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Slander as a Political Tool


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Jonah Goldberg

SLANDER AS A POLITICAL TOOL Yesterday the Senate voted down the appointment of Judge Ronnie White of Missouri to the federal bench. White sits on the Missouri Supreme Court. He is very liberal, often serving as the lone dissenter on criminal issues, and especially death penalty cases. In the most notorious case he ruled that a multiple cop killer (who also went after the cops’ families) deserved a stay of execution and a new trial. He is the most likely judge on the Missouri bench to vote against the death penalty, and to side with defendants. State law-enforcement groups, unsurprisingly, were opposed to the appointment.

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The public rejection of White was very surprising. In fact it was the first time since Judge Bork’s now eponymous borking that we’ve seen a floor-vote rejection of a judicial appointment. His rejection has largely been credited to the work of Missouri Senator John Ashcroft, who is in a tough race for re-election against the current Governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan. Ashcroft has been denouncing White’s nomination for a long time, but he made a particularly impassioned speech to his fellow Republicans at a luncheon on Tuesday. Missouri’s junior Senator, Christopher Bond, originally supported White. But with last minute persuasion from prosecutors, sheriffs, and no doubt Ashcroft himself, Bond changed his mind–and so did enough Senators that the Democrats suffered an unanticipated and shocking defeat.

The best way to discover how someone’s brain works is to surprise him. Take the President. Snap an intern-thong at him when he knows it’s coming and he’ll probably do the right thing — like say, “who is this girl? And why is she showing me her underwear?” Snap it out of left field, and you’ll start hearing the bowmp-bowmp-ditty-bowmp-bowmp music in the Oval Office. So when Bill Clinton was surprised by the Senate vote, what was his first response?

He charged the Republican Party with racism.

Oh wait, did I forget to mention that Judge White is black?

Well, anyway, President Clinton announced, “this vote was a disgraceful act of partisan politics by the Republican majority, and creates real doubt on the ability of the Senate to fairly perform its constitutional duty…” Rejecting this guy “provides strong evidence for those who believe that the Senate treats minority and women judicial nominees unequally.” He repeated all of this today on CNN.

Now there are two possibilities. Either Clinton believes this or he doesn’t. Either way, he clearly thinks it’s good strategy — which, for Clinton, always trumps right and wrong.

Remember the 1996 election? Bill Clinton’s campaign authorized the most demagogic fear-mongering campaign on record. How did he do it? Easy; he accused the other side of being racist fear-mongers.

Across the United States, the Democratic Party took out ads calling the Republican Party the party of racists. They spread rumors and disinformation about how Republicans were trying to keep blacks from the polls. Most of this was done through targeted local black radio stations.

In Texas, the Democrats ran a radio ad which began, “Martin Luther King had a dream for all children…” Then a clip runs of King giving the “I Have a Dream” speech. The narrator concludes, “don’t let the Republicans take that dream away.” In another notorious case, Missouri black radio listeners were told, “When you don’t vote you let another church explode. When you don’t vote, you allow another cross to burn….When you don’t vote you let Republicans continue to cut school lunches and Head Start…”

Subtle.

It has been the official ideology of the Democratic Party that Republicans are hateful racists who want to repeal voting-rights acts, impose literacy tests, and reinstate Jim Crow. Unfortunately, what used to be simply a mindset has become, under Bill Clinton, government propaganda. And, it is disgusting.

Ronnie White was not rejected because he was black. In none of the President’s statements has he offered the slightest evidence to back up this charge. Moreover, he hasn’t even cited other examples, even though he talks about it as if the Senate has been turning away blacks like Denny’s after a Puffy Combs concert. Talking to staffers in the Senate (yes, sometimes I do a bare minimum of reporting), it’s abundantly clear that race had nothing to do with this. About half of all confirmed judges have been minorities. Many Republicans — those who don’t sit on the Judiciary Committee — didn’t even know White was black.

Aha! Well, Democrats and the President like to cite the fact that many Judiciary Committee Republicans voted for White, only to reverse themselves on the floor. This is supposed to be prima facie evidence of racism. Huh? This couldn’t be dumber. Well. it could be dumber, if you said it in pig Latin, but even then not by much.

Think about it. The guys on Judiciary knew he was black, right? He testified in front of them. So when they changed their votes it certainly wasn’t because they suddenly realized: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I didn’t realize I was voting for the black guy!” More to the point, if the Republicans were going to reject black guys because they were black, they wouldn’t do it in a hugely ostentatious way on the floor of the Senate. They’d kill the nomination quietly in Committee. You can hate Republicans and still understand that.

White’s rejection may have been about politics, but guess what, that’s what the Senate is about. But throughout the Clinton years Democrats have grown more and more inclined to imply, to suggest, to wink and to hint that that their enemies are evil. Remember when Tom Lantos compared the Republican-controlled House to the Nazi Reichstag? It’s like a reverse of the alleged Willie Horton strategy. Instead of Republicans making supposedly naked racial appeals, now Democrats play on the fears of minorities. They say, “only we can save you from the bogeyman.”

Last week, President Clinton said in a speech that America’s “biggest problem” was “hate.” “I am going to do everything I can, every day that I have, to remind people of that — that we have to be one America,” the president said. Well, it would help if he and his emissaries stopped saying that his political opponents are little more than better-dressed Klansmen. The ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, said yesterday that he hoped that America “has not reverted to a time in its history where there was a color test on nominations.”

Well, I hope America hasn’t returned to a time when giant reptiles roam the earth eating anything that moves. The point is neither is about to happen and the Democrats know it. But when you give a Democrat a surprising defeat, they respond with their true selves. They immediately assume their loss must be attributable to dark evil forces trying to move this country backwards. If it’s not about a black judge, it’s about a tax cut intended to crush the poor.

It is a sign of the phenomenal arrogance of the Left. They feel their enemies can’t just be wrong, they must be evil. Sometimes, conservatives are often guilty of the same sort of thing, but we simply assume they’re stupid, not evil. And while both tendencies may be unfair, they fly at different moral altitudes. I’d rather be called stupid than evil. I’d rather be called misinformed than racist. I’d rather be called uninformed than uncompassionate. And, I’d rather live in a country where the President of the United States and his disciples don’t think it’s just fine and dandy to demonize their opponents.

I’M AUDI 5000Notice to readers. I will be on a real, old-fashioned vacation during the first week of November. I might file from the road but I might not. Whenever I don’t file, very helpful readers tell me how important it is that I do extra work. Well, I’m gonna try. I will write a bunch of evergreen columns which can be run while I am gone. I will need to get started soon.

So if you have any suggestions for topics that have a very long shelf-life that you’d like to see for G-Files, please send them to [email protected].



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