Unexpected Ally?

May 28, 2009 11:00 a.m.

Okay. Over recent days I’ve plumbed the question of whether Sonia Sotomayor would be the first or the second ‘Hispanic’ Supreme Court Justice. I’d first learned in the direction of ‘second’ — thinking that Benjamin Cardozo, a Sephardic Jew of Portuguese ancestry who served on the Court in the 1930s might have been the first. But tips and rejoinders from readers slowly led me to reconsider the matter. First is the fact that — whatever the history and etymology of the word ‘Hispanic’ — it seems clear that ‘Hispanic’ today generally refers to people from a Spanish language heritage, not people from Portugal or a Portuguese speaking country like Brazil. There are various other complications — Portuguese-American members of Congress have often joined the Hispanic Caucus, the US government seems to have given its imprimatur to the no-Portugal/Brazil formulation, some question about whether Cardozo’s ancestors may have been crypto-Spanish crypto-Jews (my own semi-analytic, semi-farcical locution) and much more. But it all leans against Cardozo’s candidacy.

But now Karl Rove is chiming in on Cardozo’s behalf in today’s Journal …

While the next two to four months of maneuverings and hearings may provide more insights into the views of Mr. Obama’s pick, barring an unforeseen development — not unheard of in Supreme Court nominations — Judge Sotomayor will become the second Hispanic (Benjamin Cardozo was Sephardic) and third woman confirmed to the Supreme Court. Democrats will win the vote, but Republicans can win the argument by making a clear case against the judicial activism she represents.

Clearly, Rove does not have as knowledgeable a readership as TPM.

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