February 27 2002
Only in Tom Daschle's Senate could a man serve on the board of the Institute for Racial Reconciliation, testify against a KKK Imperial Wizard, win the endorsement of the former president of his local NAACP, and still be branded a racist.
Meet Charles Pickering, pro-life conservative. The gentleman judge, nominated to the federal district bench by the first George Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 1990, has seen his character sullied, his writings dismembered, and his decades of public service tarred by liberal propaganda. In a dress rehearsal for President Bush's first Supreme Court nomination, Senate Democrats stretched their Bork muscles in a blistering smear campaign against the Fifth Circuit nominee. They found themselves more than fit for the fight - mostly because there wasn't one.
When the Left's usual suspects first bared their teeth, press secretary Ari Fleischer promised that the White House "believes in and will fight for the nomination." But if what came after qualifies as fighting form, then the President's men had best head back to boot camp.
When the misnamed Alliance for Justice called Pickering "a throwback to the old, segregated South," not a peep of protest from 1600 PA. Instead, it fell to a New York Times reporter to admit that "on the streets of his small and largely black hometown, far from the bitterness of partisan agendas and position papers, Charles Pickering is a widely admired figure."
When People for the American Way scourged the judge for "disturbing insensitivity and even hostility toward important civil rights principles," the White House put up no defense -- though even the Washington Post served notice to its liberal ilk that the attacks were growing "ugly," "self-righteous" and "unfair."
Undeterred, liberal interests from NOW to NARAL took their turn at Pickering while the President looked away. Though he was sponsored by his thirty-year friend Trent Lott and had confirmation votes sewed up should he ever reach the Senate floor, Pickering was finished the first day the first attack went unanswered. The rest was mere noise.
Tomorrow, it could all be over - and it will all be just beginning.
On "Meet the Press," Sen. Dianne Feinstein served notice that the ten Democrats controlling the Judiciary Committee will vote as a bloc to deny the judge his day before the full Senate. "I think that people on our side believe that it would be a tremendous mistake to put someone as polarizing in this position now," she said. "So I believe he will not be confirmed." Rather than standing by their man, an impassive White House accepts her tally.
Pity Pickering. He deserved better than to have his good name taken and his reputation returned in tatters. But reserve deeper concern for the days to come, for if the Left unsheathed knives for a federal appeals court choice, they will drop missiles on a conservative Supreme Court nominee.
The White House that left Charles Pickering on the battlefield looks ready to answer in one of two ways. Either they will field a high court candidate so ideologically tepid that he poses no threat to the Left, or they will allow conservatives to be savaged in the way Olsen and Ashcroft were by a party that now has both Senate majority and a high-profile kill to its credit.
Sen. Patrick Leahy - who currently has 22 circuit judges and 28 district judges bottlenecked in the committee he chairs -- maintains that the Administration might have a better win rate is it picked "fair-minded, non-ideological, consensus nominees." Read: moderate jurists of the Souter school who won't impede the liberal agenda. Leahy told the Washington Times, "As we move forward, I have urged the White House to show greater inclusiveness and flexibility and to help make this a truly bipartisan enterprise."
Ask Charles Pickering how Democrats demonstrate inclusiveness, flexibility, and bipartisanship. He'll tell you that they don't - and for the White House to assume otherwise will prove increasingly disastrous as the judicial stakes rise.
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