Sotomayor Critics Like Gingrich Have No Legal Leg or Moral High Ground to Stand on

Hypocrisy and vitriol from Gingrich, Limbaugh, and the like only remind us of their flaws.

John Mashek
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President Obama's selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been ripped by a number of outspoken conservatives, none of them lawyers. The tone has ranged from careful sniping to outright hypocrisy and even slander.

None has been worse than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a likely presidential hopeful in 2012. Gingrich has branded her as a racist for written comments about her background as a Latina and he has called for her withdrawal.

Gingrich has conveniently forgotten his snide comments about bilingual education when he was still in office. Further, he was forced to resign as speaker over personal scandal and he has cheated on two wives, one while he was castigating President Clinton for his sexual transgressions.

In short, Gingrich speaks with absolutely no moral authority.

Gingrich must have been appealing to the Rush Limbaugh wing of the GOP, or rather the fanatical wing of the GOP. Limbaugh was even more vitriolic than Gingrich in denouncing Sotomayor as a racist and bigot.

Speaking of bigots, Limbaugh has referred to an African-American caller to his radio program in blatant racist terms. No lawyer or politician, Limbaugh is an entertainer who wouldn't recognize his own hypocrisy if hit in the face with it.

Pat Buchanan, a part-time presidential candidate and current talking head on cable TV, issued stinging remarks about Obama's choice. When he ran for president, Buchanan had virtually no minorities in his so-called Pitchfork Army of far-right Republicans.

Other nonlawyer critics have included columnists George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Gerson. Again, none has a law degree but you would think they were judicial experts. (I'm sure I missed other naysayers in that group.)

On Meet the Press last Sunday, GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tied himself in verbal knots to avoid saying his mind was made up. The Republican from Alabama promised to be "fair and vigorous" toward Sotomayor. Based on his previous actions and speeches in the Senate, I think that vigor will stretch far beyond that word to please conservative organizations calling for the GOP senators to make this a cause celebre.

Judge Sotomayor was appointed to the district court bench by President George H.W. Bush, hardly a liberal. President Clinton elevated her to the appellate court. She has survived two confirmations. True, the high court calls for more questioning, but she should be able to show her intellect by answering her critics.

Her comments praising her Latina experience have caused the most shouting from the out-to-get-her gang. Other justices, Republican appointees Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, have said the same thing about their respective backgrounds as a poor African-American in rural Georgia and an Italian whose ancestors fought through ethnic bigotry.

Her decision in a firefighters case in New Haven, Conn., has caused another uproar from the extra chromosome crowd. She will have the opportunity to explain herself, although it was clear to most she was upholding legal precedent in a decision from another court.

While some Republican senators will be unable to resist the pressure from conservative groups, she will likely win more than a small number of their votes in a final tally.

If Hispanics around the nation, but especially in the Sun Belt states, believe she is being mistreated in the hearings, Republicans will hear from them at the ballot box. It is not lost on some thoughtful Republicans that the Hispanics are the largest growing bloc of voters. Several large states fit that demographic profile.

The only real question then before the Senate is whether the GOP minority will listen to reason or to the bleating of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.