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Congressional candidate takes Sen. Graham to task on Supreme Court vote

web posted July 25, 2009
By: Richard Cash
OPINION - Sen. Lindsey Graham has gone from asking tough questions to concluding that Judge Sotomayor is “very well qualified.” With the political winds blowing in favor of Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, it appears that he has become muddled in his thinking, or else he is simply playing politics with his vote. Sen. Graham is ready to celebrate the historic pick, and that has a certain appeal, but he is going to face some tough questions himself.

Judge Sotomayor will be the first Latina woman on the Supreme Court, and that is certainly historic. I can celebrate that in the same sense that I celebrated Barack Obama’s election as President, even though I did not vote for him. In both cases, the success of these individuals at the highest level gives us all hope that our society is making progress in treating people  equally, without discrimination, in respect to gender and race.

This desire for progress in race and gender relations is not, however, in and of itself a legitimate reason to vote for someone. An individual’s qualifications should be the deciding factor, otherwise voting for a minority individual because of his or her race or gender perpetuates the problem, simply in reverse. On the one hand, discrimination chooses against an individual on the basis of race or gender, on the other hand affirmative action chooses for an individual on the basis of race or gender, thereby creating reverse discrimination.

Sen. Graham claims he is voting for Judge Sotomayor because she is “very well qualified”, but that is a curious position for a conservative to take based on her record. In a case involving reverse discrimination, the Supreme Court has just overturned one of Judge Sotomayor’s decisions on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that the rights of white firefighters were violated when a city threw out a test because no blacks were promoted.

For conservatives, there are other red flags as well that would indicate that Judge Sotomayor is not very well qualified. For instance, she signed an opinion in January of 2009 that said the Second Amendment does not protect individuals from having their right to keep and bear arms restricted by state governments. In addition, she is a member of La Raza, a race based organization that supports illegal immigration in numerous ways.

Judge Sotomayor has also had a few particularly candid moments that cannot be explained away. There is a YouTube video of her on a panel at Duke University Law School in 2005, where she states, “Court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know, this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law.” She smiles and the audience laughs at what is an obvious reference to judicial activism.

There is also the well-known comment that is both racist and sexist, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion as a judge than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” As Sen. Graham noted at one time, a white male who made a similar comment would be disqualified from consideration to the Supreme Court.

Despite this evidence and more, Sen. Graham has concluded that Judge Sotomayor is very well qualified, and that is his right, as he so strongly states. As a conservative, I disagree with his conclusion. It would be one thing if Sen. Graham decided she was going to be confirmed, and chose not to participate in a lengthy and losing battle to try and derail the nomination. That might be wise. Vote no and let it go.

However, it is something else to vote yes; and something still more to make such a strong statement of support. It appears to me that his vote is much more related to political pragmatism, or what he calls “coalition building”, than qualifications. He would rather abandon conservative principles on a vote that cannot be won, than risk offending Hispanic voters.

It is a political calculation that is very similar to the position he took on the illegal immigration debate a few years ago. If Sen. Graham wants to reach across the aisle in this way, again that is his right, but there is no need to cast aspersion on those who oppose Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation by implying that they are “haters”. No, they are simply conservatives who disagree that Judge Sotomayor is “very well qualified”, and question Sen. Graham’s judgment on the matter. 

Richard Cash is a Republican candidate for US Congress in the Third  District.

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