A double standard on opposing minority nominees

Houston Chronicle:

Reflecting a wider dilemma for Senate Republicans, Texas Sen. John Cornyn on Tuesday tried walking a political tightrope to challenge a Supreme Court nominee put forward by a Democratic president without alienating Hispanic voters who could be key to a Republican comeback.

Cornyn, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and leads Senate GOP campaign efforts in 2010, seized a prominent role in Republican preparations to carefully question federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

President Barack Obama had barely finished announcing his selection of Sotomayor, 54, an 18-year veteran of the federal bench, before Cornyn called for a confirmation process that would “allow her to prove herself to possess the impartiality, integrity, legal expertise and judicial temperament” of a Supreme Court justice.

Cornyn is in “an especially delicate position” as he tries to position Senate Republicans for the upcoming debate over confirmation of the first Hispanic jurist to the Supreme Court, said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at University of Texas.

“The only consensus right now among Republicans is that the political opposition has to oppose,” Buchanan said. “But my suggestion would be to do so with caution and an eye on the reaction of constituents.”


Democrats did not have this concern when they opposed Miguel Estrada for the circuit court even though he was much more qualified that Sotomayer. They certainly did not have a problem in conducting their high tech lynching of Clarence Thomas.

I have seen enough of Sen. Cornyn to know that he will both respectful and insightful in his questioning of Sotomayer. He is a good lawyer and he knows how to do a tough cross examination without alienating the jury.

But Democrats and media need to also be careful about being patronizing to Sotomayer simply because of her ethnicity and gender. The fact is that it does not make her smarter than other candidates and she deserves the same tough questioning that all nominees for the court get these days.


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