In 2003, Miguel Estrada Was Dismissed As Bush 'Affirmative Action Candidate'

May 26th, 2009 2:17 PM

The nomination of a Hispanic for the Supreme Court will remind conservatives of the case of Miguel Estrada, a promising Hispanic conservative that the Democrats filibustered -- at the circuit court level -- and in 2003, Estrada gave up the battle.

Here’s one priceless exchange from ABC’s This Week on February 9, 2003, with an ABC reporter now working as a talk-show host on National Public Radio:

MICHEL MARTIN: Miguel Estrada is a very promising young lawyer who went to some excellent schools, had excellent clerkships, has a good work record. What he lacks in judicial background he makes up with a compelling life story....And you know what that’s called George? Affirmative action. He is an affirmative action candidate as practiced by the Republican Party and the conservative movement....

GEORGE WILL: Michel, affirmative action, in the Michigan style, would be to give Estrada 20 extra points. He didn’t get that. He got the highest possible rating by the ABA.

Back in 2003, I wrote up the Estrada case for a Media Reality Check:

On May 9, 2001, President Bush nominated his first batch of nominees to the federal circuit courts in an East Room ceremony. One of the nominees standing on the risers was Miguel Estrada. Liberal groups quickly decided to fight this 41-year-old Honduran immigrant tooth and nail. People for the American Way thought they were insulting him by calling him the "Latino Clarence Thomas."

Today, the Senate failed to end the Democratic filibuster of Estrada by a vote of 55 to 44 (60 votes are needed to end debate). He could be confirmed (Thomas had 52 votes in 1991), but liberal Democrats won’t allow it. Like Thomas, the hostility isn’t because he’s a minority – it’s because he’s a conservative minority, a threat to the notion that minorities should only think and vote Democratic.

This historic filibuster began a month ago. It’s the first time a cloture vote has denied a judicial nominee below the Supreme Court level. In 1968, the Senate filibustered ethically challenged Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas when Lyndon Johnson nominated him as chief justice in 1968. But ABC’s and CBS’s daily morning and evening news shows haven’t done a single story on the Estrada battle in the last two years. ABC’s This Week has covered it.

NBC Nightly News aired one story, on February 26, the day President Bush welcomed Latino activists to the White House to press for Estrada’s confirmation. Reporter Norah O’Donnell used soundbites from Brent Wilkes, "director of the nation’s largest Latino advocacy group," LULAC, calling the fight "unfortunate," but did not mention that the group endorsed Estrada. O’Donnell explained Democrats "don’t dispute Estrada’s qualifications, but argue he’s too conservative for what some consider the second-highest court in the land." She did not explain that Estrada was unanimously declared "well-qualified" by the liberal American Bar Association. She did say Democrats were "angry Estrada stonewalled them at the confirmation hearings." NBC carried one sentence from Estrada: "I don’t know that I’m in a position to say that I disagree with any case that the Supreme Court has ruled on."

National Review reporter Byron York has reported that the White House sent a letter to all 100 Senators asking for questions to Estrada, and promised he would answer by this week. None of the Senators sent questions.