Has Obama Backed Off of a Big Opportunity to Heal America’s Racial Divide?


Its interesting to see this article in light of  Media Assassin’s Harry Allen’s article that highlighted the racist backlash Kanye West was receiving for his disruption at the MTV VMA Awards. As much as I disliked what occurred and still feel was staged in spite his mea culpa on Jay Leno, the racial venom being spit at Kanye was and is undeserving. Peep Allen’s article here http://harryallen.info/?p=5154. How ironic that a man who boycotted the UN Conference on Racism now has race at his front door step. The question we need to answer is exactly what steps do we need to take to end some of tthe strife, language and incidents that seem to be occuring with increasing frequency ?

-Davey D-

Has Obama Backed Off of a Big Opportunity to Heal America’s Racial Divide?

By Naomi Klein, The Guardian.


The summer of 2009 was all about race, and Obama has little to lose by using this brief political window of racial animus to heal a few of the country’s racial wounds.

Naomi Kline

Naomi Kline

Americans began the summer still celebrating the dawn of a “post-racial” era. They are ending it under no such illusion. The summer of 2009 was all about race, beginning with Republican claims that Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama’s nominee to the US Supreme Court, was “racist” against whites. Then, just as that scandal was dying down, up popped “the Gates controversy”, the furore over the president’s response to the arrest of African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr in his own home. Obama’s remark that the police had acted “stupidly” was evidence, according to massively popular Fox News host Glenn Beck, that the president “has a deep-seated hatred for white people”.

Obama’s supposed racism gave a jolt of energy to the fringe movement that claims he has been carrying out a lifelong conspiracy to cover up his (fictional) African birth. Then Fox News gleefully discovered Van Jones, White House special adviser on green jobs. After weeks of being denounced as “a black nationalist who is also an avowed communist”, Jones resigned last Sunday.

The undercurrent of all these attacks was that Obama, far from being the colour-blind moderate he posed as during the presidential campaign, is actually obsessed with race, in particular with redistributing white wealth into the hands of African Americans and undocumented Mexican workers. At town hall meetings across the US in August, these bizarre claims coalesced into something resembling an uprising to “take our country back”. Henry D Rose, chair of Blacks For Social Justice, recently compared the overwhelmingly white, often armed, anti-Obama crowds to the campaign of “massive resistance” launched in the late 50s – a last-ditch attempt by white southerners to block the racial integration of their schools and protect other Jim Crow laws. Today’s “new era of ‘massive resistance’,” writes Rose, “is also a white racial project.”

There is at least one significant difference, however. In the late 50s and early 60s, angry white mobs were reacting to life-changing victories won by the civil rights movement. Today’s mobs, on the other hand, are reacting to the symbolic victory of an African American winning the presidency. Yet they are rising up at a time when non-elite blacks and Latinos are losing significant ground, with their homes and jobs slipping away from them at a much higher rate than from whites. So far, Obama has been unwilling to adopt policies specifically geared towards closing this ever-widening divide. The result may well leave minorities with the worst of all worlds: the pain of a full-scale racist backlash without the benefits of policies that alleviate daily hardships. Meanwhile, with Obama constantly painted by the radical right as a cross between Malcolm X and Karl Marx, most progressives feel it is their job to defend him – not to point out that, when it comes to tackling the economic crisis ravaging minority communities, the president is not doing nearly enough.

For many antiracist campaigners, the realisation that Obama might not be the leader they had hoped for came when he announced his administration would be boycotting the UN Durban Review Conference on racism, widely known as “Durban II“. Almost all of the public debate about the conference focused on its supposed anti-Israel bias. When it actually took place in April in Geneva, virtually all we heard about was Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory speech, which was met with rowdy disruptions, from the EU delegates who walked out, to the French Jewish students who put on clown wigs and red noses, and tried to shout him down.

Lost in the circus atmosphere was the enormous importance of the conference to people of African descent, and nowhere more so than among Obama’s most loyal base. The US civil rights movement had embraced the first Durban conference, held in summer 2001, with great enthusiasm, viewing it as the start of the final stage of Martin Luther King’s dream for full equality. Though most black leaders offered only timid public criticism of the president’s Durban II boycott, the decision was discussed privately as his most explicit betrayal of the civil rights struggle since taking office.

The original 2001 gathering was not all about Israelis v Palestinians, or antisemitism, as so many have claimed (though all certainly played a role). The conference was overwhelmingly about Africa, the ongoing legacy of slavery and the huge unpaid debts that the rich owe the poor.

Holding the 2001 World Conference against Racism in what was still being called “the New South Africa” had seemed a terrific idea. World leaders would gather to congratulate themselves on having slain the scourge of apartheid, then pledge to defeat the world’s few remaining vestiges of discrimination – things such as police violence, unequal access to certain jobs, lack of adequate healthcare for minorities and intolerance towards immigrants. Appropriate disapproval would be expressed for such failures of equality, and a well-meaning document pledging change would be signed to much fanfare. That, at least, is what western governments expected to happen.

