The attacks on Judge Charles Pickering have always involved the race card, and not surprisingly, Senate Democrats are attempting to portray his re-nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as being blatantly insensitive to the concerns of minorities.
The real story, also not surprisingly, is that Pickerings record is the precise opposite of what the Left is seeking to portray. In fact the Legal Times acknowledged last year that liberals werent telling the full story, and even The New York Times reported that Pickering had strong support from blacks in his Mississippi hometown.
Leading the charge against Pickering this week was Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.), who seemed as if he could hardly contain himself.
On Wednesday, as the Bush Administration prepared to announce its position regarding the University of Michigans race preferences policy, Daschle took to the Senate floor to discuss what he called that "watershed moment" for the administration.
"On occasion after occasion, despite their rhetoric, the administration has shown by their [sic] actions an insensitivity to civil rights and diversity," he said. "They showed it by re-nominating Judge Pickering . . . . I am troubled, disheartened, and I am still looking for evidence that this administration truly means what it says; that this administration is willing to support by actions, rather than just by its rhetoric, meaningful change in civil rights and diversity in this country today."
That same day, Minority Whip Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) asked Daschle whether there appears to be a "pattern here that this administration is not concerned about women and other minorities." Daschle answered that re-nominating Pickering along with a refusal to support items on the Democrats agenda indicates that "there is, without a doubt, a pattern."
A few days earlier, Daschle alluded to Sen. Trent Lotts (R.-Miss.) infamous remarks and said that "among the Republican leadership there may have been a change of face, but there has not been a change of heart." He continued: "When the administration chose to re-nominate Charles Pickering to the second highest court in the land, it now appears that in many respects, they did not even have a change of face . . . If indeed it is a change of heart, we need to see actions that bear out such a change."
Daschle hopes that repeating the racist charge ad infinitum will once again do the necessary damage to the nomination. And rather than try to make his case, he is content to refer to Pickerings supposed race problem as a generally accepted conclusion. But facts are stubborn things, and that conclusion is anything but generally accepted.
The Left insinuates that Judge Pickering is soft on cross-burning because he expressed concern about a sentencing request for a man who took part in that crime. In reality, Pickering saw that the ringleader-who had previously shot at the victims house and frequently used racial epithets-got a deal from prosecutors with no jail time whatsoever. Prosecutors wanted another defendant with a different record to get seven and a half years, a sentence one of them later acknowledged was "draconian."
Pickering thought that sentence was disproportionate, and pressed prosecutors to justify using the two sentencing statutes they cited. After repeatedly failing to answer, they dropped five years from their request. Pickering handed down a 27-month sentence, berated the defendant for his "despicable act" that "cannot and will not be tolerated" and told him to spend his prison time reading up on maintaining good race relations.
Thats hardly the terrible thing Daschle would have us believe.
Liberals claim Pickering is a racist for being critical of the creation of majority-black congressional districts. In reality, he was concerned that separating voters by race into different districts would lead to less efforts to resolve differences by reason and logic and more polarization.
"Constitutional guarantees of equality should unite us, not divide us," he wrote.
Again, not much cause for Daschle to be genuinely alarmed. Even liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas expressed similar opinions.
The Left claims that contact with Mississippis segregation-era Sovereignty Commission has left Pickering tainted. The real nature of that incidental contact? He requested information about a union infiltrated by reputed Ku Klux Klan members, one of whom had been charged with murder-with Pickerings signature on the affidavit supporting the indictment.
At every turn, Judge Pickerings real record is at odds with practically all that Daschle and his fellow left-wingers have to say. Not only do the specific items they highlight fail to support their claims about his record, but Pickering has actually been taking positive steps in the area of racial reconciliation for decades.
In the 1960s, while a county attorney, he worked with the FBI to prosecute violent Klan members in Mississippi. In 1967, he testified against an Imperial Wizard of the KKK charged with the murder of a civil rights activist, despite the risks involved. In 1977, he voted to shut down the Sovereignty Commission and preserve its records instead of destroying them.
He has served on the board of the University of Mississippis Institute for Racial Reconciliation. He hired the Mississippi Republican Partys first black political worker. He kept his children in public schools as they were integrating. And many black individuals who know him well-judges, clergymen, civil rights workers, and others-support his confirmation.
Daschle knows hes blowing hot air. But like so many of his colleagues, he looks at Republicans and thinks he sees blood in the water. Race-baiting is simply too much of a temptation to resist.
What kind of man goes out of his way to label someone a racist when he knows it isnt so? What kind of Senator is happy to promote racial tension for a chance at political gain?
Tom Daschle says he sees a racist plot. All we see is a man without integrity.