Just hours after President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh declared that Obama had nominated a “racist.” In the following days, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) followed suit, while Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) appeared to come to the same conclusion.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) denounced such attacks as “terrible” late last week. This morning on Meet the Press, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — who will help lead Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings — said that “he would prefer his colleagues refrain from calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist.” Similarly, on Fox News Sunday Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the accusations of racism were wrong, remarking that Limbaugh was simply attempting to “entertain” his audience.
On CNN’s State of the Union, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he has “better things to do” than to ask members of his party to refrain from accusing Sotomayor of being a racist. Host John King noted that McConnell is the “highest elected Republican in the United State of America” and asked, “would it be best that language like racist not be used?” McConnell demurred:
KING: Are Rush and Newt making it a lot harder by using language like that? [...]
MCCONNELL: They’re certainly entitled to their opinions. … Look, I’ve got a big job to dealing with 40 senate Republicans and trying to advance a nation’s agenda. I’ve got better things to do than to be the speech police over people who are going to have their views about a very important appointment.
As Paul Krugman remarked on ABC’s This Week this morning, “I think the Republicans have got a real problem here. Because if they do go ‘no,’ they’re going to seem to be the party of Rush Limbaugh, the party of Newt Gingrich, the party of completely crazy accusations against someone who is after all a highly-respectable, very smart, middle-of-the-road jurist.”
Asked if Sotomayor is a “racist,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) ducked the issue on CBS this morning. “I’m not going to get involved in characterizations before I’ve even met her,” Kyl said. Watch it: