The important job for Republicans, and conservatives generally, is to use the confirmation hearings as a teaching moment. It's important to get Sotomayor's views out on the public record, to the extent that she will reveal them.
I would do one other thing. The Republicans will be able to call witnesses and there is one person that America needs to hear from on the Sotomayor nomination. That person is Miguel Estrada.
If you don't know who Miguel Estrada is and why he matters, I would like to call to your attention this piece from Byron York in the Washington Examiner. Consider the following:
And they did. As York details in his piece, the Democrats succeeded. They threw up a number of procedural maneuvers and eventually filibustered the Estrada nomination, along with many more Bush administration nominees. Eventually Estrada tired of it and withdrew his name from consideration.
In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated former Justice Department lawyer Miguel Estrada to a seat on the federal courts of appeals. In that instance, as today, the nominee was was a Hispanic with a compelling story and impressive qualifications. And some of the very people who are today praising Sotomayor spent their time devising extraordinary measures to kill Estrada's chances.
Born in Honduras, Estrada came to the United States at 17, not knowing a word of English. He learned the language almost instantly, and within a few years was graduating with honors from Columbia University and heading off to Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, was a prosecutor in New York, and worked at the Justice Department in Washington before entering private practice.
Estrada's nomination for a federal judgeship set off alarm bells among Democrats. There is a group of left-leaning organizations -- People for the American Way, NARAL, the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, and others -- that work closely with Senate Democrats to promote Democratic judicial nominations and kill Republican ones. They were particularly concerned about Estrada.
In November, 2001, representatives of those groups met with Democratic Senate staff. One of those staffers then wrote a memo to Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, informing Durbin that the groups wanted to stall Bush nominees, particularly three they had identified as good targets. "They also identified Miguel Estrada as especially dangerous," the staffer added, "because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment. They want to hold Estrada off as long as possible."
I don't know if Miguel Estrada would have made a good Supreme Court justice or not. His story is at least as compelling as Sotomayor's. If academic credentials and job performance matter at all, he surely should have had the opportunity to serve on the Court of Appeals. As the Democrats prepare to take their victory lap for appointing the first wise Latina to the nation's highest court, it would certainly be worth reminding the American people of the role their party played in derailing the aspirations of a wise Latino.