The war against judicial conservatives

Posted: Jul 24, 2002 12:00 AM
Ever since President Bush nominated Charles Manson, Linda Tripp and Jerry Falwell to federal appellate court seats ... well, let's try again. I mean Charles Pickering, Priscilla Owen and Jeffrey Sutton, not to mention Miguel Estrada, Carolyn Kuhl and Terrence Boyle. Reading and listening to the news can confuse you as to the identity of America's public enemies. The Taliban? Pikers in some respects, measured against the Bush nominees (by the left, naturally). There's Priscilla Owen, whose nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has the National Organization for Women, People for the American Way, and the Senate Democrats (to the extent you can tell them apart) lifting hands this week in righteous horror. "Ultra-conservative ideologue" and "antiabortion zealot" are among the epithets hurled at the lady's head. NOW's web site fetchingly lists the Bush judicial nominees under the heading "Unjust Justices." The nomination (defeated) of Judge Charles W. Pickering Jr. of Mississippi to the 5th Circuit was seen by one "civil rights" leader as opening "a gateway of horrors." The judge's record, on no evidence to speak of, was read as embodying "hostility to civil and constitutional rights." Much of the criticism levied by the various special interests is cheesy in the extreme, though clearly it is designed to be received with solemn shakings of the noggin. Judge Deborah L. Cook, we learn, was once endorsed "by the Ohio Right to Life." Judge Terrence Boyle is a "former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms." Judge Miguel Estrada is a "strong supporter of capital punishment." Oh! Horrors! Why even give these jerks a hearing? Why not just deport one and all to some land where they would find infinite happiness -- say, Iran? The Senate's Democratic majority (thank you so much, Sen. Jeffords) may gun down several of the Bush nominees. Not many, we should hope. Not any, we should wish. However they turn out at the end, the mugging of Pickering and the present onslaught against Owen have made plain two things: 1. How dishonest confirmation proceedings have become since the Senate deprived us of Judge Robert Bork's services, and 2. How much the federal courts have come to count in terms of enacting or blocking political programs. Judge Owen's assailants have the nerve to roll the two considerations into one: They make out as if they had caught her honor "legislating" against abortion from the bench, when, as they see it, federal judges are bound to defend the piece of judicial legislation that brought us "reproductive choice" in the first place. Prior to Roe vs. Wade, handed down in January 1973, no right to abortion existed. The Constitution failed to provide one. That didn't bother seven justices determined to give the feminist plaintiffs in the case what they wanted. An intensive search for hidden, or "evolved," meanings turned up "privacy" as the indicated rationale. Out went the right of the people, speaking through state legislatures, to protect unborn life. Of all parties to accuse a jurist of legislating on abortion -- the pouty prophets of NOW! (Owen's imputed offense: over-strict interpretation of a state statute making it harder for under-18s to abort without parental consent.) Intellectual consistency is just one casualty in the ongoing war waged by liberal special interest groups against conservative judicial nominees of the Owen stamp. Such ferocity and malice as the special interests display weren't always common in Washington. It's going to be their way or the highway for senators too simple-minded to bow low when NOW and People for the American Way throw a commanding glance in their direction. Check NOW's web site if you doubt it. The stock market clearly isn't our only national concern. There is great cynicism and meanness among us -- a lust for political destruction, whatever the cost. Let us hope the Honorable Priscilla Owen beats the rap, not least because she is up there representing, against great odds, the un-cynical, the un-mean, the hopeful.