Jewish World Review March 1, 2002 / 16 Adar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- IT'S not easy to decide which weapon wielded in the character assassination of Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. has done more dishonor to our democracy: the lies and half-truths that have falsely caricatured an upstanding public servant, or the pedestal-ready self-righteousness with which these lies and half-truths have been told and left hanging. "Hopefully, this destructive political process will stop," Rep. Charles W. Pickering Jr., (R-Miss.) said last week, voicing a son's frustration over a father's ordeal. On this point, at least, the congressman has reason to be hopeful. The process will stop, all right. But not until after the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote down Judge Pickering's elevation to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
And while that vote will almost surely end the political process for the 64-year-old federal judge from Mississippi, abruptly releasing him from the Senate's pincer-like grip, the political destruction he has suffered at its hands has no conclusion. It remains a shameful testament to the grossly abusive, modern-day confirmation process.
Don't just take my word. "Opposing a nominee should not mean destroying him," said the Washington Post -- not exactly the conservative voice of empathy -- in editorializing on the Pickering nomination. "And the attack on Judge Pickering has become an ugly affair. ... The need on the part of liberal groups and Democratic senators to portray him as a Neanderthal -- all the while denying they are doing so -- in order to justify voting him down is the latest example of the degradation of the confirmation process."
And so, a man whom James Charles Evers, brother of murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers, praises for a racially "inclusive approach to politics" is transformed by the attack-jargon of the inflamed Left into a knuckle-dragging throwback who, as the National Women's Law Center's Marcia Greenberger puts it, lacks "commitment to protecting the rights of ordinary citizens."
Evers -- no Republican -- writes of Pickering's "admirable record on civil rights issues," beginning with his 1967 testimony against a Ku Klux Klan leader accused of firebombing a civil rights activist's home (testimony that cost Pickering his re-election as local prosecutor), but Greenberger sees fit to denounce the man for an "antagonistic view of civil rights for minorities."
Then there's what People for the American Way calls Pickering's "disregard for the separation of church and state" demonstrated "by repeatedly using his position on the bench to promote involvement in religious programs."
A typical example from the PFAW report concerns the sentencing of someone convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Pickering spoke of the man's need to participate in "the study and consideration of effects and consequences of crime ... in a civilized society. This," he explained, "may be a program through your church or some other agency or organization so long as it is approved in advance by the probation service." As National Review's Byron York has noted, the PFAW report underscores the words "through your church or some other such agency" as evidence of theocratic impulses only an ayatollah could share.
Abortion rights activists also weigh in on the Pickering appointment. In some 4,000 cases on the federal bench, Pickering has never actually heard an abortion case. Still, as a political conservative, he's been tagged by National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's Kate Michelman as "part of a continuing effort to hasten the reversal of (Roe v. Wade) and the end of legal abortion." Pickering's personal opposition to abortion may be clear from his record as a Mississippi state senator, but as a Legal Times analysis of Pickering's judicial career points out, he's testified that he would "consider it his 'duty as an appellate ... judge to follow'" Roe v. Wade. So much for hastening the landmark decision's reversal. The subtitle of the Legal Times article, by the way, is "You won't get the full story on Charles Pickering Sr. from liberals' portrayal of life and record."
That portrayal, however, has been gulped down as gospel by Senate Democrats eager for guidance on which to reject a conservative nominee to the appellate court who is not only ranked "well qualified" by the American Bar Association, but who, as a nominee to the federal bench in 1990, has been confirmed unanimously once before by the full Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, repeatedly uses the word "polarizing" to explain the Democrats' expected rejection of the appointment. What is polarizing, however, is not Pickering, but the personal smear campaign against him. Senate Democrats may wash their hands of the matter by voting "nay" tomorrow, but that's not very likely to leave them
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.