Monday, May 09, 2005

The Sorrow and the Pity

If, like me, you haven't seen much reason to shed hot salt tears over the plight of BushCo's seven blocked judicial nominees, then Nancy Benac of AP wishes a few maudlin and dishonest words with you.

They have been called a "family of seven judicial fanatics." Also "radical," "corporate stooges," the "most extreme of the extreme." The seven men and women whose judicial nominations are at the center of Washington's filibuster fight have been packaged as all-American success stories: a sharecropper's daughter, a senator's son, able jurists who can find time to teach Sunday school and clean up national parks.

Somewhere, behind all the labels, beyond the caricatures for good and ill, there are seven people whose judicial futures hinge on far more than competence.
Fair enough. We start with a bunch of namecalling, in blind quotes. We proceed to a description of the nominees' "packaging" - by whom? - as good, compassionate people. But don't be fooled: the real story is that these judges are human beings - with feelings, don't you know - whose very lives hang in the balance.

Of course, their lives hang in the balance solely because of the remarkable amount of power they seek over the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people, which includes the power of life and death. In my view, the more power you seek, the more scrutiny you should face. But now, apparently, the majesty of public office ennobles anyone who seeks it.

Anyway, back to Benac:
Plenty of other nominees have been here before, transformed into symbols in larger Washington battles for advantage. Many have experienced the frustration of having to remain largely silent throughout the brouhaha.
Note, I beg of you, the sheer nihilism of this passage. There's no sense here that anything is worth fighting for, that anyone's sincere (except, of course, for these seven hapless judicial nominees, and Benac's own sweet self). Nor are there any facts to report about the problems with these nominees; everything's simply a matter of political posturing.

Benac goes on to describe the tribulations of Lani Guinier, who "was branded the 'quota queen' by a conservative critic just one day after President Clinton nominated her to be civil rights chief in the Justice Department. The label stuck."

You bet it did, sister. But then, that was back in the bad old days, before we learned how reprehensible it is to accuse presidents of making political appointments on the basis of race.

Next under the Benacoscope is good ol' Judge Bork. Is there any heart so intransigent, so inert, that it can remain unmoved by a recapitulation of that saintly man's sufferings?

Yes. Mine. So let's move on.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Guinier and Bork became "convenient placeholders for wider political controversy." That is the case this time, too, he said.

"These people have entered the dangerous realm of symbolism," Turley said. "Some of these nominees appear almost to have been selected at random."
You have to admire Benac's ability to find a legal expert who just happens to agree so strongly with the thesis of her article. All the experts who could've offered a differing opinion must've been out raising money for Saddam's legal defense fund.

Having established beyond reasonable doubt that the controversy over these seven nominees is a cynical sham manufactured by vengeful party hacks and unfeeling political opportunists, Benac is free - at last - to discuss their individual cases.

Thus, we learn that two of the nominees from Michigan are being held up as payback for Republican rejection of Democratic nominees. How do we know? 'Cause we just do, that's how. As for the third,
Democrats have more substantive problems with one of them, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad, and want to swap him for a different nominee from the state.
Democrats have problems with Saad that are more substantive than a petty grudge? Go figure. By the way, if you want to know what those problems are, don't expect Benac to tell you. Her forte is the Big Picture. If you're really curious, you can go here to learn about some of the problems with Saad.
The other four appeals judges renominated by Bush have been cast by Democrats as conservative ideologues with extreme views on issues including homosexuality, abortion, affirmative action, labor rights and environmental standards.
How did Democrats "cast" these judges as conservative ideologues? Oh, the usual dirty tricks...looking at their rulings, and various things they said. Petty, vindictive stuff like that.
These four have attracted the most vitriol, perhaps none so much as Janice Rogers Brown. The daughter of an Alabama sharecropper, Brown sits on the California Supreme Court. She has been nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Even Democrats recoiled at a cartoon circulating on the Internet that seems to exploit her race.
Jeez, if that cartoon made even Democrats recoil, it must be pure poison. I mean, think how hardened they are after years of listening to Katie Couric!

Let's take a moment to admire the exceeding cuteness of this article. The only nominee who merits a photo is Janice Rogers Brown. She's described in the first paragraph as a sharecropper's daughter. Just in case there's any doubt on that point, she's identified again as "the daughter of an Alabama sharecropper." And once we've accepted her standing as a Strong Black Woman Who Rose From Humble Beginnings, we'll naturally "recoil" at a cartoon that tried to "exploit her race" by accusing President Bush of exploiting her race.

Quotes from African-American leaders and women's groups opposed to Brown? None. Examples of her outrageously prejudiced, ignorant, and repellent statements, or her appalling judicial rulings? Irrelevant. Mention of her astonishingly low rating from the American Bar Association? Or the fact that three-fourths of the California State Bar's Commission on Judicial Nominees rated her "unqualified" to sit on the California Supreme Court? Hearsay.

Who needs any of that depressing talk, when you've got such an affecting mental picture of a little girl carrying her ragdoll through the cotton fields, in the honeyed light of an Alabama dawn?

The article trails off shortly afterwards; the chore of making Priscilla Owen and William Pryor seem like innocent victims of circumstance is clearly too daunting for Benac, though she does mention that they linger in "judicial purgatory," poor dear lambs.

Personally, I prefer judicial purgatory for them to judicial hell for everyone else.


janeboatler said...

Phila, this is an absolutely superb rant. It made me feel so good. This must be how the conservatives and fundies feel when they listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, and O'Reilly.

The difference is that your rant makes really good sense, and we smart liberal elitists will recognize that.

The crew of ranters mentioned above make no sense, and their base still loves them. What that says about their base is a whole other thing.

monica_nyc said...

Fuck yeah!

Well damn done, Phila.

Tena said...

Great post, Phila. What the holy fucking hell does being a sharecropper's daughter have to do with what kind of judge she is? By doing this, the Right takes hold of the frame and turns it away from the nominees' judicial experience. Instead, people are supposed to focus on their childhoods, which are totally irrelevant.

Man they are so cynical.

Eli said...

The co-optation of token minorities is one of the Republicans' deftest tricks. They have figured out that by nominating minorities and women, or putting them in scapegoat positions (Condi), they can cynically and dishonestly portray Democrats as racist or sexist for opposing them.

Truly vile.