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Jewish World Review March 13, 2002/ 29 Adar, 5762

Don Feder

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High-tech lynching of an uppity conservative | The ordinarily unflappable Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republican from Utah, was seething over the tactics of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and the rest of the Democratic wrecking crew.

Hatch called the drive to pick off Charles W. Pickering, nominated for the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, "a lynching."

When the committee acts on Thursday, Pickering will likely swing amid unfounded charges of racial insensitivity. The anti-Pickering offensive is so vicious that even some liberals are crying "foul."

A Washington Post editorial observed, "The attack on Judge Pickering has become an ugly affair." Commentator Morton Kondracke urged his friends in the NAACP and People for the American Way to "quit using character assassination to defeat conservative judicial nominees."

Pickering, now a district court judge in Hattiesburg, Miss., received the American Bar Association's highest rating. In 1990, the Senate unanimously confirmed him for the lower court. That included the votes of four committee Democrats who've announced their opposition to the pending nomination.

Democrats intend to destroy Pickering as a warning to the White House -- "Send us no conservative candidates for the federal bench." With their one-vote majority, they will refuse to report the nomination out of committee. Majority Leader Tom Daschle won't allow a vote in the full Senate.

The prospect prompted President George Bush to meet with Pickering last week and personally push for his confirmation. Too little, too late.

The case against Pickering is preposterous. As a Mississippi county prosecutor in the 1960s, he risked his career to testify against a Klan leader. Later, he sent his children to newly integrated public instead of all-white academies.

Charles Evers, brother of slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, is among his legion of local black supporters. We should all be so insensitive in matters of race.

Color is a cover for Democrats determined to keep the federal bench liberalism's ultimate check on democracy. After eight years of Clinton, 53 percent of all active federal judges are Democratic appointees.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., set forth her party's strategy when she appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Feb 24. Pickering is "a person who has very strong right-wing views," Di-Fi charged. "The question always comes: Can you put those views aside (as a judge)?"

Like liberal judges? The majority in the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision weren't reading their personal views into the Constitution. Not at all. They objectively determined that the First Amendment contained a hitherto unimagined privacy right, lurking in its penumbra, which in turn implied a right to abortion.

In the '70s, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an ACLU lawyer. It's just a coincidence that in her eight years on the Supreme Court she has consistently come down on the pro-abortion side of every case. Her ideology doesn't color her understanding of the Constitution. Instead, her honest interpretation of the law invariably coincides with her deeply held values. Isn't it nice the way this works out?

In reality, liberals demand judges who will twist the Constitution and statutory law to legislate their social agenda on everything from gay rights to pornography.

It's conservatives who believe that the words of the Constitution have an objective meaning and a judge's job is to faithfully interpret, not creatively edit, those words.

In his second judiciary committee hearing, Democrats demanded to know if Pickering personally saw a right to abortion in the First Amendment, irrespective of his willingness to abide by precedent. ("But do you believe, son, do you really believe?")

Pickering has a noose around his neck. It's likely that tomorrow the Judiciary Committee will kick the props from under his feet. The demise of this worthy nominee should alert the administration to how Democrats intend fight the coming judge wars (with the political equivalent of daisy cutters). Maybe the next time Bush won't wait until the 11th hour to get directly involved in a confirmation battle.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate