Poor Justice Gorsuch. He just can’t seem to catch a break with the Left.
First, there’s Brian Stelter, the touchy media critic for CNN who was on the justice’s case a couple of years ago, when he attacked him for hawking a book on Fox and Friends. As I noted in an Inquirer column at the time, Stelter didn’t seem to apply the same stringent standards of judicial propriety to Justice Sonia “The Wise Latina” Sotomayor, who’d gone on The View to hawk her own book, a memoir.
That got me blocked by Stelter on Twitter, because he was appalled that I’d write an entire column quoting him back to himself. He retweeted a screenshot of my column and observed that “It is surreal to see three tweets, including one of mine, used as the basis of a long op-ed in the Philly Inquirer. Humble suggestion: Debate tweets here on Twitter! Use print editorial space for more important, and local, issues.” And then, instead of debating, he blocked me.
Talk about surreal.
I’d pretty much forgotten about that broadside from the progressives against Gorsuch, until I saw a column from someone who — unlike yours truly — still has a job at the Inquirer, opinion columnist Helen Ubiñas. The tagline used after Helen’s columns is “I am a columnist focusing on issues of equity, equality and justice.” I don’t have a tagline on any of my own columns, but if I did it certainly wouldn’t be that. It might be something more like “I am a columnist focusing on stuff that makes people who focus on equity, equality and justice angry.”
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But I digress. Helen is quite a good writer, and while I disagree with 100 percent of her political opinions, I can’t deny that she knows how to wield a powerful pen (or keyboard.) But when I saw her recent piece on Justice Gorsuch, I had to go back to her description as being someone who focuses on equity, equality and justice to see if, along with those priorities, she also included “fairness.” Because Ubiñas’ piece about the justice was as fair as Stelter’s lopsided critique over two years ago: which is to say that it was one of the most unfair things I’ve read in a very long time.
Ubiñas focused on the faux controversy about Gorsuch not wearing a mask at work, even though John Roberts allegedly asked him to do so since his fellow justice, the aforementioned Wise Latina, suffered from diabetes. The title of her column is “Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch Mask Dispute Provides a Lesson in Enabling.”
I know that most columnists don’t get to write their own headlines, and I’ve been annoyed in the past about some of the klunkers that I’ve been saddled with by inattentive editors, but further reading showed that the headline perfectly captured the overall vibe of the piece.
First, she goes after the fact that Gorsuch is — horror of horrors — a white male, noting that “[i]n an opinion piece for CNN, Karen Alaimo wrote that Gorsuch’s behavior was a shocking display of male entitlement. Agreed, and let’s take that a step further: It’s white male entitlement, because as it happens, Sotomayor, a fellow Puerto Rican, is the only woman of color on the bench. And phew, the optics!”
So apparently Gorsuch wants to kill the only Puerto Rican on the bench. That vile white male Episcopalian.
And then, not content to limit it to the white maleness of Gorsuch, Ubiñas extends the theory of malice to the others on the bench, the “enablers” of her headline. She goes on: “But while all eyes and ire seemed to land on Gorsuch, mine lingered longer on the other justices, because from the hallowed grounds of the White House to the more common spaces of our everyday workplaces, bad behavior can’t exist without enablers, not easily, anyway.”
First, Ubiñas goes after the fact that Gorsuch is — horror of horrors — a white male…
And then she makes that leap that years ago would have seemed strange but now makes sense in a world where all of the evil and toxicity of the human condition stems from the last administration:
“Think about it. Trump couldn’t have been Trump without a cadre of enablers who are still in power.”
So we have come full circle, from a white male justice refusing to take precautions to protect a vulnerable female justice of color (which by their own admission, via a public statement, never happened) to the callous complicity of the other justices who don’t care that Sonia’s health is endangered to, of course, Donald Trump.
I understand that columnists have the right to say anything that comes into their heads, and then editors get to buff the rough edges into something printable, and then you have the right to either read them or turn the page. I celebrate the fact that I get to play in that same arena.
But honestly, to turn a non-event into an indictment of the non-existent cruelty of a Supreme Court Justice just so you can make a point about how Donald Trump has turned us all into uncaring barbarians is a bit rich, even in this climate.
As for Neil and Sonia, I’m sure they’re getting a few good laughs about the whole thing, as they split a plate of arroz con pollo and a few pints of whatever it is that white Episcopalian men drink when they want to chill out.
(Editor’s note: It’s gin, mostly.)
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61