Third-rate hatchet job on Sotomayor gains traction
A federal judge on the Second Circuit, Stomayor wasn't a high profile figure before her name came up as a potential SCOTUS nominee. So, there's not a lot of raw material out there to fashion an attack, especially if you're too lazy to read her opinions. So, most of the "dumb" and "pushy" allegations can be traced a single secondary source, a hatchet job by the New Republic's legal commentator, Jeffrey Rosen.
His piece, entitled "The Case Against Sotomayor: Indictments of Obama's front-runner to replace Souter," ran on Monday.
Therein, Rosen admits therein that he hasn't read enough of Sotomayor's judgin' to form his own opinion about her intellect. Instead, he relies on the quotes of unnamed sources with unexamined motives who say that Sotomayor is "not that bright" or in one case, that s/he thinks that other people think that think that Sotomayor is not that bright.
Way to build an airtight case there, Prof. Rosen. If you're going to imply that someone else lacks intellectual heft, you might want to read her decisions before opining.
It just so happened that the anonymous allegations Rosen levied against Sotomayor fit the some classic stereotypes about powerful women (ball busters, pushy, "inappropriate") and Latinas (mercurial, crazy).
If these charges were true, they would be relevant. Intellect and temperament are two of the most important criteria for a SCOTUS nominee. It's not racist or sexist to question the qualifications of a female or minority nominee.
Rosen probably didn't consciously conclude that he had to do a lot less work to label Sonia Sotomayor as an idiot than he would if he were making the same charge against a equally distinguished white male nominee. But let's be real--we're all social primates social primates here. Everyone operates on implicit assumptions about what we can get away with and what's not going to fly. That's also more or less what it means to write for an audience. Rosen adduced that Sotomayor's alleged intellectual inferiority would be easy sell, otherwise he would have worked a lot harder to convince us.
Sexism and racism work by denying people the benefit of the doubt that more privileged people get as a matter of course. We knew at the outset Sotomayor was a very well-educated, highly accomplished lawyer whom Barack Obama, (acknowledged smart guy and former law professor) might appoint to the Supreme Court.
That's all solid evidence that Sotomayor is a credible candidate, as opposed to some dumb crazy beneficiary of the little-known New York federal judge affirmative action program. It's not dispositive, but knowing all this, a reasonable person would demand a lot of high quality countervailing evidence before giving up the presumption that Sotomayor is pretty darned bright. Whether she's the brightest candidate or best-qualified person for the job are separate questions that can only be answered the old fashioned way, by gathering more evidence.
Yet, for some reason, Rosen and TNR didn't think it was necessary to mount a serious case for Sotomayor's intellectual inferiority--as in, a case that engaged with her ideas, or pointed out specific areas where her thinking is confused. They thought they had enough credibility to get away with a "case" against Sotomayor based on the "indictments" of her unnamed associates. They weren't afraid of getting laughed out of court, so to speak.
As it turns out, it wasn't a bad bet. Mark Ambinder of the Atlantic writes: "Conservative talk radio hosts have begun impugning Sotomayor's credibility. And the respectable intellectual center -- see Jeffrey Rosen's case against her temperament and inherent intellectual abilities -- is beginning to have doubts."
It just goes to prove my point that admitted ignorance has done nothing to diminish Rosen's credibility with the elite media while Sonia Sotomayor has been branded as a dunce based on a few blind quotes.