The Uncivil War on Pickering; Liberals Ignore His Stand against KKK

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Uncivil War on Pickering; Liberals Ignore His Stand against KKK


Byline: John Nowacki, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It will not come as a surprise if the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee votes today to keep Judge Charles Pickering's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals from reaching the Senate floor. After all, there is a Republican in the White House, and it is once more open season on judicial nominees.

The far-left's carefully orchestrated attacks on Judge Pickering have been particularly nasty, smearing him as a racist without ever actually mentioning the word. His real record - one of following precedents as a judge, testifying against a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in 1967 and putting his words about racial reconciliation into action - is an inconvenience liberal interest groups have chosen to ignore.

Judge Pickering's record is something Judiciary Committee Democrats would rather ignore as well, but unlike the left-wing groups that sent out position papers based on snippets of that record, they have had to listen as their colleagues from the other side of the aisle kept bringing those inconvenient facts about the real Charles Pickering to light. They were also faced with a convincing independent analysis by the Legal Times, which concluded that the full story of Judge Pickering's record on civil rights is very different from the far-left's portrayal of his life and record.

None of that appears to have made a difference, however, because this fight is not really about Judge Pickering's record. It is about the left's push for judges guaranteed to deliver certain political results. And so the personal attacks on Judge Pickering have continued.

Left-wing groups and some Senate Democrats have indicated that attacks on Judge Pickering are payback for the way Bill Clinton's nominations were handled by a Republican-controlled Senate, though they insist, when pressed, that payback is the furthest thing from their minds. The notion that there is something to pay back is based on two misrepresentations: that Mr. Clinton's judicial nominees were attacked on personal rather than professional grounds, and that the Senate left an unusually high number of nominees unconfirmed at the end of his term.

Actually, the leveling of personal attacks on judicial nominees seems to occur only when a Republican president is nominating judges. It certainly did not begin in 1995 when Republicans gained control of the Senate, and Mr. Clinton's nominees never faced the kind of smear campaign that Judge Pickering has had to endure.

In his 1985 book, "God Save This Honorable Court," Harvard professor Laurence Tribe provided academic cover for the use of political considerations in the judicial-selection process. After that, it was open season on President Reagan's and President George H.W. Bush's nominees: Jeff Sessions in 1986, Robert Bork in 1987, Kenneth Ryskamp in 1991, and Clarence Thomas in 1991 - each was subjected to a campaign of character assassination involving gross misrepresentations of his record. …

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