The Face Of The Sotomayor Opposition

May 28, 2009 9:28 a.m.

If your only source of news was cable television, you might think that the Senate was gearing up for an historic fight over a Supreme Court hopeful so out of the mainstream that it might be worth questioning the sanity of the President who nominated her.

The reality on the Hill is much less exciting than that. Most Republicans, I’m sure, don’t really care for Sonia Sotomayor, but they’re nonetheless preparing themselves for her eventual confirmation. And, for the most part, they’re actually pretty sanguine about it.

Not so in the land of conservative activism. For weeks, members of a number of co-ordinated groups have been trying desperately to assure anyone in earshot that, by replacing one moderately liberal Justice with another, slightly more liberal Justice, Obama will ruin the country.

The most prominent face of this campaign is the legal counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, Wendy E. Long.Long has a long history on the right. After graduating from Northwestern University School of Law, she clerked for Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Winters, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

In 2005 she began advocating for conservative judges and justices, seemingly to great effect. But that, of course, changed when President Bush gave way to President Obama. On the eve of his election, she warned, gravely that, if Obama were to win the election, “[w]e’d see things like a constitutional right to same-sex ‘marriage,’ a constitutional right to federal taxpayer funding of abortion.”

We’d likely see a so-called constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide and to human cloning. [References to God] would come out of the Pledge of Allegiance and perhaps off our currency and every other public place […] so we may wake up, but it would be too late — because once Barack Obama has a chance to appoint a majority of a Supreme Court, then decisions like those would be out of the hands of voters for certainly a generation and perhaps longer.

After Obama’s inauguration, she got out in front, arguing against his first judicial pick–David Hamilton, nominated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals–who now faces a tough road ahead in the Senate.

But she really kicked into high gear when Justice David Souter announced his retirement. That day, she and other activists, led a conference call to co-ordinate messaging on Obama’s coming nominee, whoever it ended up being. “One thing to keep in mind is that the left and media will say this doesn’t really matter — Obama will just replace a liberal with a liberal,” Long said. “It’s a conservative court. We need to push back against that immediately.”

It’s hard to know whether her goal was to squash the nomination, or to rile the base and add to activist coffers or a combination of the two. But either way, she didn’t get word out to her group that they should ditch the language on their website, left over from the Roberts and Alito fights, calling on senators to give Court nominees up or down votes, and, somewhat ironically, to abandon “fear and smear strategies.”

(You can read the full petition here.)

I say ironically, because some time in early May, or perhaps a bit earlier, she seems to have forgotten that clarion call.

“She reads racial preferences and quotas into the Constitution, even to the point of dishonoring those who preserve our public safety,” Long said, when Sotomayor got the nod.

On September 11, America saw firsthand the vital role of America’s firefighters in protecting our citizens. They put their lives on the line for her and the other citizens of New York and the nation. But Judge Sotomayor would sacrifice their claims to fair treatment in employment promotions to racial preferences and quotas.

Fear and smear? Check and check.

Sadly for Long, though, her allies on the Hill don’t seem to have gotten the word. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) voted against Sotomayor when she was a Second Circuit nominee in 1998. Questioned about that vote recently, he said “I don’t want anybody to believe that I’m going to have that be a reason for me having my mind made up now. Because quite frankly, I’m going to have to go back and hopefully I gave a speech at the time, or there’s something in the record of my rationale for the no vote at the time.”

When asked if he believed Sotomayor would be confirmed to the Supreme Court, Grassley had a one word answer–one word that won’t please Wendy Long.

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