A Vast Right-Field Conspiracy?

Here is another Chatterbox theory that might explain why Senate conservatives are balking over Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals. It is revenge most foul for her brave role in ending the 1994-95 baseball strike.

Sotomayor, a federal district court judge, issued a dramatic injunction on March 31, 1995, paving the way for striking players to return to the diamond. She ruled that the robber-baron owners had wantonly violated labor law by unilaterally revoking baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, triggering the tragic walkout that canceled the 1994 World Series.

At the time of the strike, George W. Bush Jr. was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers. Even though George W. was preoccupied with his gubernatorial campaign against Ann Richards, the Rangers were among the militant no-compromises-with-the-union franchises. Now that Bush has become the Republican crown prince in line for 2000 presidential nomination in the royalist GOP, he has the behind-the-scenes leverage with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to permanently bench Sotomayor’s nomination.

Even more suspicious is the heavy hand of Rupert Murdoch, the new owner of the no-Mike-Piazza-pizzazz Los Angeles Dodgers. In mid-March of this year, Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner was leading an insurrection to block Murdoch’s purchase of the Dodgers. Less than a week later, the baseball owners crumbled, approving the sale by a lopsided 27-2 margin. Chatterbox wonders what promises Murdoch made to the revenge-minded baseball owners during the final closed-door meetings. Could savaging Sotomayor be part of the unsavory deal?

Just three days after the Australian press lord was inducted into baseball’s most exclusive fraternity, Murdoch’s New York Post published a blistering editorial against Sotomayor that was the tabloid equivalent of a brush-back pitch. The lapdog Post described a Sotomayor decision in a New York minimum-wage case as a “victory for urban decay.” This is the case that conservatives now gleefully cite as evidence of Sotomayor’s dangerous activist liberal agenda.

Sure, the Republicans also worry that Sotomayor could become the nation’s first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. But the roots of this latest right-wing conspiracy may lie closer to home plate. Say it ain’t so, Rupert and George W.

Walter Shapiro