For decades, America's liberal establishment has been saying that what we need more than anything is a frank conversation about race. Well, here's another chance.
Ever since the Kerner Commission in 1967, we've been hearing how Americans need to air out their racial views. After the L.A. riots, Hurricane Katrina and every other racially loaded event, we heard this refrain. President Clinton launched an official national conversation on race, but he clammed up once conservatives started talking frankly and winning the argument.
During the presidential contest last year, Barack Obama delivered his now-mythic "race speech." It was hailed everywhere as the beginning of that long overdue conversation. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the address "set forth a road map on how to look at race within the context of public policy." But then Obama tried his best to never mention race again during the campaign.
Attorney General Eric Holder used Black History Month to deliver a racial jeremiad, accusing America of being a "nation of cowards" for not talking more honestly about race.
And now we have Sonia Sotomayor. It's been reported that Obama's Supreme Court pick has long been his first choice for the court. This suggests that the president is well aware of her views and that she personifies his views of how the courts should dispense justice.
Which brings us to Sotomayor's now-infamous line that she would hope a wise Latina would make better decisions than a wise white man. In the same speech, she somewhat favorably considered the possibility that there are "physiological or cultural differences" between races or genders that make some people better at some things (like judging) than others.
What is the president's response? To lead a nation of cowards.
Obama says he's sure Sotomayor would "restate" her views (which technically means she would repeat the same idea in different words). White House allies have carried this further, saying she "misspoke" (in the words of Democratic spinner Lanny Davis). The Washington Post reports her comments were "unscripted."
But this is flatly untrue. Sotomayor's comments were literally scripted -- for a lecture. She then published that speech in a law journal. It's apparent she meant what she said, and if a white judge ever said anything similar, his career would be over. And, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy notes, any typical citizen who said anything of the sort would be dismissed from a jury pool.
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