Friday, May 29, 2009

Justice For All

It seems that from the moment President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s been a lot of fretting and tisk-tisking from every political quarter. We’ve all heard the story of her hard and steadfast journey from “the projects” in the Bronx to Ivy League universities, major law firms, and several tiers of judicial command. But in case you haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn more about her than the fact that she settled the longest major league baseball strike in history, has a good summary of her key cases and opinions that’s worth checking out.

I must say that the objections on both sides (which boil down to: the conservatives think she’s too liberal; the liberals think she’s not liberal enough) surprise me – further proof that I’m more naïve than cynical, because I keep trusting that balance, fairness and a spirit of bipartisan cooperation during a period of national/global crisis will ultimately out (look up idiot in the dictionary and note my photo…). When everybody finds something to criticize (I think “nitpick” is the more appropriate word here), that’s a good sign that middle ground has been found. In the case of Judge Sotomayor, the middle ground is supported by considerable educational accomplishment, followed by several decades of intelligent, informed, and highly respected legal and judicial experience that reveal a diversity of opinion and a dedication to the spirit and intention of the law, rather than a fundamentalist application of 18th century concepts to 21st century concerns.

This ersatz controversy says more about the growing political polarization on the part of nearly all players on all points of the spectrum than it says about Sotomayor herself. It also says a great deal about the stubborn determination of many Republicans/Conservatives to find nothing but fault with Barack Obama – despite the fact that he is coping simultaneously with a greater number of urgent issues than any president in modern history, including FDR. Rush Limbaugh is clearly not alone in hoping that Obama fails – regardless of the cost to the nation – and I think that’s unconscionable and downright disgusting.

During the president’s First 100 Days press conference, when Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times asked Mr. Obama that now-famous question about what had surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled him the most during his initial period in office, the president said: “Troubled? I’d say less troubled but, you know, sobered, by the fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we’re in the middle of really big crises. I would like to think that everybody would say, you know what, let’s take a timeout on some of the political games, focus our attention for at least this year, and then we can start running for something next year. And that hasn’t happened as much as I would have liked.”

The phony, self-centered, politically obstinate “concern” about the clearly qualified Sonia Sotomayor is but one more troubling, sobering example of how enormously difficult it has become to effect change in this country, even when the leadership is commendably moderate/centrist in his efforts. I wish Sonia Sotomayor the best of luck in her upcoming ordeal of the Senate confirmation process. I wish our politicians luck in recognizing a sense of shared urgency and stop running for re-election for 20 minutes and start running the country instead. And I wish all of us luck in surviving this beastly, no-holds-barred practice of tainted democracy in action.

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