They were mistaken. When the conference arrived in Durban, many delegates were shocked by the angry mood in the streets: tens of thousands of South Africans joined protests outside the conference centre, holding signs that said “Landlessness = racism” and “New apartheid: rich and poor”. Many denounced the conference as a sham, and demanded concrete reparations for the crimes of apartheid. South Africa’s disillusionment, though particularly striking given its recent democratic victory, was part of a much broader global trend, one that would define the conference, in both the streets and the assembly halls. Around the world, developing countries were increasingly identifying the so-called Washington Consensus economic policies as little more than a clever rebranding effort, a way for former northern colonial powers to continue to drain the southern countries of their wealth without being inconvenienced by the heavy lifting of colonialism. Roughly two years before Durban, a coalition of developing countries had refused further to liberalise their economies, leading to the collapse of World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle. A few months later, a newly militant movement calling for a debt jubilee disrupted the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Durban was a continuation of this mounting southern rebellion, but it added something else to the mix: an invoice for past thefts.

Although it was true that southern countries owed debts to foreign banks and lending institutions, it was also true that in the colonial period – the first wave of globalisation – the wealth of the north was built, in large part, on stolen indigenous land and free labour provided by the slave trade. Many in Durban argued that when these two debts were included in the calculus, it was actually the poorest regions of the world – especially Africa and the Caribbean – that turned out to be the creditors and the rich world that owed a debt. All big UN conferences tend to coalesce around a theme, and in Durban 2001 the clear theme was the call for reparations. The overriding message was that even though the most visible signs of racism had largely disappeared – colonial rule, apartheid, Jim Crow-style segregation – profound racial divides will persist and even widen until the states and corporations that profited from centuries of state-sanctioned racism pay back some of what they owe.

African and Caribbean governments came to Durban with two key demands. The first was for an acknowledgment that slavery and even colonialism itself constituted “crimes against humanity” under international law; the second was for the countries that perpetrated and profited from these crimes to begin to repair the damage. Most everyone agreed that reparations should include a clear and unequivocal apology for slavery, as well as a commitment to returning stolen artefacts and to educating the public about the scale and impact of the slave trade. Above and beyond these more symbolic acts, there was a great deal of debate. Dudley Thompson, former Jamaican foreign minister and a longtime leader in the Pan-African movement, was opposed to any attempt to assign a number to the debt: “It is impossible to put a figure to killing millions of people, our ancestors,” he said. The leading reparations voices instead spoke of a “moral debt” that could be used as leverage to reorder international relations in multiple ways, from cancelling Africa’s foreign debts to launching a huge develop­ ment programme for Africa on a par with Europe’s Marshall Plan. What was emerging was a demand for a radical New Deal for the global south.

African and Caribbean countries had been holding high-level summits on reparations for a decade, with little effect. What prompted the Durban breakthrough was that a similar debate had taken off inside the US. The facts are familiar, if commonly ignored. Even as individual blacks break the colour barrier in virtually every field, the correlation between race and poverty remains deeply entrenched. Blacks in the US consistently have dramatically higher rates of infant mortality, HIV infection, incarceration and unemployment, as well as lower salaries, life expectancy and rates of home ownership. The biggest gap, however, is in net worth. By the end of the 90s, the average black family had a net worth one eighth the national average. Low net worth means less access to traditional credit (and, as we’d later learn, more sub-prime mortgages). It also means families have little besides debt to pass from one generation to the next, preventing the wealth gap closing on its own.

In 2000, Randall Robinson published The Debt: What America Owes To Blacks, which argued that “white society… must own up to slavery and acknowledge its debt to slavery’s contemporary victims”. The book became a national bestseller, and within months the call for reparations was starting to look like a new anti-apartheid struggle. Students demanded universities disclose their historical ties to the slave trade, city councils began holding public hearings on reparations, chapters of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America had sprung up across the country and Charles Ogletree, the celebrated Harvard law professor (and one of Obama’s closest mentors), put together a team of all-star lawyers to try to win reparations lawsuits in US courts.

By spring 2001, reparations had become the hot-button topic on US talkshows and op-ed pages. And though opponents consistently portrayed the demand as blacks wanting individual handouts from the government, most reparations advocates were clear they were seeking group solutions: mass scholarship funds, for instance, or major investments in preventive healthcare, inner cities and crumbling schools. By the time Durban rolled around in late August, the conference had taken on the air of a black Woodstock. Angela Davis was coming. So were Jesse Jackson and Danny Glover. Small radical groups such as the National Black United Front spent months raising money to buy hundreds of plane tickets to South Africa. Activists travelled to Durban from 168 countries, but the largest delegation by far came from the US: approximately 3,000 people, roughly 2,000 of them African Americans. Ogletree pumped up the crowds with an energetic address: “This is a movement that cannot be stopped… I promise we will see reparations in our lifetime.”

The call for reparations took many forms, but one thing was certain: antiracism was transformed in Durban from something safe and comfortable for elites to embrace into something explosive and potentially very, very costly. North American and European governments, the debtors in this new accounting, tried desperately to steer the negotiations on to safe terrain. “We are better to look forward and not point fingers backward,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said. It was a losing battle. Durban, according to Amina Mohamed, chief negotiator for the Africa bloc, was Africa’s “rendezvous with history”.

Not everyone was willing to show up for the encounter, however, and that is where the Israel controversies come in. Durban, it should be remembered, took place in the aftermath of the collapse of the Oslo Accords, and there were those who hoped the conference could somehow fill the political vacuum. Six months before the meeting in Durban, at an Asian preparatory conference in Tehran, a few Islamic countries requested language in their draft of the Durban Declaration that described Israeli policies in the occupied territories as “a new kind of apartheid” and a “form of genocide”. Then, a month before the conference, there was a new push for changes: references to the Holocaust were paired with the “ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine”, while references to “the increase in antisemitism and hostile acts against Jews” were twinned with phrases about “the increase of racist practices of Zionism”, and Zionism was described as a movement “based on racism and discriminatory ideas”.

