Gin­grich ig­nites fight over ‘racism,’ So­tomayor

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CHRISTINA BEL­LAN­TONI AND RALPH Z. HALLOW

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich on May 27 called Supreme Court nom­i­nee Judge So­nia So­tomayor a “racist” for re­marks she made in 2001, join­ing an emerg­ing con­ser­va­tive line of at­tack and en­flam­ing both sides of the bat­tle as in­ter­est groups fundraise over her nom­i­na­tion.

Mr. Gin­grich, in his Twit­ter feed to more than 344,400 fol­low­ers, called on Judge So­tomayor to with­draw from con­sid­er­a­tion to the high court. He said her re­marks cit­ing eth­nic back­ground as a rea­son for mak­ing bet­ter le­gal de­ci­sions, if spo­ken by a white male, would be dis­qual­i­fy­ing.

“Imag­ine a ju­di­cial nom­i­nee said, ‘My ex­pe­ri­ence as a white man makes me bet­ter than a Latina woman.’ New racism is no bet­ter than old racism,” Mr. Gin­grich wrote on Twit­ter, which he uses reg­u­larly to dis­cuss pol­i­tics or pro­mote his tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances.

Mr. Gin­grich fol­lowed his ini­tial tweet a few min­utes later with: “White man racist nom­i­nee would be forced to with­draw. Latina woman racist should also with­draw.” He gained more than 1,000 fol­low­ers af­ter the re­marks.

The White House warned that Repub­li­cans should be “ex­ceed­ingly care­ful” with such lan­guage, and even con­ser­va­tive groups cau­tioned that go­ing af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nee with this line could be toxic to a party los­ing ground with His­panic vot­ers.

But con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh told his mil­lions of lis­ten­ers May 27 that they should charge ahead.

“If the GOP al­lows it­self to be trapped in the false premise that it’s racist and sex­ist and must show the world that it isn’t, then the GOP is ex­tinct,” Mr. Lim­baugh said on his ra­dio pro­gram.

The widely cited com­ments Judge So­tomayor made at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley eight years ago are: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the rich­ness of her ex­pe­ri­ences would more of­ten than not reach a bet­ter con­clu­sion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

“Whether born from ex­pe­ri­ence or in­her­ent phys­i­o­log­i­cal or cul­tural dif­fer­ences, our gen­der and na­tional ori­gins may and will make a dif­fer­ence in our judg­ing,” she said.

She went on to make broader points about di­ver­sity of ex­pe­ri­ence as it re­lates to the law, but her com­ment has been fod­der for crit­ics of the im­pend­ing nom­i­na­tion, and is likely to sur­face in the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings that will take place in July.

Con­ser­va­tive groups say they must get in­volved to ac­ti­vate their base in time for the 2010 elec­tions and demon­strate the ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween the par­ties.

Car­rie Lukas, vice pres­i­dent for pol­icy and eco­nomics at the In­de­pen­dent Women’s Fo­rum, said the op­po­si­tion has a pur­pose: “To help ed­u­cate vot­ers that elec­tions have con­se­quences.”

“The idea that you pull back from a fight be­cause some­one is from a dif­fer­ent eth­nic group is part of the mis­take Repub­li­cans made and how we got Pres­i­dent Obama in the first place,” said Ron Robin­son, pres­i­dent of Young Amer­ica’s Foun­da­tion.

James L. Martin, pres­i­dent of the con­ser­va­tive 60 Plus As­so­ci­a­tion, a se­niors lob­by­ing group, said con­ser­va­tives are stuck in a tough spot be­cause op­pos­ing the first po­ten­tial His­panic jus­tice “means the lib me­dia will por­tray us as anti-His­panic and racist.”

White House press sec­re­tary Robert Gibbs dis­missed the Gin­grich re­marks as com­ing from a “for­mer law­maker” and smack­ing of “par­ti­san pol­i­tics.”

“It is prob­a­bly im­por­tant for any­body in­volved in this de­bate to be ex­ceed­ingly care­ful with the way in which they’ve de­cided to de­scribe dif­fer­ent as­pects of this im­pend­ing con­fir­ma­tion,” Mr. Gibbs said when asked about the re­marks.

On May 26 Mr. Lim­baugh went as far as call­ing Judge So­tomayor a racist for the Berke­ley com­ments, then added, “You might want to soften that and you might want to say a re­verse racist.”

Se­nate Democrats jumped on the Lim­baugh re­marks, par­tially quot­ing the man they la­beled “de facto party spokesman” in an email aimed at ral­ly­ing sup­port­ers to back Judge So­tomayor.

“With state­ments like that from Lim­baugh, we can ex­pect to have a fight on our hands,” Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez, chair­man of the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, wrote party mem­bers on May 27.

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