Obama Presidency

Republicans Itching for Fight Over Sonia Sotomayor

| by Robert Reich

Put on your seatbelts. Many Republicans have been itching for this fight. They
figure if they can make Sonia Sotomayor appear "too liberal," "too activist," or
"intemperate" -- and cause Obama to withdraw her nomination, or if they can
defeat her outright -- they can slow the Obamomentum that's leading to universal
health care, cap-and-trade, more spending on education, and higher taxes on the
rich. This would also give them a crack at winning back a number of seats next
November, which they know they can't win if their major issues are torture and
taxes and if their major spokesmen are Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.

But
if they choose to vilify Sotomayor, Republicans take a huge gamble. They could
lose even more women and Hispanic voters in 2010 and beyond. And they could
alienate even more Independents already turned off by the Republican
"just-say-no" approach to almost everything.

Besides, it will be hard for
Republicans to pigeonhole Sotomayor. Although as an appellate judge she has
sided with defendants, inmates, convicted felons, and environmentalists, she has
also taken decidedly conservative stances. In 2002, she ruled against an
abortion rights group that claimed the so-called "Mexico City Policy,"
prohibiting U.S. funding for foreign groups performing or supporting abortion
services, violated their First Amendment rights. She reasoned that the
government is "free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice
position." In a 2004 case she ruled in favor of anti-abortion protesters who
claimed a city had improperly trained police officers who allegedly used
excessive force on them. And she has ruled against a number of minority
plaintiffs in discrimination cases.

And she has an impeccable
upward-through-education-and-hard-work pedigree: She grew up in public housing
in the Bronx, the daughter of a factory worker, and got a law degree from
Yale.

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Still, never underestimate the Republicans' capacity for taking big
political risks that turn out badly. Remember Sarah Palin? Republicans may
figure that they're so badly decimated already, so marginalized and irrelevant,
there's little to lose and possibly much to gain by going negative on Sotomayor
and unleashing their terror-TV and rant-radio attack dogs. It's also possible
that without much remaining of any moderate view inside their own ranks,
Republicans may simply lack the wisdom -- dare I call it judiciousness? -- to
opt for a more sensible strategy.