Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has stirred some interesting debate, but we who follow rightbloggers will forever remember it for the reaction of National Review‘s immigration expert, Mark Krikorian. It’s as distinctive as Roman Hruska’s defense of G. Harrold Carswell’s 1970 Supreme Court nomination on the grounds of his mediocrity. But whereas Hruska’s unfortunate comment was an inspired fluke, a bit of botched argument that survives because of its strangeness, we think Krikorian’s statement is in a way much more indicative of the rightblogger mindset these days.
Krikorian was offended at the way Sotomayor pronounced her own last name — or at least at the way he presumed she wanted others to pronounce it. When some of Krikorian’s commenters — moderates, we suppose — suggested “we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers,” Krikorian invoked his right to pronounce it his own way: SO-tomayor, suggestive of One Who Sotomays.
Sotomayor’s own pronunciation, which our New York based readers will have no trouble guessing nor speaking aloud, the immigration expert Krikorian found “unnatural in English,” and therefore an unwarranted burden on his fellow white people.
“Part of our success in assimilation,” reasoned Krikorian, “has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would.” So it’s okay to have tacos and mofungo, but not trilled r’s or So-tomay-OR: “One of the areas where conformity is appropriate,” said Krikorian, “is how your new countrymen say your name, since that’s not something the rest of us can just ignore… there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.”
Normal people might wonder where Krikorian and his Center for Immigration Studies have been spending the past ten years. The Spanish-speaking population of the United States has exploded, and their folkways have long since become threaded into those of honkies; even midwesterners named Smith, however proud they may be of their heritage, probably don’t find Cinco de May-Oh or chile rellennoze or Livin’ La Vie-Da Loca any easier or more appropriate than the pronunciations Krikorian finds intolerably exotic.
As you may imagine, Krikorian endured days of merciless ridicule for this masterpiece. Yet he kept at it, insisting that his obsession with Spanish pronunciation was something “that most Americans share at some level,” and repeating the inspiring story of ballplayer Jorge Orta, who consented to be called George — unlike that Brown Power radical, Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees. Krikorian’s colleague John Derbyshire defended him with a bunch of foreign words that remain difficult for English-speakers, proving it is just plain pretentious to say “tamales” as three rather than two syllables.
Bad enough that they came up with this bizarre idea in the first place — why on earth would they cling to it? There is enough in Sotomayor’s record (judicial, not phonetic) for conservatives to argue over. Why get, and stay, caught up in such trifles?
For clues, let’s look at some of the other themes that came up during the rightbloggers’ scrutiny of Sotomayor:
Rightbloggers seemed to really want to say that Sotomayor was unqualified. “Obviously, President Barack Obama is intent on giving us a lot of empathy,” said the American Spectator, “and not much jurisprudence.” The phrase “affirmative action” kept coming up. “Ms. Sotomayor and her supporters want to pretend that affirmative action has had nothing to do with her success,” said JustOneMinute. “Affirmative action nominee for Supreme Court?” said 24ahead. “Were there more qualified possibilities who didn’t happen to fit the politically-friendly uniform?” (Cut to a pair of white hands crumpling a Supreme Court job application!) Noted racial obsessive Steve Sailer went ahead and called it the “Sotomayer Scandal” and added, “it’s hard to imagine Sotomayor bringing unbiased judgment to affirmative action cases.” (We wonder if Antonin Scalia recuses himself from cases involving Italian Americans.) Sailer also talked about how bad Spanish people do on tests; the relevance of this insight to the high-performing Sotomayor was not revealed.
Get it? She’s really not that smart — you know how Princeton grades Spanish people (all the way up to the top of her class) on the curve.
To this end they tried peddling her “60% reversal rate” by the Supreme Court as a sign of incompetence (“It’s true that Sotomayor has a compelling personal story, but she also has a compelling reversal rate”), which statistician Nate Silver rather thoroughly demolished.
That didn’t keep them from continuing to peddle it, of course, but it did get them fanning out in other directions — for example, that Sotomayor is a bitch: emboldened by a Times story about “sharp-tongued” Sotomayor, some of the brethren chased that for a while.
“Seems she has a bit of a ‘temper,'” said Macsmind — the quotes around “temper” to indicate it’s a lady thing, no doubt — and added, “Sotomayor is well known here in legal circles, and the responses I got were along the line of the negative here.” You can take it from Macsmind!
