In the latest attack on Obama's judicial nominations, right-wing blogs have distorted comments that appeals court nominee Goodwin Liu made in a 2008 discussion about the legacy of slavery to suggest he supports “reparations.” In fact, nowhere in his speech did Liu state that he supports “reparations”; rather, he suggested that people should deal with the legacy of slavery by working at the community level on “specific problems that people face, whether it's in their schools, in their workplaces, access to health care, in their housing.”*
Right-wing blogs claim Liu advocated for reparations
Verum Serum: Liu's comments “implied” a “wholesale re-distribution of wealth.” In a March 22 Verum Serum post headlined “Video: Obama Appeals Court Nominee -- Goodwin Liu -- on reparations for Slavery,” blogger Morgen Richmond posted a two-minute clip of Liu's comments and wrote: “So much for post-racial America!" He added that “given that a majority of Americans are strongly opposed to racial quota systems in schools and the workplace (much less the wholesale re-distribution of wealth as implied by his comments), I think Liu should be pressed to elaborate further on these views.”
Ace of Spaces: “Goodwin Liu Suggests Reparations.” In a March 23 post on Ace of Spades headlined “Goodwin Liu Suggests Reparations,” blogger Gabriel Malor highlighted the discussion and wrote that “Liu talks about white guilt and then obscures that issue somewhat by asserting that all modern non-black Americans share responsibility for the 'benefit' of the slave trade and must agree to give something up. He suggests, 'the seat at Harvard, our segregated neighborhoods, money.' ”
Atlas Shrugs: “Goodwin Liu, Slavery Reparations Advocate.” In a March 23 post on Atlas Shrugs headlined “Video: Obama Appeals Court Nominee, Goodwin Liu, Slavery Reparations Advocate,” Pamela Geller quoted from the Verum Serum post and wrote: “Now that 20% of the national economy is in the hands of Obama, and illegal amnesty is the next Obama rout of fair elections (not to mention the back breaking entitlements that come with amnesty), there comes ..... slave reparations. What was once a joke is now your noose.” She added: “Go. Read the rest and puke.”
Liu did not advocate for reparations during the discussion and actually called for racial issues to be dealt with “in a much smaller scale”
Nowhere in the passage cited by right-wing blogs did Liu say he supported reparations. From Liu's comments during the 2008 discussion about race, as excerpted by Verum Serum:
So what I would do is I think I would draw a distinction between a concept of guilt, which locates accountability in a sort of limited set of wrongdoers, and on the other hand a concept of responsibility. Which is I think a more broad suggestion that all of us -- whatever our lineage, whatever our ancestry, whatever our complicity -- still have a moral duty to, as Katrina says in the last bit, to make things right. And that's a moral duty that's incumbent on everybody who inherits this nation regardless of whatever the history is.
And I think, you know, to add one more point on top of that, the exercise of that responsibility -- and this is I think where Ambassador Joseph has been taking us -- necessarily requires the answer to the question, “What are we willing to give up to make things right?” Because it's going to require us to give up something. Whether it is the seat at Harvard, the seat at Princeton, or is it going to require us to give up our segregated neighborhoods, our segregated schools. Is it going to require us to give up our money? It's going to require giving up something.
And so, until we can have that further conversation of what it is we're willing to give up, I agree that the reconciliation can't fully occur.
Liu actually argued for dealing with the legacy of slavery through working at the community level -- not through reparations. Rather than advocating for “reparations,” Liu said that “instead of looking for the single national strategy” on racial equality, people should “think about what you can do on a much smaller scale in much smaller communities, around specific problems that people face, whether it's in their schools, in their workplaces, access to health care, in their housing -- whatever it may be”:
GOODWIN LIU: I think for a long time, the -- we have been entranced by a certain image of civil rights progress, which is an image that was forged during the 1960s in the wake of Brown versus the Board of Education and in a time when we had all three branches of the government -- the national government supportive of a general civil rights agenda. I don't see that happening in the near future, however 2008 turns out. And so I'm not sure if we live in a time where we can transplant that model of national leadership to the present day. Instead, I think I agree with Ruth's comment that if this conversation is going to happen, it's gotta happen in much more localized settings around problems of local concerns to people. And that is a -- you know, there's a kind of entropy to that because you can't completely manage it and you can't direct it, but since we have, you know, about 100 different funders out there in our audience, I would say that instead of looking for the single national strategy, which is what everybody always looks for, think about what you can do on a much smaller scale in much smaller communities, around specific problems that people face, whether it's in their schools, in their workplaces, access to health care, in their housing -- whatever it may be. Because unless it's framed around a specific problem, the conversation will just be that: conversation.
Conservative media previously argued “nominees' personal opinions are irrelevant”
Hannity: "[T]he nominees' personal opinions are irrelevant." On the June 28, 2001, edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes (from the Nexis database), Hannity asserted: “But I -- but what bothers me about this -- the reason that the Senate has advice and consent and it doesn't include an ideological litmus test is because the nominees' personal opinions are irrelevant, as they're supposed to set those aside and rule as a matter of law. And it seems to me that they want to disqualify anybody because they have an opinion but which they're supposed to put aside.”
Wash. Times criticized Schumer for “outrageous rationale for rejecting judicial nominees based on ideology.” In a July 24, 2001, editorial, The Washington Times wrote: “Mr. Schumer lay down what can only be described as an outrageous rationale for rejecting judicial nominees based on ideology; or, more specifically, for rejecting nominees for thinking beyond the 'mainstream' -- the Democratic 'mainstream,' that is, particularly on political flash points such as abortion and race” (from Nexis).
Wash. Times advanced conservative argument that opposing a nominee on basis of “political views” is “outside the mainstream of our entire constitutional tradition.” In a June 5, 2001, editorial, the Times quoted Bush judicial nominee Christopher Cox's complaint to Sen. Barbara Boxer that she had “made it clear that you believe it is acceptable to oppose a prospective judicial nominee on the basis of his or her political views” but “this view is outside the mainstream of our entire constitutional tradition.” The editorial went on to assert: “Once upon a time, this was the stuff of high school civics courses. Now, U.S. senators such as Mrs. Boxer and her ideological cohorts on the Judiciary Committee seem to be in dire need of remedial help.”