Sotomayor: What Should Republicans Do?

Today press secretary Robert Gibbs warned Republicans not to criticize President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued a pointed warning to opponents of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination Wednesday, urging critics to measure their words carefully during a politically charged confirmation debate.

“I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they’ve decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation,” Gibbs said.

Well, sure: Republicans should be “exceedingly careful” with their words, just like the Democrats were with, say, Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

Gibbs’ warning is ridiculous on its face, but it leaves the serious question: how should Republicans respond to the Sotomayor nomination? In particular, how should they react given that Sotomayor’s confirmation, absent some unforeseen, sensational revelation, is a certainty? And, further, given that Sotomayor is plainly qualified for the office in terms of competence and experience?

Under these circumstances, whether Republican Senators ultimately vote for or against Sotomayor is relatively insignificant. Rather, I think Republicans should seize the opportunity for a teaching moment. Sotomayor has provided ample cause to do so, as with her now-famous, overtly racist and sexist remark:

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.

It is astonishing, really, that anyone in American public life could utter such an offensive sentence. And this is by no means the only ill-advised comment on Sotomayor’s record. These deeply offensive statements by the nominee should be explored in detail by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A substantial majority of Americans reject–as well they should!–the idea that a judge’s decisions should depend on his or her gender or race, and that the law is somehow different, depending on the skin color or gender of the judge or the parties. Judge Sotomayor should be made to explain the utterly indefensible comments she has made; having explained, she should be made to repudiate and apologize for them. It would be a signal victory if a liberal jurist were forced to admit that the law does not depend on the pigmentation of the people in the courtroom. And the spectacle would educate some Americans who haven’t been paying attention to the realities of modern liberalism.

A judge who believes that judicial decisions depend not on the Constitution and the laws, but on the race or gender of the judge who renders them, is unfit for the Supreme Court. If Sotomayor sticks to that stance, Republicans should vote against her unanimously, and they will be supported by the American people in doing so. If, as no doubt will happen, Sotomayor recants those racist views, the American people will, at least, see which party is on the side of equal justice under the law.

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