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Painting Sotomayor As a Racist -- Not a Pretty Picture for the GOP

By Andrea TantarosRepublican Political Commentator/FOXNews.com Contributor

The verdict is in: Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich think Obama's Supreme Court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, is a racist. Why? They start (and finish) with these remarks:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Yup, sounds like racism to me. And of course if any white man would have said the reverse he'd be vilified.

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Any Republican assault that appears shrill to the electorate will backfire and damage our brand.
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However, calling her a racist -- though intellectually honest -- is politically most unwise. The visual is even worse: two, old white guys angrily battling a minority female (I'm having flashbacks of the partial birth abortion bill passage when President Bush was flanked by all men in dark suits and grey hair. Not a woman in sight. It wasn't pretty). This is not the picture, or the fight, we want.

The Republican Party is much smarter than to invoke the commonplace, language of the left. They are the ones that typically use words like "racist." Since when did the GOP turn into the Democratic Party? Even they have moved on from the 1990s when Bill Clinton and Tom Daschle were their mouthpieces. This is beyond arrested development. We are regressing.

The GOP should structure its opposition to Sotomayor by focusing on two fundamental points. The first is her ability to thoughtfully interpret the Constitution.

Translation: fairness.She has made questionable statements and rulings in the past that warrant this inquiry. Specifically the comments she offered about ethnicity, whether or not judges can put their personal "sympathies" aside and do their job, and her ruling on the New Haven firefighters' affirmative action case.

The second challenge should be directed at Obama: is Sotomayor a tool to advance the president's world view that the irresponsible will be rewarded at the expense of the responsible? Obama's vision is one that comes to the rescue of people who bought homes they couldn't afford, companies who made terrible business decisions; a dogma that perpetuates weapons of class destruction, and the belief that a safety net should be the norm, not an aberration.

It is much like the "critical" legal theory that elite law schools like Harvard have been teaching for more than a decade. It's a theory that both Obama and his nominee ascribe to and seek to put into practice.

The basis of critical theory is that there is no objectivity in the law. Legal positions are based upon one's background, ethnicity, wealth (or lack thereof), etc. The law is just an equalizer -- a power tool to be used by various groups and the key to good legal judgment is "empathy" with the poor, the downtrodden, etc. The first commandment is: don't let the powerful and rich use the law to their advantage.

The right must understand that if this theory has been taught for a decade in our nation's most prestigious law schools, it will have political consequences. This is exactly what we are seeing today, which gives credence to an argument I have been making for months -- the GOP needs to stop focusing on every little political fight and start to care about the culture.

Here are the professions currently dominated by the left: journalism, law, academia and the arts. In other words, they're a force in powerful professions that involve ideas and shape our culture. The conservative "movement" can't keep moving when there is no intellectual engine behind it. It is exhausted. We are now using the terminology of the left ("racist") to try to make our points. We should not have to stoop to the playing field of progressives. The GOP is better than this. The Party is smarter than this. If the right doesn't start to care about changing the culture, we are destined to lose - and not just this Supreme Court battle. We'll lose the war.

The Obama administration triangulated the right with this raw, political pick to shore up its base with women, Latinos and liberals. Any Republican assault that appears shrill to the electorate will backfire and damage our brand. Though Bush left a leadership vacuum in his wake, we should not fill it with angry, Democratic rhetoric. Reagan certainly wouldn't. We must be smarter than to fall into their trap.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative commentator and columnist. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.comor www.foxnews.com/opinion.