There were cases to be made for all of it, but this was language sure to tear the meeting apart (just as “Zionism equals racism” resolutions had torn apart UN gatherings before). Meanwhile, as soon as the conference began, the parallel forum for non-governmental organisations began to spiral out of control. With more than 8,000 participants and no ground rules to speak of, the NGO forum turned into a free-for-all, with, among other incidents, the Arab Lawyers Union passing out a booklet that contained Der Stürmer–style cartoons of hook-nosed Jews with bloody fangs.

High-profile NGO and civil rights leaders roundly condemned the antisemitic incidents, as did Mary Robinson, then UN high commissioner for human rights. None of the controversial language about Israel and Zionism made it into the final Durban Declaration. But for the newly elected administration of George W Bush, that was besides the point. Already testing the boundaries of what would become a new era of US unilateralism, Bush latched on to the gathering’s alleged anti-Israel bias as the perfect excuse to flee the scene, neatly avoiding the debates over Israel and reparations. Early in the conference, the US and Israel walked out.

Despite the disruptions, Africa was not denied its rendezvous with history. The final Durban Declaration became the first document with international legal standing to state that “slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade”. This language was more than symbolic. When lawyers had sought to win slavery reparations in US courts, the biggest barrier was always the statute of limitations, which had long since expired. But if slavery was “a crime against humanity”, it was not restricted by any statute.

On the final day of the conference, after Canada tried to minimise the significance of the declaration, Amina Mohamed, now a top official in the Kenyan government, took the floor in what many remember as the most dramatic moment of the gathering. “Madame President,” Mohamed said, “it is not a crime against humanity just for today, nor just for tomorrow, but for always and for all time. Nuremberg made it clear that crimes against humanity are not time-bound.” Any acts that take responsibility for these crimes, therefore, “are expected and are in order”. The assembly hall erupted in cheers and a long standing ovation.

Groups of African American activists spent their last day at the conference planning a “Millions for Reparations” march on Washington. Attorney Roger Wareham, co-counsel on a high-profile reparations lawsuit and one of the organisers, recalled that as they left South Africa, “people were on a real rolling high” – ready to take their movement to the next level.

That was 9 September 2001. Two days later, Africa’s “rendezvous with history” was all but forgotten. The profound demands that rose up from Durban during that first week of September 2001 – for debt cancellation, for reparations for slavery and apartheid, for land redistribution and indigenous land rights, for compensation, not charity – have never again managed to command international attention. At various World Bank meetings and G8 summits there is talk, of course, of graciously providing aid to Africa and perhaps “forgiving” its debts. But there is no suggestion that it might be the G8 countries that are the debtors and Africa the creditor. Or that it is we, in the west, who should be asking forgiveness.

Because Durban disappeared before it had ever fully appeared, it’s sometimes hard to believe it happened at all. As Bill Fletcher, author and long-time advocate for African rights, puts it: “It was as if someone had pressed a giant delete button.”

When news came that the Durban follow-up conference would take place three months into Obama’s presidency, many veterans of the first gathering were convinced the time had finally come to restart that interrupted conversation. And at first the Obama administration seemed to be readying to attend, even sending a small delegation to one of the preparatory conferences. So when Obama announced that he, like Bush before him, would be boycotting, it came as a blow. Especially because the state department’s official excuse was that the declaration for the new conference was biased against Israel. The evidence? That the document – which does not reference Israel once – “reaffirms” the 2001 Durban Declaration. Never mind that that was so watered down that Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, praised it at the time as “an accomplishment of the first order for Israel” and “a painful comedown for the Arab League”.

When disappointed activists reconvened for the Durban Review Conference this April, talk in the corridors often turned to the unprecedented sums governments were putting on the line to save the banks. Roger Wareham, for instance, pointed out that if Washington can find billions to bail out AIG, it can also say, “We’re going to bail out people of African descent because this is what’s happened historically.” It’s true that, at least on the surface, the economic crisis has handed the reparations movement some powerful new arguments. The hardest part of selling reparations in the US has always been the perception that something would have to be taken away from whites in order for it to be given to blacks and other minorities. But because of the broad support for large stimulus spending, there is a staggering amount of new money floating around – money that does not yet belong to any one group.

Obama’s approach to stimulus spending has been rightly criticised for lacking a big idea – the $787bn package he unveiled shortly after taking office is a messy grab bag, with little ambition actually to fix any one of the problems on which it nibbles. Listening to Wareham in Geneva, it occurred to me that a serious attempt to close the economic gaps left by slavery and Jim Crow is as good a big stimulus idea as any.

What is tantalising (and maddening) about Obama is that he has the skills to persuade a great many Americans of the justice of such an endeavour. The one time he gave a major campaign address on race, prompted by controversy over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, he told a story about the historical legacies of slavery and legalised discrimination that have structurally prevented African Americans from achieving full equality, a story not so different from the one activists such as Wareham tell in arguing for reparations. Obama’s speech was delivered six months before Wall Street collapsed, but the same forces he described go a long way toward explaining why the crash happened in the first place: “Legalised discrimination… meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations,” Obama said, which is precisely why many turned to risky sub-prime mortgages. In Obama’s home city of Chicago, black families were four times more likely than whites to get a sub-prime mortgage.

