WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The administration's nomination to the U. S.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia of Miguel Estrada is now
paralyzed by the Senate Democrats' refusal to entertain a vote for him on
the Senate floor and by the White House's insistence that the vote take
place. The White House has 54 votes favoring Estrada. Were the vote to take
place, the Senate could get on with other business. The White House,
however, does not have the 60 votes necessary to bring Estrada's name to the
floor. Hence, the paralysis will continue.
Careful observers of the Washington scene speculate as to how
the deadlock can be broken, but they have not come up with any ideas as to
how the Bush administration might get its floor vote on Estrada's historic
nomination -- he is the first Hispanic ever nominated to this particular
Some Democrats say they oppose Estrada because he has not been
sufficiently talkative about his personal views and has not allowed them to
review his memos from the days he served in the Clinton administration's
office of the solicitor general, a review that every living solicitor
general, Democrat and Republican, opposes.
Others, for instance, Senator Hillary Clinton, say this Harvard
Law School graduate, upon whom the American Bar Association has conferred
its highest rating, is not qualified -- but then Hillary says a lot of
things that turn out to be untrue. Finally, other Democrats complain that
Estrada is not a genuine representative of the Hispanic community.
In this age of identity politics, Estrada's ethnic identity
looms large in the debate, revealing the insidiousness of identity politics.
At one point, the great champions of identity politics, the Democrats, will
argue that Republican opposition to a nominee is based on prejudice against
the nominee's ethnicity or race, as they did with the nomination of Ronnie
White. At another point, the Democrats will argue that Republican support
for an ethnic or racial nominee is based solely on the nominee's ethnicity
or race, as they did in the case of Clarence Thomas. Either argument helps
the Democrats hold onto their minority supporters while, alas, stirring up
bigotries and ignoring the nominee's merits.
Today, some Democrats such as the oleaginous Sen. Clinton are
performing the jujitsu maneuver on Estrada's nomination of claiming that he
has only been nominated because of his Honduran birth and Republican
politics. They claim he is but bait to lure Hispanics into the Republican
Party. Well, there is a way to break the deadlock that now threatens to
immobilize the Senate at an especially critical time. And it is suspicious
that the Democrats who remonstrate so dramatically against "gridlock" now
make such a monumental issue of this one judicial nomination.
Those who speculate on how the deadlock on Estrada might be
broken ought to consider the possibility that he is in truth not Hispanic
but Japanese. We know that there are numerous people of Japanese origin
living in Latin America. A recent president of Peru was Japanese. Anyone who
knows his haiku has come into contact with the word Estrada.
Take a look at the pictures of Estrada in the paper. He
certainly looks Japanese to me. The Democrats balk that Estrada has not told
them enough about himself. Can you imagine the look on Hillary's face if
Estrada were to announce at a duly convened press conference, "Actually, I'm
Japanese," and then pull out a set of chop sticks and invite all the
Democrats to join him at one of Washington's stupendous sushi restaurants?
Ridiculous, you say? Improbable, you say? Truth be known, this
whole debate is ridiculous. Estrada has received the ABA's highest rating.
He has served in the office of the solicitor general and in one of
Washington's finest law firms, always with distinction. Of course, he leans
towards the Republicans, just as most Clinton administration nominees leaned
towards the Democrats. That is the way the judicial nominating process
Do the Democrats expect Republicans to nominate Democrats? And
must the Democrats continue to make a judge's personal views about
Democratic bugaboos a cause for rejection? Are their bugaboos so tenuously
fixed in the polity that a Hispanic-American judge of Japanese heritage
might overthrow their whole legal edifice? What the Democrats are telling us
in the row over Estrada is that they will nix any judicial nominee whom they
assess insufficiently Democratic. That is not a workable solution to the
The impasse is another example of liberals creating a problem
and demanding a solution that is as bad as the original problem or worse.
Years ago, their judicial activism made the politics of judicial nominees
very significant. Before that, the only criteria for acceptance by the
Senate were a nominee's demonstrated integrity and expertise with the law.
Legislatures are to create the law. Judges are merely to see
that cases conform to the law. Such Democratic concerns as abortion and
school prayer are now established in the law. No judge can change the law.
Abortion and school prayer are only going to be ended if legislatures
rewrite the law or amend it.
The Estrada deadlock is obviously about something other than his
ability to change the law. It probably is about the Democrats' ability to
hold on to the Hispanic vote. Yet if the Democrats continue to humiliate a
Hispanic-American in front of the entire country, they can be sure that many
proud and independent-minded Hispanics are going to drift toward the party
that championed Miguel Estrada. In fact, many now are.