- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

Republicans say a federal appeals court ruling that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional highlights the importance of ending Senate Democrats' blockade of President Bush's judicial nominees.

"Today's ruling makes clear the need to confirm swiftly President Bush's nominations," Republican National Chairman Marc Racicot said in a press release issued shortly after the ruling by a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "I hope the Senate will act quickly on confirmations and today's decision is appealed and overturned."

In an election year where Democrats' one-vote control of the Senate is at stake, Republicans immediately seized on Wednesday's ruling as leverage against the embargo on Mr. Bush's bench appointees.

Mr. Racicot said the California decision "challenges reason and strains the very fabric of the things we hold dear as a nation, while highlighting the dangers of confirming activist judges."

The ruling evoked memories of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, a Democrat who vetoed a measure requiring schoolchildren to recite the Pledge. He lost the 1988 presidential election in a landslide after Mr. Bush's father spent three weeks campaigning on the Pledge issue.

"Symbolism is everything in politics, and this happened at the absolute worst time for the Democrats," said David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

He pointed out that one of the two judges who voted to rule the pledge unconstitutional Carter appointee Stephen Reinhardt is a former member of the Democratic National Committee, whose wife heads the California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 1988, Mr. Dukakis proudly declared he was a "card-carrying" ACLU member.

"Now, a few days before July 4, 2002, the Senate Democrats' allies on the federal bench want to outlaw the Pledge again," Mr. Keene said. "If you're a Democrat, what worse possible symbolism can you imagine?"

Within hours of Wednesday's ruling, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent talking points to Republican House members and candidates urging them to condemn the ruling "as soon as possible."

The NRCC said candidates should make these points:

•"Call on every school board to ignore this decision."

•"Liberal Democrat Tom Daschle and Senate Democrats are holding up 45 of President Bush's judicial nominees who would serve as a counterweight to this type of nonsense. This ruling demonstrates why it is so important that Daschle move on President Bush's judicial nominees."

By yesterday morning, two fund-raising firms associated with Republican and conservative causes had begun campaigns using the California decision as a hook.

Bruce Eberle said his firm's appeals emphasized the "need to take this out of the hands of judges and make this a constitutional amendment to stop attacks on our freedoms by ACLU-type judges." Fund-raiser Richard Viguerie said his firm was also gearing up efforts based on the Pledge ruling.

A third firm said it was debating what to do, given speculation that the full 9th Circuit might reverse the panel's 2-1 decision at any moment. Yesterday, the judge who wrote the decision Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, a 1971 Nixon appointee postponed its enforcement until the full circuit could consider the ruling.

One Democrat ridiculed the idea that Republicans would use the decision to raise money.

"What is their fund-raising appeal going to say? 'Elect more Republicans so we can have more Republican judges like the crazed Republican judge who wrote this opinion on the Pledge of Allegiance'?" asked Jennifer Palmieri, spokesman for Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Democrats on Capitol Hill boarded the bandwagon to condemn the 9th Circuit's ruling unanimously backing a 99-0 vote in the Senate to that effect after the court's decision provoked widespread public criticism. But yesterday three House Democrats voted against a similar resolution and 11 voted "present."

Edwin Meese III, who served as attorney general in the Reagan administration, said he understood why some, including the ACU's Mr. Keene, have called for impeaching the judges responsible for Wednesday's ruling.

"This is one of the most outrageous decisions that has ever been reached and so contrary to the intention of the Founding Fathers in writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that I can understand the outrage people have," Mr. Meese said.

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