More of the Same

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By David Glenn Cox

The Republicans rant and froth at the mouth over Obama’s choice of
Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice, taking quotes out of context
and using her membership in Hispanic organizations as they try to paint
her into a corner as a racist. The left is giddy with diversity as a
Latina and woman was Obama’s choice, and of course women and minorities
should be better represented on the Supreme Court.

Jackie
Robinson was chosen to be the first African American to play in the
major leagues because he was, of course, African American but also
because of his amazing talent. Thurgood Marshall was the first African
American to serve on the US Supreme Court. Appointed by Lyndon Johnson,
Marshall had won 29 of 32 cases he litigated before the court as the
Chief Counsel of the NAACP. Marshall was, first of all, a champion for
African American people, but most of all was a defender of the
Constitution for all American people. His choice was not just an
achievement for African Americans but for all Americans as his presence
on the court threw long, towering shadows.


Sean Hannity and Rush
Limbaugh use quotes taken out of context to describe Sotomayor as a
racist. Keith Olbermann, on the other hand, finds quotes made by
Justice Samuel Alito and even archconservative Anton Scalia trying to
make the same point, that where we come from shades our opinions. But
it struck me as odd that while Olbermann was trying to defend Sotomayor
it was having the opposite affect on me. She talks just like Alito and
Scalia? That’s supposed to make me feel better?

The problem is
that with the Supreme Court, in most cases, they set precedent, while
on the Appeals Court they merely follow precedent. She was first
appointed to the bench by George H. W. Bush and promoted to the Court
of Appeals by Bill Clinton. She has ruled both for and against
environmentalist on issues, voting to enforce the original intent of
the Clean Water Act but siding against environmentalists on New York’s
plan to curb ozone emissions.

In her only abortion-related court
decision during her 11 years on the Court of Appeals, Sotomayor wrote,
“The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor
the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so
with public funds.”

Sotomayor has also upheld the Mexico City
Policy, which has since been overturned by the President. This policy
prohibits federally funded non-governmental organizations from
promoting abortion as a family planning measure in other countries.

In
short, she is almost an exact replica of the retiring Souter who was
appointed by George H.W. Bush. While she has much experience, she has
done little to distinguish herself as a great legal mind. I don’t think
she is a bad choice and under a Republican administration I might
consider her a good choice. But is this change? Is she our champion?
With the burning constitutional issues of torture and executive
privilege before us, is Sotomayor the best candidate the President
finds available?

President Johnson was able to appoint Thurgood
Marshall because of high popularity numbers and a filibuster-proof
majority in the Senate. So I’ll ask again, is this the best Obama can
do? To nominate a candidate with no apparent fervor in either
direction, a bureaucrat doing corporate America's bidding. A Federal
Appeals Court Justice insulated and removed from the average American.

We
are far from being a post-racial society, but we are far enough down
the road to see that anyone of any background receiving the education
and experience can grow up to think like conservative white men. That
there is more to being a champion of your people than the color of your
skin or the pronunciation of your last name.

Dr. King dreamed of
a world where people would not be judged by the color of their skin but
the content of their character. This is where I find myself in
divergence with Sotomayor. We have lived through twenty of the last
twenty-nine years with right wing Republican zealots appointed to the
court with only the two of the most heinous and unqualified turned back.

Obama
ran for office promising change! He was going to change the way the
government does business. He was going turn us away from neocon
zealotry and given his first shot he appoints a candidate closer to
Alito and Souter than anyone now on the court. Where is our champion?
Where is an appointment that will turn the courts back towards the
direction of Thurgood Marshall?

How about Al Gore for the
Supreme Court, or Robert F. Kennedy Jr.? Kennedy is a legal professor
who has worked at all levels of the court system. He was named by
Time.com as a Hero for the Planet. We, as a people, were promised
CHANGE, not change. Since the 2000 election the Supreme Court has
become nothing more than a right wing rubber stamp. We deserve new
blood and new thinking, a champion of the people and of the
Constitution. The Republicans are going to howl no matter who Obama
selects, so why not give them something to really howl about?

Imagine
the sweet irony of Justice Albert Gore on the Supreme Court; imagine
the Exxon executives trying to sleep at night. Imagine a country where
the people have a representative on the court. Imagine Justice Dennis
Kucinich on the court, an advocate for peace and for jobs and for
workers. You see, it is not so hard. There are lots of people qualified
and more than qualified to do a hell of a job, to throw the brakes on
the direction of the court and turn it around.

Sotomayor might
make a fine justice, but Jackie Robinson didn’t make it to the majors
because he was merely expected to be a fine second baseman for the
Dodgers. It was because he had the trappings of greatness. Roberto
Clemente is remembered for his great baseball talents but even more for
his greatness of person. He wasn’t just a credit to the Latino
community or to baseball but to humanity as a whole.

Sotomayor’s
record on the Appeals Court shows that she works inside the system to
protect the system. She does not sway from the straight and narrow, nor
does she tarry in carrying the corporate water. She’s not the worst
choice that could have been made, but she is certainly not the best
choice that Obama could have made. She is more of the same game. She is
no Caesar Chavez or Che Guevara. She’s not even Luis Aparicio; she is
closer to Clarence Thomas or Eddie Gaedel.