January 15, 2005


. . . at the Democrats' Peril (Ruben Navarrette Jr., January 15, 2005, Washington Post)

Did you catch the score from the Senate confirmation hearing on Alberto Gonzales? Latinos 1, liberals 0.

I say that because my liberal friends were hoping that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee would treat Gonzales like a punching bag, and that didn't happen. And now the Harvard Law School graduate and son of farmworkers appears ready to become the nation's first Latino attorney general. [...]

Liberals aren't stupid. [...] Which brings us to the real reason they're conducting this witch hunt against Gonzales. It isn't all that different from the reasons that Democrats kept Honduran-born, Harvard-educated Miguel Estrada off the federal appeals court. Both men were nominated by a Republican president and owe nothing to the Democratic Party. That makes them a target for liberals, who are only interested in minorities' success if they can claim the credit.

It doesn't endear Gonzales to the left that he also has been mentioned as someone who may yet be nominated to become the first Mexican American on the Supreme Court. Were that barrier to fall -- with the credit going to a Republican president -- the Democratic Party would lose its grip on the nation's largest minority. The stakes couldn't be higher.

And yet Senate Democrats went soft on Gonzales. They had no choice.

They got the message. It was delivered in person by two other Democrats: new Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, who sat at Gonzales's side, and Hector Flores, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who sat just a few rows behind. Both were there to show their support for the Gonzales nomination, and both were -- one assumes -- delighted at the idea of a Latino attorney general.

The message was simple, and it was offered up on behalf of a large portion of the Latino community: "Hurt him, and we'll hurt you."

Which is why Mr. Estrada should be the President's pick for the next open Supreme Court seat--the Democrats veither roll over for him or try and take him out at the cost of their relationship with Latinos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 15, 2005 6:56 PM

A bit off-topic, but Mr. Navarrette's transformation has been remarkable. If you've read his book A Darker Shade of Crimson, he seems to represent a new and hopefully emergent Latino: grateful and mindful of the Civil Rights legacy of the Democrats but open and receptive to aggressive courting by President Bush and other Republicans.

Posted by: AC at January 15, 2005 7:13 PM

Not a bad strategy. The problem with it Gonzales once on the High Court is as likely to be another Souter as he is another Scalia. The political dynamic works just as well with Estrada.

Posted by: MarkD at January 15, 2005 7:55 PM

Sounds good to me. My limited (ok very limited) knowledge is that Estrada is made of sterner stuff (conservative stuff) than Gonzales, but of course you never know for sure.

Why don't we change the Constitution to allow evenly rotating terms of say 18 years for all Nine Justices? In other words one nomination every two years.

Posted by: h-man at January 15, 2005 8:42 PM

It's even better than that. By appointing a Latino conservative, we "burn" the Latino seat, just as we "burned" the Black seat with Thomas.

Quota politics.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 15, 2005 10:29 PM

Forget about nominations entirely. We should have an elected Federal judiciary with 3 justices on the Supreme Court up for re-election every year.

Posted by: Bart at January 16, 2005 8:09 AM


Move to a democracy.

Posted by: oj at January 16, 2005 9:36 AM

"Gonzales once on the High Court is as likely to be another Souter as he is another Scalia"

Mark you really know how to hurt a guy. One difference is that Bush knows Gonzales personally while Souter was Sununi's idea. Another is that Gonzales no longer lives with his mother.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 17, 2005 4:22 PM