Judge Charles Pickering appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week as a nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers the states of Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Judge Pickering is a sitting federal District Court judge in Mississippi, confirmed by the Senate for that position in 1990. The Democrats on the committee, working in conjunction with various left-wing interest groups, set out to derail Pickering's nomination, because he doesn't fit with their desire that all judges be liberal activists.
The result has been, in what has become typical Democrat style, a disgusting smear campaign launched against Judge Pickering to promote wholly partisan ends. He is being accused, among other things, of "racial insensitivity" based on a series of half-truths and events taken out of context. Byron York has written an excellent series of articles in National Review detailing the campaign against Judge Pickering. This attempt at character assassination simply because the judge doesn't share a particular political agenda is deplorable. A majority of the American Bar Association committee that rates judicial nominees rated Pickering "well qualified," but his qualifications to be a judge were not the issue in the hearing. The charge of racism has become the new McCarthyism in America.
Anyone who does not toe the Left's party line, especially on issues of race, will be branded a racist, a bigot, or "racially insensitive" by the Democrats. They tried to derail the confirmation of John Ashcroft employing the same tactics. They even played the race card against George W. Bush in the 2000 election. The NAACP aired a television ad in Texas that practically accused Bush of lynching James Byrd. It was a nasty smear, but effective, so the Democrats used it. They'll keep playing the race card as long as it works, as long as it goes largely unanswered. And that's a big part of the problem - Republicans give tepid response to these kinds of attacks, rather than responding to them forcefully.
Who would put up with false accusations of spousal abuse or being a drunk? But a false charge of racism usually brings out very little protest by the target of the smear or by his supporters. The fear is that the charge will spread - if you defend an accused racist, you must be one too. But this is like ignoring it when the school bully picks on someone else in hope he won't come after you. The only way to stop a wrong is to oppose it.
The Democrats' strategy is essential to their prospects on election day however. For example, Al Gore would have lost in an electoral landslide if not for the fact that he received over 90 percent of the black vote in 2000. The racial fear-mongering strategy is terribly divisive; it's bad for our country. But apparently what's good for American society isn't at the top of the Democratic Party agenda; winning at any cost to maintain power is their goal.
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond also joined in the attack, accusing Pickering of lying during his 1990 Senate confirmation hearing about his association with the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a body that was formed in the 1950s to help maintain segregation in the South. Bond said the commission "helped do all it could to stymie democracy." That may be true, but it has nothing to do with Judge Pickering's record. This is merely another smear tactic, an attempt at guilt by association. The "connection" between Pickering and the Sovereignty Commission is based on a single phone call from Pickering to a commission staffer relating to a local labor dispute in 1972. If you're a Republican, and you've ever even met a racist, then you might as well be wearing a Klan hood. (Democrats who actually were in the Klan get a pass).
This is the same Julian Bond who compared the Bush Administration to the Taliban in several speeches last year. He's not one to shy away from outrageous rhetoric. Bond claims he dropped the "Taliban wing of the Republican party" line after September 11th, even though he said it again in December.
A few years ago, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York compared Republicans in Congress to the KKK simply because they wanted to cut taxes. After Election 2000, Jesse Jackson was in Florida comparing Republicans to Nazis. Three days before the November 2000 election, Al Gore told a largely black audience that when he heard someone like Bush say they were a "strict constructionist" of the Constitution, he was reminded of a time when blacks were considered three-fifths of a person. This type of contemptible slander is common left-wing rhetoric, and it can be expected to persist until they stop getting away with it. There must be a political price for engaging in this kind of "politics of personal destruction" or it will continue.
The nomination of Judge Pickering appears to be headed for defeat in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then we'll see the reaction of his Republican supporters, who have reacted meekly so far. The most likely outcome will be a lukewarm expression of disappointment by President Bush and Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, rather than a strong denunciation of the smear tactics employed by the Democrats. And that will mean the slanders will continue. It's long past due for Republicans and others who oppose these race-baiting smear campaigns to denounce the race-demagogues in the strongest possible terms.
What are they going to do, call you a racist? They've already played that card.