The politics of judicial nominees

Posted: Oct 28, 2003 12:00 AM

A racist cartoon, linking Janice Rogers Brown with Justice Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, was on display at the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings on Justice Brown's nomination to the federal Court of Appeals in Washington.

Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch put the cartoon on display to show what ugly methods were being used to try to block this nomination. The fact that Justice Brown is a black woman is by no means irrelevant to the ruthless ferocity with which she is being attacked. She has been denounced as "another Clarence Thomas."

Janice Rogers Brown is being seen, not just as a threat to the liberal agenda in the courts, but also as a threat to political orthodoxy among blacks, a key voting bloc for the Democrats. For her to go from her current position on the California Supreme Court to national prominence would threaten the monopoly of the liberal-left mindset among blacks.

Black "leaders" like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and black organizations like the NAACP, must maintain a monopoly because they cannot risk everything in a free market of ideas. Therefore they must demonize Clarence Thomas and cut off at the pass anyone who might become another nationally visible black voice with alternative ideas.

The whole Democratic Party has a huge vested interest in a solid black vote today that is like the "solid South" which Democrats relied on in national elections back in the days of Jim Crow. As a Republican, Justice Brown is a threat to that monolithic solidarity, even if she never says a word about politics.

Democrats -- black and white alike -- realize that she must be stopped right here and right now, before she can gain national prominence as a federal appeals judge, who might well end up on the U.S. Supreme Court in future years. Janice Rogers Brown and Clarence Thomas both on the same Supreme Court is a liberals' nightmare.

None of this has anything to do with the merits of a judicial nominee but it has a lot to do with the politics of judicial nominations.

Nor are such political character assassinations limited to issues involving race. Ever since a ruthless campaign of smears and lies defeated the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, the techniques of mass-production demonization of nominees has been perfected by liberal-left organizations.

What is baffling is why so little has been done by those on the other side to counter these well-known tactics that have been applied so ruthlessly by the left over the past 16 years.

I first learned of the October 22nd hearings on the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown just a week before. Some people who are much better connected than I am had not been alerted at all.

Many individuals and groups who are concerned about the integrity of the courts were ready to try to help save this nomination, even at the eleventh hour, after they heard about it. But their efforts would have been more effective if they had been alerted months ago, as liberal-left organizations obviously were, since they have been turning out anti-Brown propaganda that long.

Whether efforts to save Justice Brown from bogus attacks are now too little and too late only time will tell. But whether those who send judicial nominees up to Capitol Hill will learn anything from all this is an even more serious question for the long run.

You cannot continue to send outstanding people to confirmation hearings to be led like lambs to the slaughter without finding, at some point, that more and more good people will refuse to play that role. There will always be warm bodies available with a "conservative" label but we have learned the hard way what to expect from such warm bodies when we see what Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy have done on the Supreme Court.

Among the people who are trying to do the job of educating the public that the administration should have done is the Committee for Justice, which has put out an excellent background paper on Justice Janice Rogers Brown. It is available on the Internet at