The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, February 03, 2003  

Ann Coulter, Linda Chavez, Senate Republicans, and Miguel Estrada

Media Whores is, with good reason, all over novelist Ann Coulter for her refusal to divulge anything she knows about the judicial and legal views of Miguel Estrada, President Bush’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and a man Coulter acknowledged and thanked in the preface to her delusional and factually negligent little work Slander during her recent meltdown on CNN’s “Crossfire.”

Coulter, of course, isn’t the only right-winger who doesn’t want to talk about Estrada’s views. Estrada himself doesn’t want to, hasn’t, and apparently won’t. And the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee haven’t the temerity to ask him, “advise and consent” notwithstanding, as noted by People for the American Way:

Silence is golden . . . at least to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 10 Republican members, who voted on Thursday to recommend the Senate confirmation of right-wing lawyer Miguel Estrada to a life-time seat on the federal bench.

Because Estrada refused to answer important questions about his judicial philosophy and the Bush administration declined to release Justice Department briefs written by Estrada, senators know little about this nominee.

I can only think that the right wing thinks it might somehow be offensive to ask a Hispanic-American judicial nominee, particularly a nominee with absolutely no experience as a judge or legal scholar and yet headed to one of the country’s highest courts, what he actually thinks about the major judicial issues of our day. His ethnic heritage seems to be the only thing that matters to radical conservatives. And why that isn’t offensive is a mystery to me.

Naturally, this willful silence extends beyond Congress to the pathetic groupthink enterprise known as the American media.

Would-be Labor Secretary Linda Chavez, she of the illegal household help -- No wonder the Center for Equal Opportunity, the storefront at which Chavez currently hangs her hat, has published a tract entitled “Abolish the INS!” -- and one of the most unremarkable (or perhaps “unlikely” is the better word) of the media’s vast and growing cadre of right-wing pundits, would also have us ignore, or not even learn of, Estrada’s views.

Chavez, who may have thought to chime in on this issue because she is herself (half) Spanish, had this to say last September:

President Bush nominated Estrada on May 9, 2001; but until this week [September 2002], Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has held Estrada’s nomination hostage. Sen. Leahy refused to give Estrada so much as a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the past year and a half. Leahy’s obstruction has placed the nominee in a kind of professional limbo, denied the president his Constitutionally mandated authority to appoint judges, limited his fellow senators’ right to advise and consent on judicial nominees, and deprived the nation of a first-rate jurist.

Apparently it did not occur to Chavez that the failure of Estrada to be confirmed by the Judiciary Committee while it was in control of Senate Democrats did not deny President Bush “his Constitutionally mandated authority to appoint judges” since he could, after all, have appointed someone else.

Apparently it did not occur to Chavez that the greater fault of “limiting . . . senators’ right to advise and consent on judicial nominees” falls not upon Sen. Leahy but upon the strictly silent Bush administration and the ostensibly mute Estrada himself.

And apparently it did not occur to Chavez to remind her readers that Senate Republicans blocked former President Bill Clinton’s nominations of Elena Kagan and Alan Snyder to the very same court.

There is only one conclusion available here: These three lapses are evidence of ignorance or dishonesty -- or both -- on the part of Chavez.

But that wasn’t enough. This self-styled crusader against bilingual education in any form, this once rabid defender of what most reasonable Americans had thought was a rather healthy English language (Chavez’s past work as president of known eugenicist John Tanton’s organization, U.S. English, about which readers will find more here, seemingly has been expunged from her every biography and vita.), this belligerent opponent of affirmative action in even the mildest of its incarnations then went into high dudgeon, wielding, of all things, the battle ax of identity politics, defending Estrada not on the basis of his legal scholarship, but on his success as an immigrant generally and later as a Hispanic immigrant specifically:

Estrada came to the United States when he was 17 years old. He spoke only rudimentary English, yet within five years he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia College in New York before earning a law degree, again with high honors, from Harvard. He’s worked at the Justice Department in both Democrat [sic] and Republican administrations, is a member of one of the most prominent law firms in the country[,] and has won two-thirds of the cases he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chavez follows with the observation, “Estrada proved he could succeed on his own, without racial or ethnic double standards or the patronage of leftist advocacy groups. That makes him automatically suspect.” Chavez knows that Estrada’s ethnicity has played no role whatsoever in his life to date? It may very well not have -- he certainly is an accomplished man -- but Chavez knows this, how? Since Chavez has admitted to having benefited from affirmative action programs, adding, rather ingenuously, that it was impossible for her not to, how does she know Estrada’s experience was different? Or was it not different and Chavez is simply not saying so?

Further compounding an already intellectually suspect piece, Chavez continues:

[H]e came here as an immigrant, like about one out of every two adult Hispanics. He worked hard, as do most Hispanics, who have among the highest labor force participation rates of any group. And he succeeded, brilliantly. I have a feeling that it’s this part of Estrada’s life story that these groups have a problem with. After all, according to liberal victimology, aren’t Hispanics typically supposed to be dropouts, needing a never-ending series of government programs in order to eke out even a meager existence?

Chavez needs a reality check to reel her in from this heinous slander. Which “liberal,” and where and when, said we as a nation must make permanent victims of Hispanic Americans? Which “liberal,” and where and when, advocated ensuring that Hispanic Americans remain dropouts living on public assistance? Appropriately, given the subject at hand, these are lies of Coulteresque proportions.

Then, as if to prove her “case” through nothing more than sheer force of will, Chavez concludes, “If ever anyone deserved to sit on the federal bench, Estrada certainly does. He will make a great appeals court judge, serving justice and the American people well, if only the Democrats will give him the chance.”

But Chavez’s piece, the jottings in which she concludes Estrada deserves to sit on the federal bench more than any other person in America, ran roughly 700 words, and in those 700 words Chavez could not once muster even a single sentence outlining the unique qualifications that Estrada purportedly possesses. Instead, Chavez wants readers to accept this baseless premise on her assurances alone.

There are many people in this country, a group that reaches well into the media, for whom such forms of argument are considered reasonable and acceptable, even standard fare. In fact, Chavez’s columns are regularly published by such outlets, including the hack-job sites and Jewish World Review. How sad, though, and how dangerous, that the majority party of the highest legislative body in America, gleefully ignoring the Constitution’s explicit directive regarding “advise and consent,” is along for the ride.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |