Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 17, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: "[N]ot just the right last name"

Patrick Ruffini notes the irony in a rather egregious example from John Edwards of what, if said by a Republican, would almost certainly be a career-threatening racial slur: the charge that Miguel Estrada is unqualified to be a federal appeals judge, and was nominated just for his ethnicity:

"I think we need more Hispanics on the federal bench, but we should choose people because they have the right record, not just the right last name"

I know Bush hates demonizing his opponents, but somebody needs to very publicly tear Edwards a new one over this comment. As Ruffini notes, the real irony is that Edwards is the one who's painfully short on qualifications (to be president, that is). Estrada has a resume to die for, and is, if anything, overqualified; every job he's had is an extremely hard one to get in the legal world, and he's done them all with great distinction. But apparently it's OK to run down those qualifications because he's Latino.

I've been slow to consider the Democrats' behavior in this case to be racist or a genuine problem with Latino voters -- I always thought it was completely bogus for Clinton to play the race card every time one of his African-American nominees got held up -- but there's no question in my mind that Estrada has been targeted (in ways that other equally conservative white male nominees haven't) specifically because the Democrats fear that his nationality and life history, combined with his evident brilliance, would make him a potent Supreme Court choice.

Targeting a man for defeat to public office because of his race -- isn't that the sort of thing Democrats were supposed to be against? (Don't bother answering that).

(Link via The Corner).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:45 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

I don't follow your logic at all.

1. This wasn't a racial slur. Edwards doesn't say anything about Hispanics except for noting that there should be more of them on the bench. There is a commonly held belief (at least among us liberals) that having people from diverse backgrounds in positions of power is a good thing. Even if you disagree with that belief, I don't see how expousing that belief makes you a racist. Edwards doesn't say anything about using race as a factor in judging whether a person is qualified for the bench. He says that a persons record is what should matter.

2. Ruffini and then you have turned Edwards "record" into "qualifications", they aren't the same thing. The opposition to Estrada has been based on his record (i.e. expressed views) on many issues that liberals think are important. The race issue has been raised by Estradas supporters, not his attackers. Forget the supreme court we don't want him on the appeals court because of his views. And his refusal to release his writings for the justice department doesn't help either.

3. On his qualifications, his former supervisor at the Solicitor General thought he was a ?terrific oral advocate,? but ?lacks the judgment? and is ?too much of an ideologue to be an appeals court judge.? Newark Star-Ledger (Jan. 6, 2002); Washington Post (May 23, 2001).

Posted by: Ivan at June 18, 2003 3:47 AM

On Edwards qualifications:
I agree they might be relevant in the primaries, I don't think GWB can use it as an issue. Edwards will have as much experience in public office as he did in 2000.

Posted by: Ivan at June 18, 2003 3:49 AM

Ivan: I think the point is, Edwards is claiming that Estrada was only nominated for his race, and that's obviously untrue; he's not the most qualified of Bush's nominees (that would be Michael McConnell), but he's pretty close.

I can't believe that you'd buy into the idea that Estrada's internal memos at the Solicitor General's office ought to be released; that's just a basic matter of the type of privileged communication that shouldn't come out, which is why all the living Solicitors General (including some very liberal people) have opposed the request. I doubt there's anything all that bad in there, but as an attorney I can well understand why you don't want those types of documents to be aired if you expect politically ambitious lawyers to write them honestly in the future.

Estrada is a guy who was and is well-respected by everybody he worked with except for the remarks by that one guy. And if Estrada has strong opinions, how is that different from . . . well, everyone else who's already on the DC Circuit?

As to Edwards' qualifications vs. Bush's, Bush had been a chief executive of a very large state, which is qualitatively different from being a junior senator.

Posted by: The Crank at June 18, 2003 6:49 AM

I don't think that Edwards statment indicates that he thinks Estrada doesn't have any qualifications. My interpretation is that he doesn't think his race should be reason enough to appoint him, especially, if you have concerns about his record. I think it's a real stretch to call it racist unless you have more evidence about his meaning.

As for the memos, I think work product for the government should count differently than that for a private company. But Dammit Jim, I'm a biologist, not a lawyer so, I will concede the point to you.

However, Estrada has very little in the way of a written record of his views on Jurisprudence, and what little there is concerns me. To whit: His remarks in 1999 seem to indicate he doesn't think that people have the right to petition the court when their rights are threatened by legislative action.

In light of these, it seems reasonable to ask that Estrada clarify his views on these subjects. Instead, he refused to answer many questions in the judiciary committee.

This desire for more information is not an invention of the Dems. Here's a quote from Hatch....

"I believe the Senate can and should do what it can to ascertain the jurisprudential views a nominee will bring to the bench in order to prevent the confirmation of those who are likely to be judicial activists. Determining who will become activists is not easy since many of President Clinton?s nominees tend to have limited paper trails. Nor is there a chemical eye-dropper test we can run which will turn likely activists blue. Determining which of President Clinton?s nominees will become activists is complicated and it will require the Senate to be more diligent and extensive in its questioning of nominees? jurisprudential views." (Address of Senator Orrin G. Hatch before University of Utah Federalist Society chapter Feb. 18, 1997)

On the qualifications for president...
I agree that they are qualitatively different jobs, but they both have aspects that prepare a person for the oval office. And the more important point is that neither were in office for long enough to get any perspective on how well they did in office. Bush was the govornor in a state where the Govornor doesn't have much power.

Posted by: Ivan at June 18, 2003 9:37 AM
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