- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Back in the 1980s, a White House staffer told about a revealing incident on Capitol Hill. The staffer was walking down the corridors of a building on the Hill when a senator motioned for him to step inside the senator’s office.

“I’m going to make a speech next week, denouncing the effect of the president’s policies on my constituents,” the senator said. He added: “Pay it no mind.”

My own experience with political cynicism in Washington came a few years earlier, in 1976, when I was nominated to the Federal Trade Commission by President Ford. In a private meeting, a Democratic staffer for the Senate committee in charge of confirming my nomination gave me the word.

“We have gone over your record with a fine-toothed comb,” he said frankly, “and since we could find nothing to object to, we are just not going to hold hearings at all.”

He explained that, since this was an election year and they expected their candidate — Jimmy Carter — to win, they would sit on my nomination until Mr. Carter became president, so he could then appoint his own man to the FTC. Which he did.

Anyone who does not understand the utter cynicism of politics does not understand politics. An education on that subject can be found in Mona Charen’s incisive new book, “Do-Gooders.”

Mrs. Charen’s book is about the enormous damage done by liberal social policies from the 1960s on, but it is also about the shameless demagoguery unleashed against those who dared oppose the liberal agenda or reveal its failures.

Examples range from cynical lies about judicial nominees to the biggest big lie of our time, the claim Republicans “disenfranchised” Florida black voters in the 2000 elections.

Depicting judicial nominees as being against civil rights — and therefore implicitly racist — is a political tactic used cynically and successfully, even against judges with a history of favoring civil rights and who have been endorsed by civil rights leaders like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

The most famous example was use of the anti-civil rights charge against Judge Robert Bork during his 1987 confirmation hearings as a Supreme Court nominee. It is a matter of public record that, before he became a judge, Mr. Bork had filed briefs on the side of the NAACP in a number of civil rights cases.

Even though Judge Bork was endorsed by the most famous civil rights attorney in history — Thurgood Marshall — that meant absolutely nothing politically. His opponents couldn’t care less about his civil rights record, except as something to twist in order to deny him a seat on the Supreme Court.

The same game was played, years later, when Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering was nominated to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and rejected by the Democrats who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2002.

Back in the days of the 1960s civil rights struggle in Mississippi, Judge Pickering not only risked his political career by speaking out for civil rights, he risked his life. When the Pickering nomination came under political attack in Washington, decades later, local black leaders in Mississippi came to his defense. One said: “I can’t believe the man they’re describing in Washington is the same one I’ve known for years.”

Judge Pickering’s actual civil-rights record, praised by Mississippi’s Charles Evers, had nothing to do with opposition to him. Liberals were afraid someone with Judge Pickering’s judicial philosophy might not rule in favor of abortion — their real litmus test — and if depicting him as opposed to civil rights would stop him, so be it.

The most successful political demagoguery of our time has been the claim black voters in Florida were “disenfranchised” in the 2000 election. Mona Charen’s book examines that claim in detail. The Civil Rights Commission issued a report repeating that claim — after hearings in which not a single black voter testified to being personally denied the vote.

“Do-Gooders” shows not only the destructive results of liberal crime, education and welfare policies, it shows the corrupting cynicism used to try to keep the liberal agenda afloat.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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