The crisis in African American wealth has only been deepened by the larger economic crisis. In New York City, for instance, the unemployment rate has increased four times faster among blacks than among whites. According to the New York Times, home “defaults occur three times as often in mostly minority census tracts as in mostly white ones”. If Obama traced the Wall Street collapse back to the policies of redlining and Jim Crow, all the way to the betrayed promise of 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves, a broad sector of the American public might well be convinced that finally eliminating the structural barriers to full equality is in the interests not just of minorities but of everyone who wants a more stable economy.

Since the economic crisis hit, John A Powell and his team at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University have been engaged in a project they call “Fair Recovery”. It lays out exactly what an economic stimulus programme would look like if eliminating the barriers to equality were its overarching idea. Powell’s plan covers everything from access to technology to community redevelopment. A few examples: rather than simply rebuilding the road system by emphasising “shovel ready” projects (as Obama’s current plan does), a “fair recovery” approach would include massive investments in public transport to address the fact that African Americans live farther away than any other group from where the jobs are. Similarly, a plan targeting inequality would focus on energy-efficient home improvements in low-income neighbourhoods and, most importantly, require that contractors hire locally. Combine all of these targeted programmes with real health and education reform and, whether or not you call it “reparations”, you have something approaching what Randall Robinson called for in The Debt: “A virtual Marshall Plan of federal resources” to close the racial divide.

In his Philadelphia “race speech”, Obama was emphatic that race was something “this nation cannot afford to ignore”; that “if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like healthcare, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American”. Yet as soon as the speech had served its purpose (saving Obama’s campaign from being engulfed by the Wright scandal), he did simply retreat. And his administration has been retreating from race ever since.

Public policy activists report that the White House is interested in hearing only about projects that are “race neutral” – nothing that specifically targets historically disadvantaged constituencies. Its housing and education programmes do not tackle the need for desegregation; indeed Obama’s enthusiasm for privately-run “charter” schools may well deepen segregation, since charters are some of the most homogenous schools in the country. When asked specific questions about what his administration is doing to address the financial crisis’s wildly disproportionate impact on African Americans and Latinos, Obama has consistently offered a variation on the line that, by fixing the economy and extending benefits, everyone will be helped, “black, brown and white”, and the vulnerable most of all.

All this is being met with mounting despair among inequality experts. Extending unemployment benefits and job retraining mainly help people who’ve just lost their jobs. Reaching those who have never had formal employment – many of whom have criminal records – requires a far more complex strategy that takes down multiple barriers simultaneously. “Treating people who are situated differently as if they were the same can result in much greater inequalities,” Powell warns. It will be difficult to measure whether this is the case because the White House’s budget office is so far refusing even to keep statistics on how its programmes affect women and minorities.

There were those who saw this coming. The late Latino activist Juan Santos wrote a much-circulated essay during the presidential campaign in which he argued that Obama’s unwillingness to talk about race (except when his campaign depended upon it) was a triumph not of post-racialism but of racism, period. Obama’s silence, he argued, was the same silence every person of colour in America lives with, understanding that they can be accepted in white society only if they agree not to be angry about racism. “We stay silent, as a rule, on the job. We stay silent, as a rule, in the white world. Barack Obama is the living symbol of our silence. He is our silence writ large. He is our Silence running for president.” Santos predicted that “with respect to Black interests, Obama would be a silenced Black ruler: A muzzled Black emperor.”

Many of Obama’s defenders responded angrily: his silence was a mere electoral strategy, they said. He was doing what it took to make racist white people comfortable voting for a black man. All that would change, of course, when Obama took office. What Obama’s decision to boycott Durban demonstrated definitively was that the campaign strategy is also the governing strategy.

Two weeks after the close of the Durban Review Conference, Rush Limbaugh sprang a new theory on his estimated 14 million listeners. Obama, Limbaugh claimed, was deliberately trashing the economy so he could give more handouts to black people. “The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. The objective is to take the nation’s wealth and return it to the nation’s ‘rightful owners’. Think reparations. Think forced reparations here, if you want to understand what actually is going on.”

It was nonsense, of course, but the outburst was instructive. No matter how race-neutral Obama tries to be, his actions will be viewed by a large part of the country through the lens of its racial obsessions. So, since even his most modest, Band-Aid measures are going to be greeted as if he is waging a full-on race war, Obama has little to lose by using this brief political window actually to heal a few of the country’s racial wounds.

• A longer version of this article appears in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine

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John McCain Says No To Sonia Sotomayor-What is the GOP Thinking?



When I read about guys like John Mccain from Arizona or the two Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Coryn saying they aren’t gonna vote for Sonia Sotomayor, it makes me wonder what sort of plans does the GOP have for courting a growing Latino vote?

As the country grows Blacker and Browner and both communities find they are facing similar economic, social and political oppression the potential for a game changing Black-Brown coalition to form is in place.  I can only wonder how the GOP will reconcile this, especially in places like Texas and Arizona where you have large Latino populations.

Granted an entire community’s vote is not hinged on a Yea or Nay nomination for a seat even one on the Supreme Court, however, the rejection of Sotomayor has been laced with some unavoidable racial undertones. This is coupled by over-the-top hate speech from Right-wing talk show hosts  who pull no punches.  Is the GOP really trying to shoot itself in the foot?

I keep thinking the GOP is soon going to be doing some divide and conquer type things to split the potential strong hold a solid Black-Brown political coalition one can have. It won’t be the first time they’ve done this.

-Davey D-


August 3, 2009
Washington, D.C. ¬- U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today made the following statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate:  

John McCain says he ain't gonna be supporting Sonia Sotomayor. Here's a guy who can suypport an idiotic racist like Sarah Palin, but he can't get behind a strong intelligent sister like Sonia Sotomayor-Go figure.

