Every time a Democrat senator has talked during the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor this week, I felt lousy about my country. Not for the usual reasons when a Democrat talks, but because Democrats revel in telling us what a racist country this is.
Interestingly, the Democrats' examples of ethnic prejudice did not include Clarence Thomas, whose nomination hearings began with the Democrats saying, "You may now uncuff the defendant."
Their examples did not include Miguel Estrada, the brilliant Harvard-educated lawyer who was blocked from an appellate court judgeship by Senate Democrats expressly on the grounds that he is a Hispanic -- as stated in Democratic staff memos that became public.
No, they had to go back to Roger Taney -- confirmed in 1836 -- who was allegedly attacked for being a Catholic (and who authored the Dred Scott decision), and Louis Brandeis -- confirmed in 1916 -- allegedly a victim of anti-Semitism.
Indeed, Sen. Patrick Leahy lied about Estrada's nomination, blaming it on Republicans: "He was not given a hearing when the Republicans were in charge. He was given a hearing when the Democrats were in charge."
The Republicans were "in charge" for precisely 14 days between Estrada's nomination on May 9, 2001, and May 24, 2001, when Sen. Jim Jeffords switched parties, giving Democrats control of the Senate. The Democrats then refused to hold a hearing on Estrada's nomination for approximately 480 days, shortly before the 2002 election.
Even after Republicans won back a narrow majority in 2003, Estrada was blocked "by an extraordinary filibuster mounted by Senate Democrats" -- as The New York Times put it.
Memos from the Democratic staff of the Judiciary Committee were later unearthed, revealing that they considered Estrada "especially dangerous" -- as stated in a memo by a Sen. Dick Durbin staffer -- because "he is Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment."
Sandy Berger wasn't available to steal back the memos, so Durbin ordered Capitol Police to seize the documents from Senate computer servers and lock them in a police vault.
Led by Sens. Leahy and Chuck Schumer, Democrats ferociously opposed Estrada, who would have been the first Hispanic to sit on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They were so determined to keep him off the Supreme Court that Leahy and Schumer introduced legislation at one point to construct a fence around Estrada's house.
In frustration, Estrada finally withdrew his name on Sept. 5, 2003.
At the time, liberal historian David Garrow predicted that if the Democrats blocked Estrada, they would be "handing Bush a campaign issue to use in the Hispanic community."
Alas, today Democrats can't really place Estrada -- James Carville confuses him with that other Hispanic, Alberto Gonzales. On MSNBC they laugh about his obscurity, asking if he was the cop on "CHiPs." They also can't recall the name "Anita Hill." Nor can anyone remember African-American Janice Rogers Brown or what the Democrats did to her.
Only the indignities suffered by Justices Taney and Brandeis still burn in liberal hearts!
So when Republicans treat Sotomayor with respect and Sen. Lindsey Graham says his "hope" is that "if we ever get a conservative president and they nominate someone who has an equal passion on the other side, that we will not forget this moment," I think it's a lovely speech.
It might even persuade me if I were born yesterday.
But Democrats treat judicial nominations like war -- while Republicans keep being gracious, hoping Democrats will learn by example.