Douchebag of the Day
For Thursday, May 28 I would like to nominate, as douchebag of the day, Wendy Long, legal counsel to and spokesperson for the reactionary Judicial Confirmation Nutworks. This outfit has placed itself at the forefront of the virulently unhinged, dangerously unbalanced right-wing smear campaign that is being waged against Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and Ms. Long has stepped up eagerly and enthusiastically to carry its misguided banner.
Almost as soon as the White House announced Sotomayor’s nomination, Long released the group’s official comment, a press-release so bizarre in its lack of connection to objective reality, that it stands as a classic WTF?! moment in this nascent confirmation fight:
“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written,” said Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network.
“She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench. … She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court.” (emphasis added)
Yeah, you read that right. The Supreme Court, headed by doctrinaire conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and boasting such reactionaries as Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas is a “liberal activist” court in the eyes of the clinically insane intellectual heavyweights who run the Judicial Confirmation Nutworks.
In the segment from Hardball that is embedded above, Long lets loose with another river of douchebaggery that expands upon, and enhances, our understanding of just how out to lunch this lady and the organization she represents really are. Most notable in my mind is Long’s refusal to accept the perfectly obvious point that a Supreme Court composed of jurists representing a diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities is both desirable and more likely to render just decisions than a court composed entirely of white men:
Matthews: Do you think we’re better off with a balanced court with some representation of America besides white males? Is it better to have a court with some women on it? Is it better to have a court with some people that aren’t white or caucasian?…
Long: I think that’s completely irrlevant.
Long: It’s not better and it’s not worse. An all male white court overturned Plessy V. Fergusson in Brown V. Board of Education. All male, white courts are perfectly capable of representing every type of person in America…
Curiously absent from Ms. Long’s disingenuous rumination was any recognition of the fact that Plessy, the Supreme Court decision that enshrined the legality of separate but equal was the law of the land for sixty years before it was overturned in Brown! Yes, it may have been an all white, male court that overturned Plessy, but it was also an all male, white court that affirmed Plessy, a fact that seems uniquely un-problematic to Ms. Long.
Shortly after this exchange, Long responds to Chris Matthews suggestion that the quality of empathy is useful to a jurist, and objects to Matthews characterization of the thought processes that justices employed in reaching a decision in Brown V. Board of Education. In that famous case, psychologists were brought in to describe to Supreme Court justices how young black girls, when presented a pair of dolls, one black an one white, described the white doll in positive terms while denigrating the black doll. The “Clark doll experiment” allowed justices to peer into the minds of young, black children and understand the damage that segregation had inflicted upon their psyches. In short, the experiment allowed justices to empathize with black schoolchildren, and see the world as they do.
Long, however, will have none of it, insisting rather categorically and without any evidence or reasoning to back her up that: “...what happened was, Plessy was a lawless decision, Brown is what the constitution, and all men being created equal and the aspirations of our declaration of independence are all about.”
See, white males are perfectly capable of handing down just decisions as long as they simply adhere to the constitution and don’t let their judgments become clouded by such irrelevant, muddle headed, fuzzy, liberal, nonsense as whether the institutionalized racism of segregation is psychologically damaging to young black girls. Arriving at the correct decision is easy, you see, as long as Justices merely follow the law and don’t allow themselves to be distracted by considerations such as the human cost of one particular interpretation of an ambiguous statute over another.
Of course this bizarre myopia leads to the inevitable question: if the justices in Brown were simply following a strict constructionist reading of the constitution, then why did eight of nine Justices render a “lawless” decision sixty years earlier, and why did that decision stand for three whole generations? And an even more compelling argument against Ms. Long can be leveled by meditating upon the following question: does anyone seriously believe that a Supreme Court composed of individuals from varying backgrounds, income levels, and ethnicities would have allowed Plessy to stand for sixty years? Or, indeed, have ruled that way in the first place?
Ultimately, in deciding what sort of Supreme Court is desirable, the question isn’t whether a court comprised exclusively of white, male, christian, property owners can theoretically render just decisions regarding questions of race, gender, sexual preference, religious freedom, etc.The question is whether it is just to ask minorities –who must live under these decisions– to wait sixty years for the aforesaid all white, male, Christian, land-owning Justices to “realize” that they “misread” the constitution when they denied these citizens justice and equality under the law in the first place.
Serolf Divad lectures on U.S. Contitutional Law to a cluster of peyote cacti located somewhere in the American Southwest.