John McCain says he ain't gonna be supporting Sonia Sotomayor. Here's a guy who can suypport an idiotic racist like Sarah Palin, but he can't get behind a strong intelligent sister like Sonia Sotomayor-Go figure.

“Mr. President, it is with great respect for Judge Sotomayor’s qualifications that I come to the floor today to discuss her nomination to the Supreme Court. 
“There is no doubt that Judge Sotomayor has the professional background and qualifications that one hopes for in a Supreme Court nominee.  She is a former prosecutor, served as an attorney in private practice and spent twelve years as an appellate court judge.  She is an immensely qualified candidate.
“And obviously, Judge Sotomayor’s life story is inspiring and compelling.  As the child of Puerto Rican parents who did not speak English upon their arrival to New York, Judge Sotomayor took it upon herself to learn English and become an outstanding student.  She graduated cum laude from Princeton University and later from Yale Law School.  Judge Sotomayor herself stated that she is ‘an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences.’ 
“However, an excellent resume and an inspiring life story are not enough to qualify one for a lifetime of service on the Supreme Court.  Those who suggest otherwise need to be reminded of Miguel Estrada.  Mr. Estrada also was a supremely qualified candidate.  And he too has an incredible life story.  Miguel Estrada actually immigrated to the United States from Honduras as a teenager, understanding very little English.  Yet, he managed to graduate from Columbia University and Harvard Law School magna cum laude before serving his country as a prosecutor and a lawyer at the Department of Justice.  Later, he found success as a lawyer in private practice.  However, Miguel Estrada, in spite of his qualifications and remarkable background – in spite of the fact that millions of Latinos would have taken great pride in his confirmation – was filibustered by the Democrats seven times, most recently in 2003 because many Democrats disagreed with Mr. Estrada’s judicial philosophy.  This was the first filibuster ever to be successfully used against a court of appeals nominee. 

Texas Senator and Gubenatoral candidate Kay Bailey Hutchinson says she will not vote for Sonia Sotomayor

Texas Senator and Gubenatoral candidate Kay Bailey Hutchinson says she will not vote for Sonia Sotomayor

