I've been following some Tweets and Facebook status updates and the news and blogs and etc. and etc. recently that have been focused on President Barack Obama and the confirmation hearings for potential Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Some of what I've read has been typical conservative and liberal drivel. People on both extremes are a little nutty. But some commentary I've heard and seen from more moderate, reasonable people has been, well, ridiculous. I know there are a lot of people who are concerned about government spending for stimulus packages and health care and other initiatives. Of course, I think people aren't as concerned about the spending as they are about the slow progress of some of Obama's plans. That's fair. But when people write that the financial and economic crises that Obama inherited (remember, he didn't create the mess) don't present an opportunity to try something new, I'm shocked. Of course it's an opportunity. It's a chance to chart a new path, to do something different, to get away from the Bush policies that put the country in its untenable financial situation. All I heard from right-wingers during Bush's eight years was alternatingly, "Give him a chance to prove what he can do" or "History will judge his legacy and impact on the country." Those same people now want Obama to do everything the way Bush did. And if Obama wasn't going to follow the same course, then he needed his initiatives to perform some miracle and work almost immediately to placate the right-wingers. It's an unfair standard. It's an either-or scenario for an ideological movement that seems to favor that kind of "pick a side" mentality. But I guess that's what Obama will have to deal with for the rest of his time in office. Perhaps conservatives and Republicans should complain less and work more on saving their foundering party or providing sound policy changes that don't center on the old Republican way of doing things that put us in this mess to begin with.
Now to Sotomayor. I'm a little shocked that there's concern about Sotomayor's past experiences influencing her judgments. Don't we all learn from what's happened to us in the past? Isn't that the point of experience? But really, what bothers me is that right-wingers are complaining about this, but they seem to forget that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said during his confirmation hearings that his past experiences do, in fact, color his judgments today. (VIDEO HERE if you can't see it below.) I don't recall as much uproar about those comments. Is it because he's white and she's not? I'm not saying that IS the reason. But it's an interesting to question to ask.
Others are complaining that she's going to be an activist judge who will push her liberal agenda. Well, who knows if that's true. But guess what, Republicans? Bush named Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts to the court because of their conservative leanings. That's the way it works, people, for better or for worse. That's a privilege of being president. And you know what? That's not Bush's fault, and it's not Obama's fault. It's the system's fault.
And I think that's what's bothering me most about the national discourse that's centered on Sotomayor's confirmation. Bush was blamed for appointing Alito and Roberts, and now Obama's blamed for choosing Sotomayor. Alito, Roberts and Sotomayor were all lambasted in the media by pundits on both sides because of their points of view and potential ideological beliefs. It's not their fault they adhere to conservatism or liberalism. They should strive to remain objective and impartial, but we know that doesn't happen on the court (see Scalia, Antonin). So I think the system needs to change. Supreme Court Justices should be given term limits, not life-time appointments. Confirmation hearings should be more robust and in-depth, and nominated judges shouldn't get what is seemingly a pass onto the bench of the highest court in the land. But there need to be system-wide changes to affect any change in this arena. In the meantime, it's useless to criticize a president for his choice. And it rarely does any good to criticize the judge. (Unless his name is Robert Bork. There are some crazies out there. Sotomayor, though, is not one of them.)