Chairman of The Center for Equal Opportunity Linda Chavez Testifies at Judge Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, July 16, 2009; 4:38 PM

WHITEHOUSE: We'll now from Linda Chavez, who's chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

She's held a number of appointed positions, among them White House director of public liaison and staff director of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

CHAVEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

I testify today not as a wise Latina woman but an American who believes that skin color and national origin should not determine who gets a job, a promotion or a public contract or who gets into college or receives a fellowship.

My message today is straightforward. Mr. Chairman, do not vote to confirm this nominee. I say this with some regret, because I believe Judge Sotomayor's personal story is an inspiring one, which proves that this is truly a land of opportunity, where circumstances of birth and class do not determine whether you can succeeded.

Unfortunately, based on her statements both on and off the bench, I do not believe Judge Sotomayor shares that view. It is clear from her record that she has drunk deep from the well of identity politics.

I know a lot about that well, and I can tell you that it is dark and poisonous. It is, in my view, impossible to be a fair judge and also believe that one's race, ethnicity and sex should determine how someone will rule as a judge.

Despite her assurances to this committee over the last few days that her "wise Latina woman" statement was simply a, quote, "rhetorical flourish fell flat," nothing could be further from the truth.

All of us in public life have, at one time or another, misspoken. But Judge Sotomayor's words weren't uttered off the cuff. They were carefully crafted, repeated, not just once or twice, but at least seven times over several years.

As others have pointed out, if Judge Sotomayor were a white man who suggested that whites or males made better judges, again, to use Judge Sotomayor's words, quote, "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences," end quote, "we would not be having this discussion. Because the nominee would have been forced to withdraw once those words became public."

But, of course, Judge Sotomayor's offensive words are just a reflection of her much greater body of work as an ethnic activist and judge.

Identity politics is at the core of who this woman is. And let me be clear here. I'm not talking about the understandable pride in one's ancestry or ethnic roots, which is both common and natural in a country as diverse and pluralistic as ours.

CHAVEZ: Identity politics involves a sense of grievance against the majority, a feeling that racism permeates American society and its institutions and the belief that members of one's own group are victims in a perpetual power struggle with the majority.

From her earliest days at Princeton University, and later, Yale Law School, to her 12-year involvement with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, to her speeches and writings, including her jurisprudence, Judge Sotomayor has consistently displayed an affinity for such views.

I have outlined at much greater length in my prepared testimony, which I ask permission be included in the record in full, the way in which I believe identity politics has permeated Judge Sotomayor's life's work. But let me briefly outline a few examples.

As an undergraduate, she actively pushed for race-based goals and timetables for faculty hiring. In a much-praised senior thesis, she refused to identify the United States Congress by its proper name, instead referring to it as the North American Congress or the Mainland Congress.

During her tenure as chair of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund's Director Litigation Committee, she urged (inaudible) seeking lawsuits challenging the civil service exams, seeking race- conscious decision-making similar to that used by the city of New Haven in Ricci.

She opposed the death penalty as racist. She supported race- based government contracting. She made dubious arguments in support of bilingual education and more broadly in trying to equate English language requirements as a form of national origin discrimination. As a judge she dissented from an opinion that the Voting Rights Act does not give prison inmates the right to vote.

And she has said that as a witness -- eyewitnesses' identification of an assailant may be unconstitutional racial profiling in violation of the equal protection clause, if race is an element of that identification. Finally, she has shown a willingness to let her policy preferences guide her in the Ricci case.

Although she has attempted this week to back away from some of her own intemperate words and has accused her critics of taking them out of context, the record is clear. Identity politics is at the core of Judge Sotomayor's self-definition. It has guided her involvement in advocacy groups, been the topic of much of our public writing and speeches, and influenced her interpretation of law.

There is no reason to believe that her elevation to the Supreme Court will temper this inclination, and much reason to fear that it will play an important role in how she approaches the cases that will come before her, if she is confirmed.

I therefore respectfully urge you not to confirm Judge Sotomayor as an associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Thank you.

CARDIN: Thank you for your testimony.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company