Friday, May 29, 2009

Empathy for the Devil

My god, these people (almost exclusively white male Republicans) are creating their own little Balkans over the nomination of Sotomayor. They're pressing the case to the point of outright sexism and racism. It's outrageous - outrageous intellectually, morally, and politically - and profoundly cynical to say things such as these:

G. Gordon Liddy:
"Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when [Sotomayor]'s menstruating or something, or just before she's going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then."

Newt Gingrich:
"If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept that conclusion. It is simply un-American. There is no room on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for this worldview."

"She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court.... How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive."

Michael Gerson (coiner of "axis of evil" and "mushroom cloud" language):

By Obama's empathy standard, Sotomayor is a natural choice. She has argued: "The aspiration to impartiality is just that -- it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others." And these culturally conditioned choices are not just "different." She contends that a "wise Latina woman" will "more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

None of this is particularly controversial at Obama's University of Chicago or Sotomayor's Princeton. In elite academic settings, it is commonly asserted that impartiality is not only a myth but also a fraud perpetuated by the privileged. Since all legal standards, in this view, are subjective and culturally determined, the defenders of objectivity are merely disguising their exercise of power. And so the scales of justice -- really the scales of power -- need to be weighted by judges to favor the "weak" and the "powerless."

Apparently, Gerson has one way of assessing Sotomayor's claim, and his political interests and background have pre-determined the outcome of that assessment: he judges her observation about empirically testable reality as a claim of radical subjectivism.

Of course one's background familiarizes oneself with people from a similar background. Is this really even necessary to say? And coming from a non-white background might make one more familiar with the lives and thoughts of other non-whites, more so than white men from privileged backgrounds. Right? And given that the justice system is overwhelmingly white and those sentenced to prison disproportionately non-white, might it not be a good thing to wonder whether to constantly reassess whether the fairness of the system?

These aren't "pomo" remarks, as Andrew Sullivan snidely puts it. These are pretty basic observations about the world. Are white Republicans so far removed from the diversity of the world that they have absolutely no grasp of this? And, frankly, who wants to live in whatever that alternative world is that they would have us all live in?

But on the other hand, John Cole:
Obama is seriously the luckiest man on the planet to have these guys as the opposition.


Cheryl Rofer said...

These guys were just as concerned about Alito's and Roberts's limited viewpoints as white men, right?

helmut said...

I know... there is absolutely zero intellectual or ethical integrity with these folks. I honestly don't know how they can live with themselves.