Sunday, July 12, 2009

In anticipation of the upcoming Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings, Dahlia Lithwick--whose recent piece on Sarah Palin's communication skills is the one that everyone else wishes they'd written ("Think of an American visiting France who believes that if he just speaks louder, he will be speaking French.")--has a handy rundown on the legal history of Frank Ricci, the Connecticut firefighter who "has become a sort of folk hero for white men everywhere, [for] having dared to stand up against the evils of affirmative action and race-based employment preferences." Part of the mythology of Ricci, who has been penciled in to speak at the hearings, is that he's one of those rough-hewn, simple working men who would rather settle his differences with the powers that be in a fistfight at Miss Kitty's saloon, but who was pushed by powerful and contemptible forces to lower himself to do the unthinkable and phone a lawyer. Actually, Lithwick points out, Ricci got started on the path that would make him the new Joe the Plumber when he was twenty years old and first got his job by suing New Haven on the grounds that, because he is dyslexic, the city's failure to hire him to fill one of 40 positions (out of almost 800 applicants) made a travesty of a mockery of a sham of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ricci's whole career history, as Lithwick lays it out, appears to be that of "a serial plaintiff—one who reacts to professional slights and setbacks by filing suit, threatening to file suit, and more or less complaining his way up the chain of command." This may not be a big surprise to anyone who actually examined the case that the GOP is trying to hang like an albatross around Sotomayor's neck and detected a certain overeagerness on the plaintiff's part to take this to a courtroom. Certainly there is nothing novel, at this late date, about white Republican males nominating someone for the John Wayne Heroic Self-Reliance Medal on the basis of how loudly he can whine.

The Sotomayor hearings, which I expect will make room for extravagantly sarcastic references to "wise Latina women" from any prominent Republican not hiding out in a Ramada Inn until his current adultery and/or extortion scandal blows over so he can come out and resume lecturing everybody else about the high moral standards we all must be held to, promise to make for an interesting moment in the modern history of relations between the Republican party and the Latin community. Those cursed with long memories will remember that it was by mating George W. Bush's splendid feel for the Hispanic people and that demographic's supposed sympathy for conservative values that Karl Rove hoped to make a generation of Hispanic Americans die-hard Republican voters and so construct his thousand-year GOP realignment. How they laughed when a meek little office intern suggested that maybe, to pull this off, they should send out a memo to the rest of the party and suggest that they not revert to form and build an entire mid-term election around complaints that dirty brown-skinned immigrants were coming for your daughters. You kind of have to wonder now if Rove might have directed his energies elsewhere if he'd known that the closest thing to a positive effect for the GOP that would emerge from his efforts would be a teaching job in Texas for ol' Learned Hand here.

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