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Jewish World Review March 23, 2001/ 28 Adar 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Dubya disowns the dirt dishers -- HUZZAH for George W. Bush. Hook 'em Horns, Hail to the Redskins, Wooooo Pig Soooooie and cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame.

The president yesterday told the lawyers to drop dead, or at least get lost, and the rest of us should spend the day cheering.

White House Counsel Al Gonzales, on instructions from the president, officially notified Martha Barnett, president of the American Bar Association, that the White House would no longer send the lawyers advance word on names under consideration for judicial appointments to give them an opportunity to dig up dirt.

President Eisenhower first asked the bar association to review presidential choices and since then we got the likes of Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall. Naturally the lawyers are squawking, but unless you're a lawyer with axes to grind it's difficult to argue with the reasons set out by Mr. Gonzales.

"The question is whether the ABA should play a unique, quasi-official role and then have its voice heard before and above all others," he wrote. "We do not think that kind of preferential arrangement is either appropriate or fair."

Neither hairdressers nor psychiatrists nor morticians get such a voice; neither preachers, Volkswagen mechanics nor Sons of Confederate Veterans. Why should lawyers?

The Bush administration was careful to stay away from the argument that the president listened to conservatives and agreed to pay back the American Bar Association for borking the Bork nomination to the Supreme Court.

"I can't speak for those who might harbor that view," Mr. Gonzales says. "This is based purely on the principle that it's inappropriate and unfair to give preferential treatment to any single group." Perhaps. In any event the White House ought to be perfectly capable of making a "full vetting" of judicial prospects, and Mr. Gonzales says the White House won't substitute any other outside group, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, to do its work.

"It would be particularly inappropriate, in our view, to grant a preferential, quasi-official role to a group, such as the ABA, that takes public positions on divisive political, legal and social issues that come before the courts," he told Mzz Barnett. The bar association insists that the research committee is "isolated" from partisan considerations, and Phillip Anderson of Little Rock, the immediate past president of the association (all roads still lead back to Arkansas), insists that the auditors consider only integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. The association's screening, he says, has given the United States "a federal bench that is the envy of the world."

Indeed, it may be that this envy is what drives so much jealousy of America throughout the world, though some of us would have thought that the wretched refuse of the backwaters of the globe would have envied us for Buicks, Coca-Cola, cheeseburgers, Old Navy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Elvis, Puffy Combs and Starbucks, and not necessarily for David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Senate Judiciary Committee noted, as early as 1997, that the American Bar Association has taken inflexibly partisan positions on abortion, affirmative action, flag desecration, religious liberty, welfare reform, deportation of criminal aliens and, naturally, "product liability," since suing people is what keeps law schools open. The lawyers agree with prevailing public opinion on none of these issues. George Bushnell, who was then the president of the association, referred to the emerging Republican majority in 1995 as a collection of "reptilian bastards," which, even if accurate, hardly demonstrates the evenhanded neutrality with which the association insists it approaches the task of measuring judicial appointments.

Bill Clinton is the kind of president the bar association wants to find judicial candidates for. In 1997, five former bar association presidents rebuked Judge David Santelle for lunching with Lauch Faircloth, a senator from North Carolina, shortly before he appointed Kenneth Starr as the special prosecutor to look into the sordid pasts of the Clintons. An appeals court judge, a Democrat who had been appointed to the bench by Jimmy Carter, investigated the issue and determined that Judge Santelle had not violated "legal ethics" (no laughing, please) by going to lunch with his old friend.

The bar association can and no doubt will continue to find (or manufacture) dirt on candidates it doesn't like. It's a free country. But George W. Bush, by telling the lawyers they can talk but he doesn't have to listen, pushed them an inch or two out of the lives of the rest of us yesterday, and for that we can all be grateful.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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03/12/01: Getting punch drunk on disappointment
03/07/01: The dazzling triumph of Saddam Hussein
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02/21/01: It's Hot Springs week in downtown Harlem
02/13/01: Some of our riots seem to be missing
02/07/01: When a hate crime is something to love
02/07/01: Lifting a few spoons, cutting a few taxes
02/02/01: A few small surprises and a large lesson
01/31/01: Serving fried crow in the press mess
01/26/01: The gathering storm over Jesse Jackson
01/23/01: A graceless getaway, a graceful beginning
01/19/01: Once more to wave the bloody shirt
01/16/01: Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready
01/12/01: The dastardly plot to restore slavery
01/10/01: Mr. Lott's generosity to the Dems
01/05/01: Looking to the past for a bad example
01/03/01: A modest proposal for Arkansas folk
12/19/00: The reflexive sneer at George W. Bush
12/15/00: Taking inspiration from John Birch
12/12/00: It's time to raise high Florida's standards
12/08/00: A President Bush, and about time, too
12/05/00: Here come the judge --- and he's got a hook
11/28/00: Cry no tears for Al, lawyers are the losers
11/21/00: The useful loathing of America's sons
11/17/00: When this is all over, we spray for lawyers
11/14/00: Something murky in the twilight zone

11/10/00: Something sinister in Palm Beach

11/07/00: Low days in the life of the ruptured duck

11/06/00: A little race baiting in the final hours

11/01/00: Creator gets a hard time on the hustings

10/27/00: The sorcerer rides to rescue his apprentice

10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell

10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights

10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools

10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief

10/06/00: AlGore's black problem

10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote

10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio

09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp

09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes

09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply

09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'

09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye

09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset

09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap

08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal

08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost

08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash

08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme

08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser

08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy

07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers

07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself

07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?

07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?

07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit

07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink

07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season

07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results

07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate

06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!

06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve

06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman

06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat

06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation

06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'

06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch

06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak

05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper

05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks

05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes

05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example

05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans

05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales

05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man

05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat

05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary

04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood

04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks

04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go

04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno

04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)

04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts

03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table

03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day

03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult

03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology

03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain

03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden