The right response

THE RIGHT RESPONSE…. The Politico had an odd item late yesterday, arguing that with so many unhinged conservatives accusing Sonia Sotomayor of “racism,” it’s incumbent on the White House to address the issue.

“Some Democrats and political analysts are urging the White House to shift course and concede that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made an error when she suggested in 2001 that Hispanic women would make better judges than white men,” Josh Gerstein reported, before quoting Lanny Davis and Chris Lehane.

But she didn’t “suggest” Hispanic women would make better judges than white men. An honest reading of the 2001 speech in question makes this clear (even to conservatives who are disinclined to support her nomination). She explained, quite clearly, that one’s background and experiences can help shape a judge’s perspective, but added that he or she must remain cognizant of that to prevent biases from dictating outcomes. Indeed, her detractors have it backwards — Sotomayor said in the same speech she’s committed to “complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives.”

In reality, it’s not the White House that needs to respond to bogus Republican accusations of “racism,” it’s GOP leaders who need to weigh in. Yesterday, that’s exactly what happened.

A top Senate Republican is taking aim at recent statements from conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich suggesting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is a “racist.”

“I think it’s terrible,” Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NPR’s “All Things Considered” Thursday. “This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent.” […]

“Neither one of these men [Gingrich and Limbaugh] are elected Republican officials. I just don’t think it’s appropriate. I certainly don’t endorse it. I think it’s wrong,” he said.

Good call. Cornyn no doubt realizes the damage — short and long term — that Republican leaders like Gingrich and Limbaugh are doing to their party, and it makes sense to have a top GOP official like Cornyn disavowing their offensive attacks.

It’s what makes the Politico article all the more mistaken. When prominent Republican voices launch ridiculous attacks, it’s not up to the White House to lend the criticism credibility; it’s up to the GOP to disassociate itself from the nonsense.

And better yet, it’s up to political reporters at major outlets to explain to the public why the attacks are false. I can’t help but notice that isn’t happening much.