 “I supported Mr. Estrada’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, not because of his inspiring life story or impeccable qualifications, but because his judicial philosophy was one of restraint.  He was explicit in his writings and responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would not seek to legislate from the bench.
“In 1987, I had my first opportunity to provide ‘advice and consent’ on a Supreme Court nominee.  At that time, I stated that the qualifications I believed were essential for evaluating a nominee for the bench included ‘integrity, character, legal competence and ability, experience, and philosophy and judicial temperament.’ 
 “When I spoke of ‘philosophy and judicial temperament’ is it specifically how one seeks to interpret the law while serving on the bench.  I believe that a judge should seek to uphold all acts of Congress and state legislatures unless they clearly violate a specific section of the Constitution and refrain from interpreting the law in a manner that creates law.  While I believe Judge Sotomayor has many of these qualifications I outlined in 1987, I do not believe that she shares my belief in judicial restraint. 
 “When the Senate was considering Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the Second Circuit in 1998, I reviewed her decisions and her academic writings.  Her writings demonstrated that she does not subscribe to the philosophy that federal judges should respect the limited nature of the judicial power under our Constitution.  Judges who stray beyond their constitutional role believe that judges somehow have a greater insight into the meaning of the broad principles of our Constitution than representatives who are elected by the people.  These activist judges assume that the judiciary is a super-legislature of moral philosophers. 
“I know of no more profoundly anti-democratic attitude than that expressed by those who want judges to discover and enforce the ever-changing boundaries of a so-called ‘living Constitution.’  It demonstrates a lack of respect for the popular will that is at fundamental odds with our republican system of government.  And regardless of one’s success in academics and government service, an individual who does not appreciate the common sense limitations on judicial power in our democratic system of government ultimately lacks a key qualification for a lifetime appointment to the bench.
 “Though she attempted to walk back from her long public record of judicial activism during her confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor cannot change her record.  In a 1996 article in the Suffolk University Law Review, she stated that ‘a given judge (or judges) may develop a novel approach to a specific set of facts or legal framework that pushes the law in a new direction.’  Mr. President, it is exactly this view that I disagree with.
“As a district court judge, her decisions too often strayed beyond settled legal norms.  Several times, this resulted in her decisions being overturned by the Second Circuit.  She was reversed due to her reliance on foreign law rather than U.S. law.  She was reversed because the Second Circuit found she exceeded her jurisdiction in deciding a case involving a state law claim.  She was reversed for trying to impose a settlement in a dispute between businesses.  And she was reversed for unnecessarily limiting the intellectual property rights of freelance authors.  These are but a few examples that led me to vote against her nomination to the Second Circuit in 1992 because of her troubling record of being an activist judge who strayed beyond the rule of law. 
“For this reason, I closely followed her confirmation hearing last month.  During the hearing, she clearly stated that ‘as a judge, I don’t make law.’  While I applaud this statement, it does not reflect her record as an appellate court judge.  As an appellate court judge, Judge Sotomayor has been overturned by the Supreme Court six times.  In the several of the reversals of Judge Sotomayor’s Second Circuit opinions, the Supreme Court strongly criticized her decision and reasoning.  In a seventh case, the Supreme Court vacated the ruling noting that in her written opinion for the majority of Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor had ignored two prior Supreme Court decisions. 
 “While I do not believe that reversal by the Supreme Court is a disqualifying factor for being considered for the federal bench, I do believe that such cases must be studied in reviewing a nominee’s record. 
 “Most recently, in 2008, the Supreme Court noted in an opinion overturning Judge Sotomayor that her decision ‘flies in the face of the statutory language’ and chided the Second Circuit for extending a remedy that the Court had ‘consistently and repeatedly recognized for three decades forecloses such an extension here.’  Unfortunately, it appears from this case, Malesko v. Correctional Services Corp., that Judge Sotomayor does not seek ‘fidelity to the law’ as she pledged at her confirmation hearing.  As legislators, we enact laws.  The courts must apply the law faithfully.  The job of a judge is not to make law or ignore the law. 
“Further, in Lopez Torres v. N.Y. State Board of Elections, the Supreme Court overturned Judge Sotomayor’s decision that a state law allowing for the political parties to nominate state judges through a judicial district convention was unconstitutional because it did not give people, in her view, a ‘fair shot.’  In overturning her decision, the Supreme Court took aim at her views on providing a ‘fair shot,’ to all interested persons stating, ‘it is hardly a manageable constitutional question for judges – especially for judges in our legal system, where traditional electoral practice gives no hint of even the existence, much less the content, of a constitutional requirement for a ‘fair shot’ at party nomination.’
 “In her most recent and well-known reversal by the Supreme Court, the Court unanimously rejected Judge Sotomayor’s reasoning and held that white firefighters who had passed a race neutral exam were eligible for promotion.  Ricci v. DeStefano raised the bar considerably on overt discrimination against one racial group simply to undo the unintentionally racially skewed results of otherwise fair and objective employment procedures.  Again, this case proves that Judge Sotomayor does not faithfully apply the law we legislators enact. 
“Again and again, Judge Sotomayor seeks to amend the law to fit the circumstances of the case, thereby substituting herself in the role of a legislator.  Our Constitution is very clear in its delineation and disbursement of power.  It solely tasks the Congress with creating law.  It also clearly defines the appropriate role of the courts to ‘extend to all Cases in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties.’  To protect the equal, but separate roles of all three branches of government, I cannot support activist judges that seek to legislate from the bench.  I have not supported such nominees in the past, and I cannot support such a nominee to the highest court in the land. 
 “When the people of Arizona sent me to Washington, I took an oath.  I swore to uphold the Constitution.  For millions of Americans, it is clear what the Constitution means.  The Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms to protect himself, his home, and his family.  The Constitution protects our right to protest our government, speak freely and practice our religious beliefs.
“The American people will be watching this week when the Senate votes on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.  She is a judge who has foresworn judicial activism in her confirmation hearings, but who has a long record of it prior to 2009.  And should she engage in activist decisions that overturn the considered constitutional judgments of millions of Americans, if she uses her lifetime appointment on the bench as a perch to remake law in her own image of justice, I expect that Americans will hold us Senators accountable.
 “Judicial activism demonstrates a lack of respect for the popular will that is at fundamental odds with our republican system of government.  And, as I stated earlier, regardless of one’s success in academics and in government service, an individual who does not appreciate the common sense limitations on judicial power in our democratic system of government ultimately lacks a key qualification for a lifetime appointment to the bench.  For this reason, and no other, I am unable to support Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.”

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Pat Buchanan Calls Sonia Sotomayor a Minor Leaguer-Says white men didn’t get a fair shake during hearings



Editor’s Note: For decades, conservatives played on the racist and sexist fears of their constituents by spinning dramatic tales of the white man’s decline in the face of advances by women, African-Americans, Hispanics and other minority groups. Conveniently putting aside their calls for personal responsibility, conservative pundits and many GOP legislators blamed the woes of working-class white men on affirmative action programs.

Uppity women and minority groups, or so the story went, were exploiting past injustice to gain an unearned leg-up over more deserving white males. White men were, allegedly, increasingly victimized by government policies that privileged women and minorities.

Needless to say, conservatives were far more concerned with rolling back the rights of women and minorities than offering policy solutions that truly helped low-income white men.

In the past few months, conservative griping about the oppression of white men has come back with a vengeance. Lacking any real material with which to attack judicial nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Republican lawmakers and media conservatives have mightily struggled to paint Sotomayor as an unqualified affirmative-action candidate — one committed to using the law to erode the rights of while males. 

 Sotomayor was absurdly attacked as a “reverse racist”; she was accused of gaming the system to get ahead; her temperament, educational achievements and judicial history were slimely undermined despite ample evidence that she is more than qualified to serve on the Court.

Some of the most vicious attacks have come from Pat Buchanan, a conservative extremist who for mysterious reasons still enjoys a spot on MSNBC as a “political analyst”. Recently Buchanan appeared on the Rachel Maddow show to argue that Sotomayor has made a career of discriminating against white males and that her nomination constitutes affirmative action run amok. Needless to say, Maddow easily dispatched Buchanan’s silly — and racist — arguments. By the end, the frazzled Buchanan looked like someone’s racist grandpa, as Maddow showed just how irrelevant, retrograde and blatantly racist conservative grievance-based ideology has become.

Source: http://www.alternet.org/story/141425/rachel_maddow_takes_down_msnbc%27s_resident_racist%2C_pat_buchanan/

Here is the full transcript:

Rachel Maddow Takes Down MSNBC’s Resident Racist, Pat Buchanan

Rachel Maddow: One prominent Republican who believes that the Republicans did not make enough of the issue of race at the Sotomayor confirmation hearing is my MSNBC colleague, Patrick J. Buchanan, who argued in his column this week that the hearings should have been seized even more by Republicans to try to win over white conservatives who feel aggrieved by racial issues.

