- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

The Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday predicted a “civil rights explosion” if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Vice President Al Gore.
Mr. Jackson likened the forthcoming high court ruling on whether a full recount of Florida votes should continue to the 1960s civil rights demonstrations in Selma and Birmingham, Ala.
“All that we bled for and suffered for the last 25 years is now in the balance here today. This case is up there with the Dred Scott level of case; did the black man have a right the white was bound to respect?
“If this court rules against counting our vote, it will simply create a civil rights explosion. People will not surrender to this tyranny. We will fight back,” Mr. Jackson said after attending the high-court hearing.
The civil rights leader’s comments came after Gallup released a nationwide poll showing three-fourths of Americans believe the high court will be fair.
But other Democrats agreed with Mr. Jackson and said a ruling against Mr. Gore would jeopardize the creditability of the country’s highest court.
Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Tom Harkin of Iowa said the court’s intervention is politically driven and is harmful to the country.
“If this Supreme Court continues to wade into this thicket and make substantive rulings on behalf of George Bush, this court will go down in history as the most interventionist court ever in deciding a political matter,” said Mr. Harkin.
“This is very bad for the Supreme Court because their credibility is so diminished and their moral posture is so diminished that it could take years to pull back from that,” Mr. Leahy told CNN.
Republican strategist Tony Blankley said the criticism shows respect for authority has fallen sacrifice to cynicism.
“Institutionally, it’s a terrible thing to do to the Supreme Court,” said Mr. Blankley. “But everything in this election that is touched is being tainted, there is no reason to be surprised that this passion will not stop at the steps of the Supreme Court.”
Another Republican strategist said the rhetoric is getting precarious and should be toned down.
“They can disagree with the lawyers, candidates and staff, but to start making baseless accusations against the highest court in the land is getting into dangerous territory,” said Cheri Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies.
When Republican National Committee delegate Morton C. Blackwell predicted Saturday that the election could end “bloody figuratively and, I fear, literally,” Virginia Democrats called for his resignation.
“He’s taken political rhetoric to a new low,” said state Sen. Emily Couric.
Mr. Blackwell, who said he has no intention of resigning, said he did not call for violence, but warned of what might result if Democrats continue their challenges.
“What I said was that I fear that what the Gore people have done might incite foolish people to do something tragic. They have trumpeted specious slogans, they have inflamed passions, and they have insisted on changes to the rules after the election is over,” said Mr. Blackwell.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington Democrat and a lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court, said she has faith in the court.
Mrs. Norton said questions from the justices were evenhanded and did not reflect bias for either side as to whether the recount of Florida votes should resume.
“I do believe there is more than a good-faith effort on the part of most of the justices to avoid actions that appear political,” she said.
In a split 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday ordered a stay of the Florida Supreme Court’s order to resume a recount.
The five justices in favor of halting the recounts were appointed by Republican presidents, but two of the dissenting justices John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter, were appointed by Republicans.
“This partisan thing is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes a way to delegitimize what your opponent is doing,” said James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech.
While this narrow majority is criticized as being political, liberals have overlooked the same split on causes they champion, said Todd Gaziano, constitutional scholar for the Heritage Foundations.
Other noted 5-4 split rulings include a June decision by the court to overturn Nebraska’s partial-birth-abortion law. The court also struck down a Colorado law that overruled special protections for homosexual rights on a 5-4 split.
Mr. Gaziano said the same split occurred in a 1972 decision to overturn all state and federal death-penalty statues, and the 1966 Miranda vs. Arizona case that stated those arrested must be informed of certain constitutional rights upon arrest before they can be questioned.
Stephan Dinan contributed to this report.

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