In Defense of Miguel Estrada

An open letter to Rudy Acu?a

By Fernando Oaxaca
Published on LatinoLA: September 12, 2002

In Defense of Miguel Estrada

Dear Rudy:

Having read your article in (, it is almost reassuring to see that you are still there, trying to derail the potential Senate confirmation of a distinguished Latino professional, Miguel Estrada, as a federal judge. We had missed you! Since you bemoan that your fellow "progressives" seem to have abandoned you on your crusade, at least I can give you a poor and humble exercise of your not inconsiderable intellect in renewing a past debate.

I also thought that by now you would have abandoned your lame position that he should not be on the U.S. Circuit of Appeals because he could not legitimately represent poor downtrodden Chicanos like you and me because he is from Honduras and his family committed the cardinal sin of being successful. Yet you rail about the Republicans having played the "race" card on his appointment. Aren't you playing the Central American Country card? That smacks of having it at least two ways, Rudy!

You also sound disappointed that your campaign against Estrada (which I suspect is perhaps directed more to frustrate President Bush as he continues inexorably to please the Latino community) has not generated more support for your position from the usual nay-sayers in our community. Strangely enough, I share your feelings about the generally apathetic attitudes and lack of passion of most of our Latino elected officials. However, since most are Democrats, I feel little responsibility for their lethargy and inactivity on issues truly vital to our community.

If I had not studied you through the years, I would say that you are motivated mostly by envidia that Estrada, with his most impressive credentials, is not a liberal Democrat, blindly backed by MALDEF, the ubiquitous Raul Izaguirre and the mono-partisan Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Or perhaps you just regret passionately that when you had a Latino-loving President like Bill Clinton, he could not deliver a single Latino judicial appointment that fit the Democrat profile and yet had Supreme Court potential, a potential you seem to fear in Estrada.

I do take umbrage about your comparing the brilliant Estrada to the intellectually challenged Justice Clarence Thomas. But I really don't believe that in your heart of hearts you would be so stubborn in your opposition to Estrada if he were Mexican in origin instead of Honduran and if his father had been just one more descamisado from Jalisco instead of a lawyer and businessman in Tegucigalpa! In short, Rudy, I maintain that your real objections are not based on his magna cum laude degree from Harvard or his having tapped big gringo law firms for the big bucks or his overall personal background, let alone his topmost "highly Qualified" rating from the ABA.

As to your complaint about his not having turned over his attorney-client private papers as data on which to assess his opinions about subjects you care about, what do you suppose the confirmation hearings are supposed to do? So he has no record as a judge. Are Senator Leahy and his anti-Bush barracudas so inept and sloppy as interrogators and inquisitors that they could not elicit the information they seek from Mr. Estrada during his hearings? My own suspicion is that the Democrats, and perhaps you, are concerned that Estrada may show up his interrogators during his hearings with his knowledge and intellect and, also, that they are scared to death of being accused of badgering a Latino. After all, the "race" card is only supposed to be used by Democrats as they have for the last couple of black appointees that were shot down by a Republican Senate for judicial ethics transgressions, not philosophical or ideological differences.

I don't forget, Rudy, that you are a well-published author, an historian and have demonstrated expertise as a thorough researcher. Thus, I am sure that, despite your denial, Miguel Estrada really got a good going over from your discerning probing. The fact that thus far you have not found any evidence whatsoever of Estrada possessing ethical failings, moral turpitude, questionable judgement, abuse of his fellow man, crooked relatives or a battered wife, leads me to one possible theory for your steady dedication to halting the career progress of Miguel Estrada.

Is it possible, Rudy, is it just a teeny bit possible that Miguel Estrada is actually a wonderful candidate for a federal judgeship and that you are basing your persecution of his appointment solely on baseless suspicion that there might be something in his past that could feed calumny or character assassination by the Democrat witch-hunters working for Senator Pat Leahy or your icon, Teddy Kennedy? Or are you unable to accept that from time to time, if he goes on the bench, he might render judicial decisions just a micrometer or two to the right of your Marxian ideals?

Rudy, why can't you give your truly talented Latino brother (or Honduran cousin?) a bit of praise for his accomplishments and let the Gringo Senate have a go at him without your coaching. He will not embarrass our community if he is confirmed, I assure you, and he is as good a role model for our young people as anyone I can think of, from any quarter or country or political party..

I am sure you are familiar with that old Chicano fable that Mexicans are like a bunch of crabs in a washtub, trying to escape. As the story goes, every time one crab manages to get one claw on the edge of the tub and begins to pull himself up, one of the other crabs tries to exploit his colleague's possible success, grabs the tail of the emerging crab and they both end up falling back to the bottom from the extra weight!

Don't be a cangrejo, Rudy!

Fernando Oaxaca
Los Angeles

About Fernando Oaxaca:
Fernando Oaxaca is a retired media executive, a Republican activist and served in the Gerald Ford White House; by most standards he is old.

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