I guess approximately no one’s surprised that the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter has elicited the usual cries of “judicial activist” and whatnot from the right wing. But I’m starting to believe that either the knuckle-dragging wing of that party has gotten a whole heck of a lot stupider over the course of the Bush years (definitely not impossible), or that President Obama is nothing short of a Zen master of political jiu-jitsu.
Why? Because of the reactions Sotomayor’s nomination has elicited from the Limburger – ah, Limbaugh – wing of the GOP….which, these days, is the largest wing of all. The predictable outcry against Sotomayor’s nomination in the form of attacks on her assumed judicial philosophy are one thing: routine and expected. But what’s come as a near-total surprise, even to veteran observers of the outer reaches of the fever-swamps of wingnuttia is the degree of vehemence with which the extra-chromosome crowd has attacked Sotomayor, and especially the type of charges they’ve leveled at her.
Everyone from a bilious, spittle-flecked Limbaugh to the narrow-shouldered, bowtied Tucker Carlson took their turn at slightly personalizing the GOP blast-fax talking point that Sotomayor is a racist (or, in the right’s “new” formulation of it, a “reverse racist”). In Limbaugh’s case, the fauxtrage sounded almost pro-forma, as if he was simply phoning it in (perhaps he was low on oxycontin that day). But in Carlson’s specific case, I found it rich beyond words that the scion of Richard Warner Carlson (conservative LA news anchor and former ambassador to – no kidding – the Seychelles) and Patricia Caroline Swanson (heiress to the Swanson frozen-dinner empire) would be polluting the airwaves with cries of reverse racism. Let me be clear: racism is where you find it. And certainly, it is not exclusively the province of one ethnic group or skin color or nationality. But in a country dominated for decades – centuries even – by prosperous, landowning white males and their descendants, it sounds….well…a bit shallow – much like Tucker Carlson often does – to hear one such son of privilege rant on about the racism of a Bronx-raised Latina who finished second in her class at Princeton, and has more judicial experience than any SCOTUS nominee for the last hundred years (according to David Axelrod).
By way of brief illustration, Carlson attended the enormously-expensive, exclusive St. George’s School in Rhode Island for high school. Having attended what I imagine is a comparably snobby, expensive and exclusive private high school myself, I feel relatively familiar with the atmosphere, despite never having set foot on the campus of St. Georges. Who knows – perhaps I’m dead wrong on this. But it’s interesting to note that St. George’s found it needful to include a page at their web site entitled “Diversity Vision Statement“, a page which is entirely separate from their overall mission statement, and is unlike any other page on the entire school web site. Apparently, a separate page outlining their commitment to academic achievement, or on matriculating men and women of high moral fiber weren’t compelling enough for inclusion in the school’s site. But the “Diversity Vision Statement” was/is. Why? Well, the picture at the Diversity Vision Statement link ought to give us some clue, containing as it does a tableau of seven happy St. George’s students….none of whom, save the third from the right, is even vaguely caucasian-looking. And she’s female. Now THAT’S diversity! Only ONE white person – and a female, at that? Goodness! However, according to GreatSchools.net, the racial makeup of St. George’s is 85% white/Caucasian. That seems like an unusual disparity between the professed “diversity vision” and the reality of the school’s makeup. Especially when GreatSchools also reports that the two geographically closest schools to St. George’s – James Maher and Valley Community School – are 60% white and 64% white, respectively. Perhaps having a racial makeup that’s at least 20% whiter than surrounding schools might account for St. George’s perceived to dedicate a full, separate page of their web site to their vision of diversity – because they’re painfully aware that they’re nowhere close to achieving it. Whatever their reasoning, though, this is the academic, moral and cultural environment in which young Tucker “Hungry Man” Carlson was raised, which is why I say it’s a bit rich to hear him pulling the long bow over racism from a top-of-her-class Latina raised in the Bronx by a single mother (from the age of 9 onward).
But I digress. Carlson wasn’t – by far – the only right-wing “luminary” to head down that road (why, it’s almost as if they coordinate their strategy through the use of national blast-faxes and talking points or something!). Newt Gingrich tweeted (update: since deleted) “White man racist would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should withdraw also.” Admittedly, the 140-character limit of Twitter likely prevented Gingrich from expanding upon what he was referring to when he called Sotomayor a racist, but even in forums where the dialogue is unlimited, supporters of this notion were unable to realistically clarify what they meant…at least in a way that made sense to anyone not already initiated into right-wing cant. Watergate-era relic/felon G. Gordon Liddy tossed in his full measure of racism-awareness (as long as it’s coming from someone not-white) when he said:
I understand that they found out today that Miss Sotomayor is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien (this is apparently Liddy-speak for “Spanish”) “the race.” And that should not surprise anyone because she’s already on record with a number of racist comments.
But then Liddy – as is his wont – went the decriers of Sotomayor’s supposed “racism” one better when he hoped peevishly that “the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.” Yes. Good Lord, Gordon – we can’t have women deciding things when they’re “on their moon.” Uppity broads. Uppity racist minority broads.
But perhaps my favorite of all of the bloated white guys screaming “reverse racism?” None other than the anti-immigration movement’s own darling, Tom Tancredo. It was Tancredo who went on CNN (with host Rick Sanchez, no less) and was one of the first to start the “racism” meme – but Tancredo didn’t stop at just calling Sotomayor a racist. No, in the heat of the moment, Tancredo said that as a member of La Raza, Sotomayor belonged to “nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.” Wow. A Latino KKK (albeit “without the nooses,” according to Tancredo).
Now, why would such a statement be my personal favorite? Liddy’s is arguably more offensive on a greater number of fronts, Limbaugh’s is (predictably) more angry-sounding, and there were plenty of other examples. Why was Tancredo’s spur-of-the-moment KKK reference interesting? Because of this:
For years, conservative writer and activist Marcus Epstein has worked with the mainstream of the immigration restrictionist movement. He wrote speeches for former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) during his presidential bid, and he’s still working as the executive director of Tancredo’s Team America PAC, alongside Bay Buchanan.
On July 7, 2007, at approximately 7:15 p.m. at Jefferson and M Street, Northwest, in Washington, D.C., defendant was walking down the street making offensive remarks when he encountered the complainant, Ms. [REDACTED], who is African-American. The defendant uttered, “Nigger,” as he delivered a karate chop to Ms. [REDACTED]’s head.
Epstein has pled guilty and will be sentenced on July 8, although he changed his plea to water down an admission of guilt into the belief that “the government could prove me guilty.”
What do you suppose are the chances that neither Bay Buchanan nor Tom Tancredo knew of this guy’s predilections before they hired him? Or at least not long afterward? Yet he’s still employed at Team America PAC until this fall, when he leaves for law school (shudder)?
If Tancredo feels as if men like this are grade-A employee material, then perhaps it’s no surprise that he can’t tell racism from radishes.