- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

The governor’s election in Mississippi tomorrow will be the Republicans’ first major opportunity to test how much voters care that Democrats are filibustering some of President Bush’s judicial nominations.

If the issue sticks, Republicans are ready with blocked nominees — several representing the Democratic Party’s most crucial constituencies — to use as the faces of what they call “Democratic obstruction” in next year’s presidential and senatorial elections.

Republicans are quick to tick off the list of blocked nominees, including several women, two blacks, a Hispanic, a man of Arabic descent and two Southern whites — one a Baptist and the other a Catholic.

Blacks and women — along with Hispanics and Catholics to a lesser degree — make up critical portions of the Democratic voting base.

“Radical liberals have long fancied themselves as the champions of women and minorities in this country, and I have no doubt that many on the left do strive for the equality of all Americans,” said Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican.

“A conservative Hispanic or conservative woman or conservative Arab or conservative black woman or conservative religious man is anathema to their dominance of these issues,” he said on the Senate floor last week. “Rather than celebrating the achievements of these gifted human beings, these ultraliberals would rather defame their characters and demagogue their beliefs.”

Republicans say Democrats cannot countenance diversity of opinion within minority groups that traditionally have supported them. Also, Republicans accuse Democrats of fearing that they might lose their grip on minority groups if Republicans are allowed to promote them to high-profile positions.

Anticipating the attacks, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, told Republicans to “not stoop to name-calling.”

“Let the right-wing tactic of smears and name-calling subside and disappear,” Mr. Leahy said in a prepared statement. “Let us not see the race card dealt from the shameful deck of unfounded charges that some stalwarts of this president’s most extreme nominees have come more and more to rely upon as they further inject partisanship and politics into the appointment and consideration of judges to sit on the independent federal judiciary.”

Republicans already raised the ire of Democrats when supporters of Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor, a devout Catholic nominated to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and filibustered by Democrats, published an ad showing the front doors of a courthouse with a sign reading: “Catholics need not apply.”

In Mississippi, Republicans used last week’s Democratic filibuster of the nomination of lifelong Mississippian Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the federal bench against Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in the governor’s race.

“They have one thing against Charles Pickering, and this is the story of the Democratic Party today,” said Haley S. Barbour, Mr. Musgrove’s Republican challenger. “Charles Pickering is being filibustered because he is a conservative, pro-life, Republican Christian. This is just a reminder of the difference between Republicans and Democrats.”

Mr. Musgrove, who supports Judge Pickering’s nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, released a letter urging his approval.


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