No comparison

NO COMPARISON…. After noting some of the political complications associated with Republicans attacking the first Latina Supreme Court nominee, Time‘s Jay Newton-Small noted, “A GOP birdie reminds me that the Dems paid little heed to Hispanic voters when they filibustered Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, often seen as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.”

Apparently, this is going around. Karl Rove raised the same point in his Wall Street Journal column today.

The media has also quickly adopted the story line that Republicans will damage themselves with Hispanics if they oppose Ms. Sotomayor. But what damage did Democrats suffer when they viciously attacked Miguel Estrada’s nomination by President George W. Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s second-highest court?

If this is going to continue to be a regular part of the Republican message, it’s probably explaining why it’s an absurd comparison (though it does point to one key larger truth).

First, as Newton-Small added, the political landscape has changed since Estrada’s nomination was defeated in 2003, most notably after the fight over immigration reform.

Second, as Jon Chait explained, the two nominations are hardly identical: “[T]he GOP has a bad reputation among Hispanics and the Democrats don’t, and the Supreme Court plays an ever-so-slightly larger role in the public imagination than the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Third, Rove is making a foolish assumption, suggesting that Latino voters resent politicians who oppose Latino nominees. That’s wrong. Rove may have forgotten, but the Democrats’ position was bolstered by the fact that Estrada was opposed by Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and the William C. Velasquez Institute.

But let’s also take this opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane. I followed the Estrada nomination pretty closely six years ago, and it’s worth reminding the political world of the shameless identity politics Republicans played at the time.

Trent Lott — Trent Lott! — said of Democrats, “They don’t want Miguel Estrada because he’s Hispanic.” When Florida Sen. Bob Graham (D) voted against Estrada, none other than Rush Limbaugh ran a statement on his website with a headline that read, “Bob Graham’s Crusade Against Hispanic Judges.”

In 2003, a variety of Republicans argued that Democratic opposition to a Hispanic judicial nominee was necessarily evidence of Democratic racism. Now that conservatives are worked up over Sonia Sotomayor, I wonder whether Republicans are prepared to be held to the same standard.