as well: the federal judge presiding over the case from the start refused to dismiss any of her claims at the close of discovery, holding that there was ample evidence to support all of her claims and to enable a jury to decide in her favor.

Right before her trial was to begin, that judge got caught up in a massive criminal trial, and as a result, a federal judge from Louisiana was shipped to New York to preside over the trial. This visiting judge hated the case and the plaintiff from the start. At trial, he excluded most of her best evidence showing discrimination, then dismissed her race and age discrimination claims before they even got to the jury, and then -- on her sole remaining claim for violations of the ADA -- gave the jury patently unfavorable and inaccurate instructions about the law that caused the jury to decide against her.

That was the state of the case as it was appealed to a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit. Judge Sotomayor was by far the most active questioner at Oral Argument and it was she who wrote the opinion for the unanimous appellate court. Without a trace of sympathy or even interest in the plight of the plaintiff, Sotomayor methodically recounted the evidence of discrimination and, in as coldly and legalistic a manner as possible, concluded that the Norville "produced insufficient evidence at trial to show that the hospital" discriminated against her. She thus affirmed the trial judge's dismissal of Norville's claims of race and age discrimination. [On a very technical ground, Sotomayor did rule, for the unanimous panel, that the trial judge had inaccurately instructed the jury about what the ADA requires and thus re-instated that one claim (and the judge thereafter admitted he was wrong on that one issue). Just to underscore what a sympathetic plaintiff Norville was, the jury then decided in her favor at the new trial on her sole remaining claim and awarded her $1.6 million in back pay, front pay, attorneys' fees and other compensatory damages.]

One shouldn't derive too much meaning from one decision (though at least the same caution applies to a single snippet from a speech someone gave 8 years ago). But this case was one where she acted exactly contrary to the Rove-led disparagement of her jurisprudence -- the accusation that she disregards objective legal considerations in favor of emotions and sympathy for what Charles Krauthammer euphemestically described as "certain ethnicities." And there are many other cases like that. As Supreme Court expert Tom Goldstein put it: "we have been struck by how the amount of commentary about Judge Sotomayor has ignored the most accessible and valuable source of information: her opinions as an appellate judge." As Daphne Evitar put it after doing real reporting on Sotomayor's actual judicial record: "President Obama’s just chosen an extremely cautious, legalistic nit-picker."

I have no doubt that there are legitimate grounds for criticizing Sotomayor. I have reservations about her and am very interested in her answers at her confirmation hearing. She's a Supreme Court nominee and shouldn't be beyond intense scrutiny. But the bile coming thus far from the Right (and Respectable Intellectual Center) is laughable, contrary to all the available evidence, and grounded in the most naked and destructive stereotypes (the little lady can't keep her emotions in check or her mouth shut; the Latina woman decides in favor of minorities at the expense of the oppressed white male). Before the media keeps repeating the screeching and inflammatory accusations from Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, they might actually want to first see if there is evidence to support those accusations. That is what "reporting" allegedly is about.