Introducing 'Frank the Firefighter'

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 29, 2009 10:25 AM
It's no big secret what the White House is doing. As Kimberly Strassel writes in today's Wall Street Journal,

Ground Rule No. 1, as decreed by the president, is that this is to be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications. ... Ground Rule No. 2, which is that Republicans are not allowed to criticize Judge Sotomayor, for the reason that she is the first Hispanic nominee to the High Court.

... And Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center put it well when he said,

"The media elite are helping to build Sotomayor up as a folk hero, whose sympathetic life story is supposed to trump issues of judicial philosophy or her controversial statements about using the courts to reshape the law..."

Clearly, the strategy for confirming Judge Sotomayor is to talk about her compelling biography -- not her rather concerning judicial philosophy. The thing is, though, as long as Democrats are telling an emotional and aspirational story -- and Republicans are (at worst) talking about reverse-racism and (at best) talking about the importance of originalism versus activist judges, we will lose. As the saying goes, "logic leads to conclusions, but emotion leads to action." Appointing judges who interpret the Constitution is a logical argument, but confirming the first Latina is an emotional one.

The way I see it, the only chance conservatives have is to fight fire with fire. This means that if the Democrats want to tell the Sotomayor story, we conservatives must tell an equally emotional story about someone who has been negatively impacted by Judge Sotomayor. ...

Introducing ... 'Frank the Firefighter.' By now, you probably know the story of the Ricci case. If not, it is a lawsuit brought by white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter in New Haven, Connecticut who were denied promotions, though they passed the requisite test. The problem, you see, was that the no black firefighters passed the same test, and thus, no black firefighters were eligible for the promotion. Judge Sotomayor was one of the judges who ruled that the city was within their rights to refuse to promote anyone.

The story of Frank Ricci, though, is a compelling one of a blue collar working man who was doing his best to try to get ahead, only to be denied a promotion based on his race. As the Christian Science Monitor reported,

Among the firefighters who sued was Frank Ricci. He said he studied eight to 13 hours a day to prepare for the test and that he spent more than $1,000 on books and paid someone to record the study materials on tape because he is dyslexic and learns better by listening.

Conservative groups are already discussing when and how to begin introducing Frank Ricci -- the man who was passed over for the promotion -- to the American public. (This is similar to injecting Anita Hill into the debate, to distract from Clarence Thomas' compelling personal story -- but it is more relevant -- because it directly relates to her decisions as a judge, and the question of 'empathy').

If conservatives want the average American to see the problems with Judge Sotomayor, it will not be accomplished by talking about "originalism," but by introducing the man she helped deprive of a promotion...even though he passed the test ...