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May 30, 2009

I Say Sotomayor, you Say… Lani Guinier (and the Smell of Scandal)



This morning — in showcasing right-wing concerns over Sonia Sotomayor’s “focus on race” — the NYT drew this visual parallel … with Lani Guinier. (The article“Sotomayor’s Focus on Race Issues May Be Hurdle”– also features a close-up photo of an intense-looking (white male) Texas Republican and Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn with the quote: “Justice should be colorblind.”)

Guinier, if you recall, was nominated by Bill Clinton for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in ‘93. The nomination was withdrawn after the right-wing distorted, then flipped-out over her views on voting and civil rights, leading the WSJ editorial board to label her “one of “Clinton’s Quota Queens.” (There’s a good Guinier profile here which is interesting alone for documenting how a nominee can be defamed, then chewed up by the right-wing attack machine.)

This visual offers a nominee “to a top Justice post” and a woman-of-color clutching tight to a roll of papers and looking grim, doggedly ahead and mostly oblivious to a question being posed to her by a (blonde, female and emphatically inquiring) member of the press who has obviously been doing her background research.

Given the darkness, the paparazzi-like feel and, primarily, the sense of controversy and embattlement, this analogy not only sets up Sotomayor as a polarizing racial figure but encourages the consideration that her nomination, as well as she herself, could be headed for trouble over “her racial views.”

(12:55 am PST – slightly edited)

(image: Luke Frazza/AFP – Getty Images)

  • Sirius, The Star Dog

    I believe the “…(blonde, female and emphatically inquiring) member of the press who has obviously been doing her background research” is Rita Braver, Senior Correspondent for CBS News.

  • gmoke

    Lani Guinier comes from Cambridge, MA. What the Right saw as quotas, according to what I’ve read, was Guinier only expanding the idea of proportional representation, what we have here in city elections.
    She doesn’t look particularly grim to me. In this photo, she stands taller than anybody else in the shot and is looking beyond the immediate surroundings to the future.
    I met her mother once or twice in the food coop and her husband is a friend. She teaches now at Harvard Law School.

  • Tena

    That was such a shame. I read Lani Guinier’s work on equalizing voting rights and it was just flat brilliant. She should never have had to go through that – it was so stupid, anti-democratic and typically Republican.

  • stevelaudig

    Whenever you start liking Bill Clinton google Ricky Ray Rector and Lani Guinier. His treatment of the are reasons to neither like nor trust the historical Clinton. These episodes tend to chill the ardor and allows one to get a glimpse of why the right hates him so and see they aren’t as incorrect as sometimes one would like to believe as some essential facet of his character. It is all about Bill, after all. Naive to think this I suppose.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    Yes, this is very similar to what happened to Lani.
    I guess the biggest difference is that Guinier was criticized for her scholarship, rather than just one comment. The work she did on minority representation ultimately did her in, and it was wildly mis-characterized at the time.
    In this case, perhaps I am wrong, but I feel that the tactic will not win, and indeed may have lost some effectiveness.

  • Zoey & Me

    I don’t see her tense in this photo. I do wonder about the NYTimes. The Senate will see a very intelligent woman, strong willed, and excellent communicator when the show begins. She will be a hard nut to crack and I think make America proud. Watch the press put their arms around her.

  • bob h

    If I were Sotomayor I would announce my eagerness to have the hearings start at once. The context for the “controversial” statements will be explained, and her intelligence and force of personality will be on display. But the Republicans want to keep things in the gossipy, character assassination phase.

  • Erix s

    The big difference here is that Lani Guinier’s interviews with Senate members were not going well before Clinton was advised to withdraw her nomination. Whereas, Sonya Sotomayor appears to have impressed every Senator with whom she met this past week during her informal interviews– Democrats and Republicans alike.

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