He says, quote, “These are the folks that pay the price of affirmative action when their sons and daughters are pushed aside to make room for the Sonia Sotomayors. What Republicans must do is expose Sotomayor as a political activist whose career bespeaks a lifelong resolve to discriminate against white males.”

“Even if Sotomayor is confirmed,” Pat says, “making the nation aware she a militant supporter since college days of ethnic and gender preferences is an I assignment worth pursuing.”

Joining us now is my MSNBC political colleague, Pat Buchanan.

Pat, it is-it’s been far too long since you’ve been on the show.

It’s so nice to see you.

 Pat Buchanan, MSNBC Political Analyst: Good to see you, Rachel.

Rachel Maddow confronted Pat Buchannon who is upset that white men aren't getting a full shake with the recent nomination of Sonia Satamayor

Rachel Maddow confronted Pat Buchannon who is upset that white men aren't getting a full shake with the recent nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court


So, your argument is that Republicans could reap political rewards by making the argument that Sotomayor essentially doesn’t deserve to be on the supreme court, that she’s only there because of her race. Is that-is that-did I understand your argument correctly?

PB: Well, I think I would vote no on Sonia Sotomayor the same way I would have voted no on Harriet Miers-and I said so the first day she was nominated.

I don’t think Judge Sonia Sotomayor is qualified for the United States Supreme Court. She has not shown any great intellect here or any great depth of knowledge of the Constitution. She’s never written anything that I’ve read in terms of a law review article or major book or something like that on the law.

And I do believe she’s an affirmative action appointment by the president of the United States. He eliminated everyone but four women and then he picked the Hispanic. I think this is an affirmative action appointment and I would vote no.

RM: And what do you-what do you think that affirmative action is for?

PB: Affirmative action is to increase diversity by discriminating against white males. As Alan Bakke was discriminated at the University of California at Davis; As Brian Weber, that worker in Louisiana was discriminated against; As Frank Ricci and those firefighters were discriminated against; As Jennifer Gratz, was discriminated against and kept out of the University of Michigan which she set her heart on, even though her grades were far higher than people who were aloud in there.

That’s the type-affirmative action is basically reverse discrimination against white males and it’s as wrong as discrimination against black females and Hispanics and others. And that’s why I oppose it.

RM: I obviously-I have a different view about it, but I want to give you a chance to explain what you —

PB: But why do you have a different view? Why is it OK to discriminate against white males?

RM: Well, let me ask you this.

PB: Sure.

RM: Why do you think is that of the 110 Supreme Court justices we’ve had in this country, 108 of them have been white?

PB: Well, I think white men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy.

This has been a country built basically by white folks in this country who are 90 percent of the entire nation — in 1960, when I was growing up, Rachel — and the other 10 percent were African-American who had been discriminated against. That’s why.

RM: But does that mean that you think that there are 108 of 110 white Supreme Court justices because white people essentially deserve to have 99.5 percent of those positions? That doesn’t reflect any sort of barrier to those positions by people who aren’t white. You think that’s just purely on the basis of what white people have deserved to get?

PB: I think a lot of people get up there for a lot of reason, but my argument would be: get the finest mind you can get. Get real scholars. Whether you agree with Bork or Scalia or not, they’re tremendous minds and I think there are other minds. I’m sure the Democratic Party, I’m sure has women there that can stand up head-to-head with Scalia and make the case, who have got tremendous credential, knowledge, background.

But this one doesn’t have that. She was appointed because she’s a Latina, a Hispanic and a woman.

RM: She’s also —

PB: I mean, look at —

RM: She is also the judicial nominee who has more judging experience than any judge has gone up in, say, in the past, I don’t know, what is it, 70 years? She has been an appellate court judge of some distinction for a lot longer than Judge Roberts was, Judge Alito was. I mean, it’s not like she was picked out —

PB: Rachel.

RM: She was like picked out of the minor leagues and brought up here, Pat.

PB: Listen, it certainly is. Look at her own words in “The New York Times,” from the tapes. It’s in “The New York Times,” June 11th. She said, “I’m an affirmative action baby.”

RM: Yes.

PB: I got into Princeton on affirmative action. I got into Yale. I didn’t have the scores that these other kids did. How did she get on Yale law review? Affirmative action. How did she get on the federal bench by Moynihan? Moynihan needs a Hispanic woman just like Barack Obama needs a Hispanic woman. That is not the criteria we ought to use, Rachel.

RM: But, Pat —

PB: … for Supreme Court justices, conservative or liberal. That’s why I opposed Harriet Miers. I said I know she’s going to vote with me. She’s a good Christian woman. She’s probably a fine lawyer, but she’s not Supreme Court material, and neither is Sonia Sotomayor. And I think you know that, Rachel.

RM: I don’t know that at all. And I would say that if you and I agree that what our country needs is to be able to choose from the largest possible pool of talent in order to be able to pick the people who are going to have to function at the highest levels so that our country can compete and our country to do all the hard things we need do, I would hope that you would see that picking 108 out of 110 white justices.

PB: Rachel.

RM: … to the Supreme Court means that other people aren’t actually being appropriately considered. And the reason that you have affirmative action is that you recognize that the fact that people were discriminated against for hundreds of years in this country means that you sort of gamed the system, unless you give other people a leg up.

