- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

It's not easy to decide which weapon wielded in the character assassination of Judge Charles W. Pickering has done more dishonor to our democracy the lies and half-truths that have 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., Mississippi Republican, said, voicing a son's frustration over a father's ordeal. On this point, at least, the congressman has reason for hope. The process will stop, all right. But not until after the Senate Judiciary Committee meets today. That's when the committee's Democratic majority is expected to vote down Judge Pickering's elevation to the 5th U.S. 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.

You don't have to take our word for it. "Opposing a nominee should not mean destroying him," The Washington Post not exactly the conservative voice in the nation's capital said of 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 having an "admirable record on civil rights issues," beginning with Judge Pickering's 1967 testimony against a Ku Klux Klan wizard accused of firebombing a civil rights activist (testimony which cost Judge Pickering his re-election as state prosecutor), 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, has an "antagonistic view of civil rights for minorities."

There's what People for the American Way (PFAW) calls Judge Pickering's "disregard for the separation of church and state." Proof? A typical example from the PFAW report concerns the sentencing of someone convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Judge 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 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." People for the American Way took the words "through your church or some other such agency" as evidence, as Byron York of National Review noted, of a theocratic impulse only an ayatollah could share. People for the American way, indeed.

Abortion-rights activists also weigh-in on this appointment. In considering some 4,000 cases on the federal bench, Judge Pickering has never actually heard an abortion case. Nevertheless, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's Kate Michelman says he is "part of a continuing effort to hasten the reversal of [Roe vs. Wade] and the end of legal abortion." Judge Pickering's personal opposition to abortion may be clear from his record as a Mississippi state senator, but as a Legal Times analysis of Judge Pickering's judicial career points out, he has testified that he would "consider it his 'duty as an appellate … judge to follow' Roe vs. Wade. So much for hastening the reversal of that landmark decision. 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 swallowed as gospel by Senate Democrats eager for guidance on when to reject a conservative nominee to the appellate court, though Judge Pickering is not only ranked "well-qualified" by the American Bar Association, but who, as a nominee to the federal bench in 1990, had been confirmed unanimously 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 Judge Pickering, but the mean-spirited smear campaign against him. Senate Democrats will try to wash their hands of the matter by voting "nay" today, but that won't leave them clean.


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