The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has intensified a long-simmering racial divide within the Republican Party.
African-American and Hispanic conservatives who have questioned her judicial philosophy also note the historic nature of the appointment and praise her triumph over economic hardship. White conservatives, on the other hand, have been far more personal and aggressive in their attacks on Sotomayor's record, repeatedly accusing her of "reverse racism" and questioning her intelligence.
"I'm excited that a Hispanic woman is in this position," said Michael Steele on Bill Bennett's radio show Friday. He added that instead of "slammin' and rammin'" on Sotomayor, Republicans should "acknowledge" the "historic aspect" of the selection and stick to a "cogent, articulate argument" against her.
Steele argued that the GOP should not "get painted as a party that's against the first Hispanic woman" picked for the Supreme Court.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales echoed these views recently, telling CNN, "I have no questions in my mind about her qualifications in terms of education, experience. A president is not required to nominate the most qualified person to the court. I think he's obliged to nominate someone who is well-qualified, and I think by any measures, she is well-qualified. I think there are legitimate questions about her judicial philosophy."
White male conservatives, despite polling showing both the public and GOP insiders disagree, are maintaining that Sotomayor is an unqualified bigot.
Pat Buchanan described Sotomayor in a column Friday as an "anti-white liberal judicial activist" as well as a "lightweight" who "covers up her intellectual inadequacy by bullying from the bench."
John Derbyshire, at National Review Online, took admiration for Sotomayor's life story as an intentional insult to him and all other white people:
I get mighty annoyed by the unspoken implication in a lot of commentary that anyone not a member of a Protected Minority must have grown up in a twelve-bedroom lakeside mansion and been chauffered off to prep school with a silver spoon in his mouth. Judge Sotomayor was raised in public housing? So was I. Her mother was a nurse working late shifts? So was mine. When did white working poor people disappear off the face of the earth? Where are the eager listeners to their "compelling stories"?
On Bill Bennett's radio show Thursday, the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes suggested that Sotomayor got into Princeton through affirmative action, and went on to suggest that most students probably get "some kind of Cum Laude."
BARNES: I think you can make the case that she's one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.
BENNETT: Yeah, well, maybe so. Did she get into Princeton on affirmative action, one wonders.BARNES: One wonders.
BENNETT: Summa Cum Laude, I don't think you get on affirmative action. I don't know what her major was, but Summa Cum Laude's a pretty big deal.
BARNES: I guess it is, but you know, there's some schools and maybe Princeton's not one of them, where if you don't get Summa Cum Laude then or some kind of Cum Laude, you then, you're a D+ student.
Bill O'Reilly claimed Thursday night that "the left sees white men as a problem" and putting women and minorities in power is the solution.
And Rush Limbaugh recently described the GOP as the true "oppressed minority."