- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

There are so many disturbing things about the witch hunt against Judge Charles Pickering, President Bush’s nominee for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, that it is hard to know where to begin.

Senate Democrats, under the leadership of Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, have put a virtual freeze on the president’s judicial nominations, not even allowing most of them to get a hearing. But Judge Pickering is the lucky one; he got his hearing and has become the test case for all conservative nominees to follow, including President Bush’s eventual Supreme Court appointees. So far, Democrats appear to be passing the test, and Republicans are failing.

While the usual extremist liberal special interest groups (NARAL, People for the American Way, Alliance for Justice, et al.) claim to be concerned about Judge Pickering’s record on civil rights, the truth is that they first opposed him because he is a conservative. Then they began scouring his record in search for a chink in his stellar resume. As usual, they’ve come up with some incidents they have taken out of context and deliberately distorted in order to tar him as a racist and foe of civil rights.

Dutiful Democratic senators, who are beholden to these groups and who share common cause with them in defeating conservative judicial nominees, have been smearing Judge Pickering on the floor of the Senate. Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina, a presidential hopeful and sycophant of these leftist groups, was particularly venal in his assault on the judge concerning a 1994 case of Judge Pickering’s. In a great piece in National Review Online, Byron York gives us the other half of the story the part that Edwards wouldn’t want you to see.

With their fraudulent accusations, Judge Pickering’s opponents have placed him in the position of having to prove a negative. Beyond factually refuting each false charge, which Judge Pickering has attempted to do, what else can he do to rehabilitate his character?

Well, one very convincing item of evidence is the testimony of people who have worked closely with him. A number of blacks, such as federal judge Henry Wingate and Charles Evers (brother of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers) have come to Judge Pickering’s defense. Plus, Judge Pickering has established quite a record in working to enhance race relations in his area and in the nation. Perhaps the most persuasive fact, reported by the New York Times, is that in 1967, Judge Pickering testified against a Ku Klux Klan leader accused of the firebombing death of a civil rights leader, even after being warned by the FBI that his testimony could place him, his wife and two small children in danger from the Klan.

But this isn’t about race or civil rights anyway race is just the left’s convenient weapon of choice; it’s about power and politics. What chutzpah for these groups to invoke civil rights when in their opposition to Judge Pickering and other conservative judges they are assaulting the Constitution on a number of fronts. These high and mighty liberals, in blocking Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees solely for political reasons, are usurping the executive appointment power. By insisting on confirming only liberal activist judges (who will legislate from the bench), they are ceding legislative power to the courts. And they want to tell us they care about the Constitution and civil rights?

These ends-justifies-the-means activists don’t believe that any judge, including Judge Pickering, will exercise judicial restraint and not legislate his political will from the bench. (Human experience teaches us that scoundrels generally suspect others of being scoundrels as well). That’s why they won’t accept Judge Pickering’s word that as a judge he will follow the law including when he disagrees with it even when they have no evidence that he has ever failed to do so. NARAL, for example, will never trust Judge Pickering, whom they describe as an “ultra-conservative political activist” because before he became a judge he was an ardent supporter of the pro-life cause.

When are Republican senators going to wake up and start fighting back against these Gestapo tactics? It’s one thing if Republicans go to the mat for Judge Pickering and lose. But if they fail to stand up for him against these outrageously slanderous charges because they, too, fear being labeled as racist for vouching for a decent, nonracist man, how can they claim to be worthy of the offices they hold?

While claiming to be championing our civil rights, the thought police have our minds under 24-hour surveillance. If things keep going the way they are, it’s not unreasonable to believe that someday conservatives will deny their conservatism for fear of being branded as racists.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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