Bob Herbert Wakes Up, Smells the Racism in GOP Opposition to Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor's no racist, but just about everyone in the Republican party is, says the Times liberal columnist.

The normally soporific liberal columnist Bob Herbert definitely had his coffee before penning his Tuesday column, "The Howls Of a Fading Species," in which he stomped through much the same fervid left-wing fever-swamp territory that his colleague CharlesBlowtrod through onSaturday. The difference: While Blowwent after Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and Tom Tancredo, Herbert went after...Rush, Newt, and Tancredo, but for varietythrew in a couple ofold favorites: Bush White House strategist Karl Rove and former president Ronald Reagan.

One can only hope that the hysterical howling of right-wingers against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is something approaching a death rattle for this profoundly destructive force in American life.

It's hard to fathom the heights of hypocrisy currently being scaled by the foaming-in-the-mouth crazies who are leading the charge against the nomination. Newt Gingrich, who never needed a factual basis for his ravings, rants on Twitter that Judge Sotomayor is a "Latina woman racist," apparently unaware of his incoherence in the "Latina-woman" redundancy in this defamatory characterization.

Karl Rove sneered that Ms. Sotomayor was "not necessarily" smart, thus managing to get the toxic issue of intelligence into play in the case of a woman who graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, went on to get a law degree from Yale and has more experience as a judge than any of the current justices had at the time of their nominations to the court.

It turns the stomach. There is no level of achievement sufficient to escape the stultifying bonds of bigotry. It is impossible to be smart enough or accomplished enough.

The amount of disrespect that has spattered the nomination of Judge Sotomayor is disgusting. She is spoken of, in some circles, as if she were the lowest of the low. Rush Limbaugh - now there's a genius! - has compared her nomination to a hypothetical nomination of David Duke, a former head of the Ku Klux Klan. "How can a president nominate such a candidate?" Limbaugh asked.

Ms. Sotomayor is a member of the National Council of La Raza, the Hispanic civil rights organization. In the crazy perspective of some right-wingers, the mere existence of La Raza should make decent people run for cover. La Raza is "a Latino K.K.K. without the hoods and the nooses," said Tom Tancredo, a Republican former congressman from Colorado.

Herbert dipped into his greatest hits bag:

Where were the right-wing protests when Ronald Reagan went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 with a salute to states' rights in, of all places, Philadelphia, Miss., not far from the site where three young civil rights workers had been snatched and murdered by real-life, rabid, blood-thirsty racists?

The charge that Reagan was making a racist appeal with his first trip involved Herbert and fellow left-wing Times columnist Paul Krugman in a silent scuffle with the paper's non-liberal columnist David Brooks back in November 2007.

Reagan did visit the Neshoba County Fair, a common stomping ground for politicians, on August 3, 1980, but stuck mostly to talking about the failures of President Jimmy Carter, with one line about states rights, which was supposedly his "dog whistle" appeal to racists. As Brooks pointed out, Reagan then went to New York and spoke to the National Urban League and dedicated much of his first campaign week to making appeals to blacks.