Miguel Estrada has been held hostage for more than 500 days, but
you've probably never heard his story. Just who is Miguel Estrada, and what
nefarious forces have kept him under wraps for more than a year? Estrada is
President Bush's nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia, the most important federal circuit in the country.
President Bush nominated Estrada on May 9, 2001; but until this week, 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.
But Sen. Leahy is not acting alone -- he's simply carrying water
for the left-wing groups that oppose Estrada's nomination, such as the
National Organization for Women and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and
Education Fund. So what is it about Estrada that has provoked such
hostility? Despite an 18-month-long search through the minutiae of Estrada's
life, these groups can't point to any ethical or legal transgressions. And
even the liberal American Bar Association gave him the highest judicial
fitness rating by unanimous vote. Nonetheless, his critics accuse Estrada of
being -- hold your breath -- a conservative. And everyone knows that
conservatives, especially those who happen also to be Hispanic or black, are
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 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.
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. In the words of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and
Education Fund, Estrada "has lived a very different life from that of most
Latinos -- a life isolated from their experience and concerns."
Oh really? Let's see, he 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? Their racism is the most pernicious kind, wrapped
in phony compassion.
Estrada proves the lie to much of the Left's stereotyping of Hispanics, and
they can't stand it. Worse, they worry that if Estrada makes it onto the
D.C. Circuit, he will likely become the first Hispanic nominated to the
Supreme Court. This is a plum slot the Democrats hoped to reserve for one of
their own, which explains why Sen. Leahy has behaved so abominably by tying
up Estrada's nomination. Leahy has engaged in unprecedented efforts to dig
up dirt on Estrada. Since Estrada has only a limited public "paper trail"
that opponents might scour, Leahy tried to force the Justice Department to
release all of Estrada's internal memoranda, which he wrote for both his
Republican and Democrat superiors in the Solicitor General's office. Leahy's
impudence earned the rebuke of every living solicitor from both parties, who
complained in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.
Miguel Estrada has been held hostage to the liberal interest groups for too
long. 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.