Cracks Develop in Conservative Opposition to Sotomayor

After three days of baseless and race-baiting attacks on Judge Sonia Sotomayor failed to gain traction, cracks are beginning to form in the right’s opposition to this outstanding nominee. Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) denounced an ad launched by an influential conservative organization that claims Sotomayor “led a group supporting violent Puerto Rican terrorists.” Today, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) announced that he believes Sotomayor is “not an activist,” and that her “record as a judge has not been radical.”

In other words, it is clear that Republicans of good faith recognize that opposition to Sotomayor’s nomination is misguided.

Today’s big headline will no doubt be the testimony of firefighters Frank Ricci and Ben Vargas, whose race discrimination claim was rejected by a panel of three judges, including Sotomayor. No one doubts that Ricci and Vargas—men who spent their entire careers running into burning buildings to save people’s lives—are dedicated and heroic firefighters. Sotomayor’s job as a judge was not to decide whether these men are worthy of great respect; the issue is what the law requires. Second Circuit precedent simply wasn’t on their side in this case, and Judge Sotomayor ruled the only way she is permitted to decide as a lower court judge.

If anything has emerged from this week’s hearing, it is Sotomayor’s absolute understanding that the law must control her decisions, regardless of who appears before her. Sen. Graham should be commended for placing this basic truth ahead of politics and rejecting the right’s unfounded claims that Sotomayor is unfit for the Supreme Court. All that remains to be seen is whether conservatives will accept something that is already obvious to anyone familiar with her record, or whether they will continue their race-baiting assault.