Paul Greenberg

Want to read an admirably high-minded statement in all the low, Limbaugh-like clamor over the nomination of Her Honor Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court?

You're not likely to find a better one than these words from The Hon. Mark Pryor, junior U.S. senator from Arkansas:

"U.S. Supreme Court nominees deserve a high threshold of review. I believe Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing should be rigorous, but fair. I am encouraged that her earlier nominations to the bench -- by both a Democratic and Republican president -- have received strong, bipartisan support. It is my hope the Senate can carry out its constitutional duty in a similar fashion with good-faith and civility, and not allow rhetoric to cloud the confirmation process."

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Hear, hear. How statesmanlike -- and how Mark Pryor's standards have improved. Because he wasn't quite so high-minded when he was part of the partisan pack that blocked the nomination of another Hispanic nominee to the federal bench not too long ago.

The Democrats in the U.S. Senate managed to hold up the nomination of Miguel Angel Estrada to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia month after month after month. For more than two years. Until finally the nominee, disgusted with the whole, rigged process, withdrew his name from consideration.

Much like Sonia Sotomayor, Miguel Estrada had a stirring life story. For until he fell into the clutches of partisans like Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and, yes, Mark Pryor, he'd lived the American dream. Ever since he'd immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 from Honduras, he'd studied hard and worked hard to make something of himself. And succeeded.

He became a successful attorney in private practice, then as a highly effective lawyer with the U.S. solicitor general's office. But he had a crippling political disability. Two of them, actually. It wasn't bad enough that he was a Republican, he was Hispanic, too.

That was a combination Democratic partisans could not abide. Such a two-fer on the federal bench would have shattered their most cherished, most vote-winning stereotypes of the opposition. How demonize Republicans as stupid, xenophobic haters if they're nominating a bright, accomplished immigrant from Latin America to the appellate bench? Can't have that.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.