PB: It is not. It does not.

RM: . the best schools and the best jobs-hold on, I let you talk for a while.

PB: She was put into the best schools. She was put into the best schools.

RM: That’s right. She was …

PB: Of affirmative action, not because of ability, Rachel. She was put there, she said herself, because of where she came from. She’s a Hispanic woman. She’s from Puerto Rico. That’s why she was passed over. Other students who applied there with better scores who were denied the right to go to Princeton.

RM: Do you think that she got the grades that she got at Princeton on the basis of affirmative action, too?

PB: I think what they do in the Ivy League, and you know it as well as I do, that half the class graduates cum laude these days.

RM: How did you do at Georgetown compared to how she did at Princeton?

PB: I’ll tell you, I graduated higher in my high school, I will bet or as high as she did. And I certainly say, in Georgetown, I did. And I’ll tell you, I will match my test scores against her — but I’m not qualified for the United States Supreme Court.

RM: But, Pat, for you to argue that there’s no basis on which the United States benefits …

PB: Right.

RM: … from having Hispanics be among the people who we choose the best and brightest from defies belief.

PB: I don’t.

RM: The idea that you think we’ll best serve by only choosing among 99.9 percent white people.

PB: Hold it. No, no, no.

RM: … to hold these jobs, I don’t believe you believe it, Pat.


Pat Buchanan is upset that the race issue was stirred up more during the Sonia Sotomayor hearings

Pat Buchanan is upset that the race issue was stirred up more during the Sonia Sotomayor hearings


I — hold on — I believe everybody should get a chance to excel and be on the United States Supreme Court. But if I look at the U.S. track team in the Olympics, and they’re all black folks, I don’t automatically assume it’s discrimination. I will say, “I think maybe those are the fastest guys we got, that maybe they’re the fastest guys in the country, maybe they’re the fastest in the world. If they’re all — our Olympic team in hockey is eight white guys from Minnesota, I don’t assume discrimination.

Why do you assume discrimination simply because you got one component on the Supreme Court? Where is the genius you think who’s a woman and a feminist who sure ought to be on that Supreme Court? Go for her. Don’t go for an affirmative action person you know was picked because she’s a Latina and because she’s a woman.

RM: Pat, when I look at the United States Supreme Court and I see 108 out of 110 white people, I see 108 out of 110 men. I don’t look at that and think, “God, white guys are naturally better at this type of work than other people who aren’t getting these jobs.” I don’t think that way.

RM: I want to hear you — I would love to hear your answer as to whether or not you think that is what explains it, too. Because, I think, what the more obvious explanation is, is that you have to be a white guy in order to get considered for these jobs and has been true since the dawn of time in this country.

PB: No.

RM: That’s starting to break up now so that we can tap a bigger pool of talent. You should be happy about that for your country, Pat.

PB: I do. I do. I’m happy when you got all 78 firemen can take a test, but if all the guys that win in the test are all white guys and one is Hispanic, I don’t say, automatically, the test was fixed, bias, bigoted against black people, because I don’t know that, Rachel.

And those guys did well in that test and they are victims of this evil affirmative action policy which says in effect that everybody’s covered by the 14th Amendment and the civil rights laws unless you’re a white male and your parents and ancestors came from Europe. Then we can discriminate against you. That’s what I am against.

RM: Pat, do you — do you — are you happy that we’ve got a Latino on the Supreme Court for the first time or we’re about to? Does that seem like a positive thing for the country?

PB: I would — I think the Republicans had an outstanding Latino who had outstanding grades, who was brilliant and was gutted, Miguel Estrada.

RM: Let me just ask you a question before going to talk about some other Latino who’s not in question here. Are you happy for the United States of America for our prospect as a nation that we’ll be the best that we can be, that there is a Latino on the Supreme Court for the first time ever, that that glass ceiling is broken. Do you see it as a positive thing?

PB: If you say, be the best question we can be. We’re not being the best we can be with Sonia Sotomayor and I think you know it.

RM: Pat, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I credit you sticking to your gun. I think you’re absolutely wrong about this and I think that by advocating that the Republican Party try to stir up racial animus among white voters.

You’re dating yourself.

PB: I say, you know, I think what they ought to do — they ought to defend the legitimate rights of white working-class folks who are the victims of discrimination, because that’s the right thing to do and because it’s the politically right thing to do. It so happens that here, that doing the right thing is the right political thing, standing up for Frank Ricci. We saw the face of — the face of a victim of these policies.

Rachel, you and your friends admire up there and in New York and you never look at these guys who are working-class guys with their own dreams, just like Sonia Sotomayor.

RM: Pat, I don’t need a lecture from you about whether or not I know what working class …

PB: You certainly do, Rachel.

RM: I really don’t need a lecture from you about what I think about working class Americans or what anybody else in New York, including Sonia Sotomayor who grew up in the Bronx thinks about working-class Americans.

PB: What do you think?

RM: A lot of things divide us, Pat. Race is one of those. But there’s a lot of other ways in which we just gratify as a country, and for you to privilege race and say that what we really need to make sure we tap, politically, is white people’s racial grievances, you’re playing with fire and you’re dating yourself. You’re living in the 1950s, Pat.

PB: Maybe I’m dating in the 1960s when the civil rights act was passed. Do you think Frank Ricci and those guys were treated justly when they were denied that promotion because they were white?

RM: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC political analyst — I’m very sorry that we’re out of time. It’s nice to have you back on the show, Pat. Thanks.

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