Hard Knocks School

July 22, 2009

By Louis Avallone

You ever heard, “What is good for the goose, isn’t good for the gander”? You haven’t? Well, please let me explain. Much has been written and considered recently regarding the importance of one’s life story, when being considered as a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Real life” experiences are valuable when on the bench, especially when, according to President Obama, you have “faced down barriers, overcome the odds, lived out the American dream…”

So, after your father abandoned your family when you were just two years old, after living in a one-room shack with dirt floors and no plumbing, after being raised by your grandparents, and not living in a house with a toilet until you were seven years old, being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court is a tremendous accomplishment; a reflection of one’s hard work, talent, and perseverance; an inspirational story that is a powerful testament to the living embodiment of the American dream.

While this is all indeed true, you may be surprised to learn that the life story described above is not that of the current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Instead, it is the life story of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

But while President Obama celebrates Sotomayor’s unlikely success story, considering her Puerto Rican father who worked as a factory worker, who didn’t speak English, had only a third grade education, and who died when Sotomayor was nine, the New York Times, in 1991, instead, found such life experiences to be quite unmentionable, when it was about a conservative nominee, at least. For example, they wrote, rather dismissively, and without much appreciation for Justice Thomas’ life experiences, as the Senate Judiciary Committee considered his nomination to the highest court in 1991.

They wrote that “his rise from “poverty and racial isolation will be less interesting than how that experience has affected his regard for other Americans and whether he understands how their lives and rights are affected by law and official action.”

Hmmm…but today, Sotomayor’s experience of growing up in a poor, Puerto Rican family in the Bronx is celebrated, even considered by most liberals as an important qualification for her nomination. In fact, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaking during the confirmation hearing last week, said to Sotomayor, “It actually gives me goose bumps to think about the path that has brought you here today and what it says about the nation.”

And while the New York Times explains today how Sotomayor’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court would be a “special point of pride for Hispanic-Americans — as it was for Jews, blacks and women before them to see one of their own take a seat on the highest tribunal in the land”, please consider again that, in 1991, the same editorial board found such racial or ethnic pigeon-holing offensive. In fact, regarding the appointment of Justice Thomas, the New York Times wrote in 1991 that, “by nominating this black conservative, President Bush serves a narrow partisan interest when the public has a right to expect him to nominate a lawyer or judge of proven distinction.”

Hmmm…but you would be hard pressed to find many journalists (term used loosely) in the mainstream media that have focused more on Sotomayor’s proven distinction as a lawyer or jurist, than her gender, ethnicity, politics, and the possible demographic attraction of new Hispanic voters for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, especially as Obama begins moving aggressively to give amnesty to illegal aliens later this year.

It sure seems like one’s life experiences, ethnicity, or one’s otherwise graduation from the “school of hard knocks” are only important to the mainstream media, and liberals alike, when a nominee, candidate, or public servant is liberal enough to be called, well, a liberal.

Not sure on that one? How many times did you hear news reports that would almost-romantically describe how Condoleeza Rice was the first black U.S. National Security advisor or that she grew up in Alabama during segregation? Hardly at all.

Or how often did you hear it celebrated that Colin Powell was the first black U.S. Secretary of State, who grew up poor in New York? Again, not much, if at all. He simply was too conservative in his positions for the mainstream media (well, at least back then he was).

Or what about the story of Alberto Gonzalez, who was U.S. Attorney General. Here was a Hispanic, Supreme Court hopeful, whose father was a laborer that passed away when Alberto was only a small child. His story is compelling, but it simply did not get much “press.” Again, Alberto was simply too conservative.

So, as you can see, “What is good for the goose, isn’t good for the gander,” if you are a conservative, at least. For now, the gander is cooked. And the goose? She is about to be confirmed as the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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