“The criticisms of Sotomayor by those who worked with her,” said Mark Impomeni of RedState, “bear resemblance to those levelled at former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton during his confirmation hearings.” If you follow RedState (God help you), you will know that Impomeni is a great fan of Bolton’s. But that’s his point — Democrats are hypocrites to support the sharp-tongued, castrating judge with the funny name when they were against Bolton on temperament grounds — and Sotomayor is up for the Supreme Court, where “judicial temperament should be one of the most important factors,” while Bolton was merely up for United Nations Ambassador, in which role being a bellicose lunatic isn’t such a big deal.
The rightbloggers’ favorite Sotomayor hobby-horse this week was a line she delivered in a speech to an academic conference years ago — “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” This bit of feel-good fluff for law school Latins is in context no big deal — even excitable rightblogger Rod Dreher somewhat revised his outrage over it when he got the background — but it gave rightbloggers (not to mention Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich) an opportunity to call Sotomayor “racist,” which was clearly cathartic for them, since for years other people have been calling them racists. Consequently there were more “Imagine the public furor if a white male“-style comments than we’ve seen since the glory days of Reverend Wright.
National Review‘s Andy McCarthy thought her statement showed sufficient bigotry that it would exclude Sotomayor from serving as a juror — and if you can’t qualify as a juror, you certainly can’t serve as a Supreme Court Justice, Q.E.D., game, set and shirt-retuck!
“The plain fact of the matter,” said Mark Noonan, “is that the liberal elite of this nation believes that white people are inherently wicked (unless they are liberal, of course) and must pay back the non-white population for what they have stolen from them…” While conservatives, Noonan explained, learned the true lessons Martin Luther King (after years of trying to destroy him), the left only learned “what could be gotten out of government” for dark folks, and “a whole host of idiocy was enshrined in our institutions of higher education such as, among other monstrosity, ‘Chicano Studies'” — another form of Latina bigotry! Sotomayor, Noonan finishes, “might very sincerely believe she’s not racist… but many whites in the South thought that, too.” Unfortunately he doesn’t lay out the whole sad history of Latinas lynching and enslaving white men, but maybe he’s saving that for a longer post.
“Like, if we don’t agree with her views, we’re racist,” said Alphecca — but he proved that was hypocritical: “It was perfectly all right for Democrats such as Schumer and Kennedy, Kos and company, etc., to lambast Roberts and Alito during their nominations and confirmation hearings,” he said, “but that’s because they’re just white guys and it’s perfectly fine to tear into them.” White man can’t catch a break in this town! Even more sinister, the Democratic agents of negritude covered their tracks by failing to block Roberts’ and Alito’s appointments! Concluded Alphecca: “This country continues to become ever more creepy.” Who could disagree?
When the White House, accepting political reality, allowed that the “wise Latina” remarks were probably something Sotomayor would like to take back, Paliban Daily declared victory. “White House Agrees: Sotomayor Racist…” he wrote. “The White House joined so-called ‘right-wing nut jobs’ in blasting Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s 2001 comment.” You’d almost expect the White House to withdraw Sotomayor’s nomination in self-disgust.
That seems little enough to be excited over when the Court, to hear them tell it elsewhere, is about to get packed with another ultraliberal. But that’s just it: conservatives, never mind the kind who blab on the internet, have practically no power at the moment; no one really expects them to derail Sotomayor, as major rightbloggers are starting to admit. But one thing they do have power over is their audience: small, perhaps, at this time, but loyal enough — so long as they get an occasional taste of that red meat they can’t get from the Main Stream Media.
With Sotomayor on the hook, the meat can get pretty red. She not only carries the taint of an Obama nomination, but is also female, Hispanic, and from New York City. She might as well have horns and a tail. To imagine how this excites them, try to imagine how liberals would react if a Republican President nominated to the Court an evangelical Christian who had an impenetrable Alabama accent, owned a strip mine, and was named Horace Killnigger.
Thanks to circumstance, rightbloggers have a chance to say about Sotomayor things that they have wanted to say about someone like her for a long time — that she’s not as smart as she thinks she is with her Ivy League degree, which actually nullifies her Latina credentials, and which she only got because black and brown people get everything these days; that she can’t behave properly on the bench (but then, really, what did you expect); that she has it in for white people, etc.
Seen from this perspective, Mark Krikorian’s bizarre comments on the pronunciation of Spanish words make sense. If they were trying to block a Supreme Court nomination, they wouldn’t say crap like this. But they’re just working out their pet peeves about a certain kind of person, and in that environment pretty much anything goes.