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Judicial Intimidator Cornyn Defends Sotomayor from Rush

May 29, 2009

You know things are bad for the conservative movement when John Cornyn comes to the defense of Sonia Sotomayor. On Thursday, the Texas Senator called rejected as "terrible" charges from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich that Sotomayor is a "racist." Coming from a man who casually condoned threats against American judges, Cornyn's statement is telling indeed.
Speaking on NPR, Cornyn responded to Gingrich and Limbaugh's rush to the gutter:

"I think it's terrible. 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 are elected Republican officials. I just don't think it's appropriate. I certainly don't endorse it. I think it's wrong."

To be sure, John Cornyn is an expert on inappropriate tones. After the revelations of illegal domestic surveillance by the NSA under President Bush, Cornyn in February 2006 proclaimed, "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead." During the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Eric Holder, Cornyn the torture enthusiast protested to the nominee, "You would still refuse to condone aggressive interrogation techniques like waterboarding to get that information, which would, under my hypothetical, save perhaps tens of thousands of lives?"
But what makes Cornyn's defense of President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court all the more ironic is his past history of issuing none-too-thinly veiled threats against judges.
Of course, many of the leading lights in the Republican Party have it made clear that judicial intimidation is now an acceptable part of conservative discourse and political strategy. And Cornyn, himself ironically a former Texas Supreme Court Justice, has been at the forefront of GOP advocacy of violence towards members of the bench whose rulings part ways with conservative orthodoxy.
Back in 2005, Cornyn was one of the GOP standard bearers in the conservative fight against so-called "judicial activism" in the wake of the Republicans' disastrous intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair. On April 4th, Cornyn took to the Senate floor to issue a not-too-thinly veiled threat to judges opposing his reactionary agenda. Just days after the murders of judges in Chicago and Atlanta, Cornyn offered his endorsement of judicial intimidation:

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country...And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."

(As it turns out, Cornyn was merely echoing the words of the indicted former House Majority Leader and fellow Texan Tom Delay. On March 31st, 2005 Delay thundered in response to the consistent rulings in favor of Michael Schiavo by all federal and state court judges involved, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today.")
Facing criticism for his remarks seemingly endorsing right-wing retribution against judges, Cornyn held his ground. "I didn't make the link," he said on Fox News Sunday. "It was taken out of context," adding sarcastically, "I regret it was taken out of context and misinterpreted."
As it turns out, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor blamed Cornyn and his ilk for the incendiary rhetoric which fueled death threats against her and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2006. Cornyn and his fellow travelers, O'Connor warned, were "creating a culture" in which violence towards judges is merely another political tactic:

"It gets worse. It doesn't help when a high-profile senator suggests a 'cause-and-effect connection' [between controversial rulings and subsequent acts of violence.]"

John Cornyn, of course, will vote against Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation. But that he of all people would call his fellow right-wingers' criticism of a sitting judge "terrible" and "wrong" says something about the continued degeneration of the conservative movement.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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