“Battle lines form” one headline read. “We are going to war” one senator said.
No, we’re not launching attacks against terror camps in Syria or Iran (at least not yet). Those quotes have nothing to do with retaliating against the 7/7 London attackers. They’re about a Beltway battle over the Supreme Court.
And all signs point to a long, hot summer, during which another presidential Supreme Court nominee could be made a verb. Or at least some Senate Democrats and a coalition of left-wing groups seem to want to make it so.
“To Bork” entered our vocabularies in 1987, when Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Lewis Powell was Robert H. Bork, a U.S. Appeals Court judge. Ted Kennedy–then and now a flamethrower Democratic senator from Massachusetts–was among those who decried Bork on the Senate floor as the country looked on. Kennedy warned: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”
That kind of ridiculous, ghoulish rhetoric ultimately worked. Democrats–and Republican helpers–prevailed and Bork was denied confirmation.
Like Bork, former Manhattan prosecutor Miguel Estrada’s name should be a verb by now. He unfortunately earned it the hard, ugly way–by being a punching bag for Democratic senators and left-wing interest groups. President Bush picked him for a seat in May 2001 on the D.C. Federal Court of Appeals and the Left subsequently set out to destroy him.
And I do mean “destroy.”
Estrada, who as a teenager moved from his native Honduras to the United States, was dubbed “Hispanic in name only.” He was literally not Hispanic enough for liberals who believe that an ethnic background ties one to an ideology. They judged that a Judge Estrada’s rulings wouldn’t reflect their political will. And so they had to destroy his nomination, as Democratic memos and talking points made shockingly clear.
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said of Estrada: “I’m scared of what will happen if he is confirmed.” As Mark R. Levin puts it in his book Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America: “Estrada’s main offense in the eyes of his opponents was that he would not be an activist judge. He believed in following the Constitution.” That means no writing in nonexistent Constitutional rights from the bench–like that of privacy, which a psychedelic 70s court managed to do.
When Estrada stepped aside after more than two years of vicious, degrading left-wing attacks, President Bush rightly said, “The treatment of this fine man is an unfortunate chapter in the Senate’s history.”
As if the Bork and Estrada brouhahas didn’t spotlight the shameful history from the Senate enough: Charles Pickering was nominated by this president for the federal appeals court. The Left demonized his role as a U.S. District Court judge in a complicated Mississippi cross-burning case. Folks like Schumer (just call him Senator Attack Dog) tried to make it a black-and-white case against Pickering, by pitting him as a white-man-vs.-blacks kind of hater. Never mind that Charles Evers, brother of civil-rights activist Medgar Evers, said of his Mississippi brother: “The NAACP and the Klan are the only two organizations that are against [Pickering] down here.”
In Washington today, all Court watchers fully expect the president’s nominee, John Roberts, to get similar treatment–though senators’ constituents should give them hell if they try.
Despite lack of an extensive paper trail, and recent bipartisan support, expect Roberts to be painted as a danger to women’s rights and health, by liberal “women’s groups” and women politicians in “emergency” e-mails. Anyone who wasn’t clearly a left-wing activist would be in their book. But he’s lucky he’s not a woman. If he were and ever ruled in favor of, say parental notification for abortion, as recently obstructed lower-court nominee Priscilla Owen did as a Texas-supreme-court justice, she will be considered a misogynist–not woman enough.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. When President Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed four weeks after the initial announcement, after a relatively easy confirmation hearing. And it could have been brutal. Her views are extremist, unlike so many of President Bush’s various federal-court nominees who’ve been stuck with the same e-word over the past four-plus years. A former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, Ginsburg has advocated replacing Mother’s and Father’s Days with “Parents’ Day” to put an end to traditional gender-role rigidity. She also favored lowering the age of consent for statutory rape to 12 and opposed the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts groups because they, again, “perpetuate stereotyped sex roles.”
Senators, please don’t Estrada Judge John G. Roberts. Even though good men and women are willing to go before the Senate firing squad (God bless ‘em), on national television, and put up with what Clarence Thomas called a “high-tech lynching” in his case, senators could avoid trying to destroy one of our best and brightest. And senators–if you’re up for being especially fair: Give the president his qualified guy. Dems had their chance, now Bush has his. That call was made last November.
–(c) 2005, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.