Sunday, 8 August 2004

Pickering back in the news (barely)

Charles Pickering (who the national Democratic Party would have you believe is a racist hatemonger, even if many Mississippi Democrats and the reliably left-wing Clarion-Ledger editorial board disagree) just issued a ruling in a racial segregation case, and somehow managed to do so without declaring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unconstitutional. Stuart Buck and Howard Bashman have more.

Past posts on the Pickering smear campaign here.

Friday, 16 January 2004

Recess success for Pickering

As Will Baude (among others) notes, Charles Pickering got a recess appointment to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals today, bypassing the anticipated filibuster of his nomination by the Senate for now. While national Democrats have strongly opposed the nomination, he has attracted significant support from many Mississippi Democrats—who, unlike their national counterparts, usually need at least some support from moderate-to-conservative whites to stay in office.

Also, feel free to read my past Pickering posts.

Friday, 31 October 2003


David Bernstein is happy Charles Pickering’s nomination went down in flames today; Matthew Stinson isn’t. I said my piece on the topic in June, but I’ll repeat it here:

[M]y message to Democrats remains the same: if you believe he’s unfit to serve on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals [on the grounds that he treats minorities unfairly], by definition he’s also unfit to serve as a district court judge. Be consistent, call for his impeachment and removal from office, and find some additional evidence, and then I might take your objections seriously. Until then, the whole situation reeks of inside-the-beltway politics and “easy,” gratuitous Mississippi bashing.

Or, as Matthew puts it:

There’s no principle in opposing Pickering’s nomination, simply partisanship. Democrats invent the Pickering-as-racist bogeyman charge because it’s a much better story than them saying that Pickering is “unfit” to be a judge simply because he’s a Republican.

Now—unlike Matthew—I don’t particularly care if Pickering becomes a judge or not. But if Democrats continue to play games with the filibuster, they’re either going to find the shoe on the other foot (do you honestly see Orrin Hatch rolling over for Howie Dean when he tries to put Stephen Reinhardt on the Supreme Court?) or themselves out their last real weapon against Republican hegemony—because I guarantee you that if the Republicans can scrape together sixty Senate seats, the filibuster as we know it will be gone from the Senate rules faster than you can say “Jim Jeffords’ office is a converted broomcloset.”

Scipio, at The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, blames Trent Lott for the whole debacle. Yeah, that’s about right…

Monday, 2 June 2003

Viewer mail (of a sort)

Via Technorati, I found that J. at Silver Rights (who may or may not be the same person as “Mac Diva”) apparently thinks I’m being an apologist for Charles Pickering, on the basis of a Washington Post article that reveals absolutely nothing new about the controversial 1994 case in which Pickering quite rightly objected to giving the (arguably) least responsible perpetrator of an admittedly vile act the harshest sentence of the three young men involved.

I stand by my position that Pickering is being unjustly pilloried. If the Democrats dislike him for his politics or his overall jurisprudence, that is a fair objection; however, I don’t think this particular case is in any way emblematic of either, but instead has been blown out of proportion because screaming “racist” is easier than articulating philosophical objections to the appointment of a sitting district judge to a higher court.

If Democrats (and “J.”) genuinely believe he is a bad judge and the racist they claim him to be, they should be calling for his impeachment and removal from office, not pretending he’d be objectionable if sitting on an appeals court in New Orleans but O.K. to keep in office so long as he can only affect peoples’ lives as a trial court judge in Mississippi.

Victor at “Balasubramania’s Mania” somehow interprets this post as me “stand[ing] behind Pickering.” To the extent I agree with Pickering’s position that the sentencing “guidelines” (and anything that’s mandatory fails to meet any reasonable definition of the word guideline) are idiotic and lead to perverse outcomes, including in the particular case that these dustups are over, I suppose I am.

But I also think there are valid objections that can be made to Pickering’s appointment, and I stand by my position that if Pickering is as bad a judge as the Democrats think he is, then they should be arguing that he has no business sitting on a district court either, where he is in a position much more likely to harm minorities on a day-to-day basis (in sentencing and in the conduct of trials, for example) than on an appellate court. That they haven’t suggests that they don’t really take the racism charges against Pickering seriously, but instead find them a convenient way to object to his nomination without making the same objections they would have to make against every other Bush nominee and pretending that there is a substantive difference between Pickering and the others on those grounds alone. In short, I’d like to see more intellectual consistency here. (And surely if Pickering were a racist, there would be more than one case out of the thousands he’s presided over that would provide evidence of that.)

So, my message to Democrats remains the same: if you believe he’s unfit to serve on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, by definition he’s also unfit to serve as a district court judge. Be consistent, call for his impeachment and removal from office, and find some additional evidence, and then I might take your objections seriously. Until then, the whole situation reeks of inside-the-beltway politics and “easy,” gratuitous Mississippi bashing.

Sunday, 11 May 2003

Legislative black caucus head feels the heat for backing Pickering

Sid Salter writes in today’s Clarion-Ledger about the heat State Rep. Phillip West is taking from his fellow legislative black caucus members for daring to break with the party line on the Charles Pickering nomination. Salter draws a damning parallel between the state’s current civil rights establishment and the segregationists who attacked Pickering when he testified against Klan leaders in the 1960s:

Pickering’s courage, integrity and morality were questioned publicly by the radical fringe of white Mississippians — just as West’s courage, integrity and morality are now being questioned by the radical fringe of black Mississippians.

Why? Same reason.

Both West and Pickering had the courage to do and say what was right on a controversial topic.

The SCLC and Black Caucus ought to be ashamed of themselves for continuing to spread lies about Pickering’s record. If they don’t like his judicial philosophy, that’s what they should say, and leave the invented racism charges out of it.

I accidentally linked to the wrong opinion article before; however, it’s also worth reading.

Saturday, 11 January 2003

Are the Democrats abandoning Mississippi?

Hattiesburg American opinion editor Rich Campbell asks and answers that provocative question in a column in yesterday's paper, in response to the national Democrats' opposition to the Pickering nomination, supported by many Mississippi Democrats (seen at How Appealing).

It's a pretty good question, and one that reveals the friction in the median voter problem: Mississippi Democrats like Mike Moore, Ronnie Musgrove, and Ronnie Shows have very different interests in getting elected than many Democrats in other states, much as Republicans in New England aren't well-served by being associated in their voters' minds with the Christian Coalition wing of the party. In the long term, this may lead to either realignment or the development of regional or state parties; at some point, except in the Delta, no Democratic candidate will be able to appeal to a median voter simply due to the association with the national party — Gene Taylor could conceivably be the last white Democrat the state elects to Congress ever, and at the state level a similar phenomenon could easily emerge.

Monday, 16 December 2002

Who would Musgrove appoint?

If Trent Lott does make good on his supposed threat to quit the Senate if he's forced out, who would Ronnie Musgrove appoint in his place?

The pickings are pretty slim, at least in terms of nationally-recognizable names:

  • Mike Espy, the former congressman from the Delta (and ex-Ag Secretary under Clinton) would be a possibility; however, his past legal troubles might be problematic. But appointing an African-American would be a good way to shoot the bird at Trent Lott and his pals.

  • U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-2nd): Unlike Mike Espy, however, he's a bit of a lightweight. But he's African-American, which means at least he'd probably not defect to the Republicans when he got to the Senate, and the special election for his House seat would probably be won handily by the Democrats.

  • U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, who's out of a job come January, might be a sensible choice. He's reasonably popular, but lost a race against fellow incumbent Chip Pickering by a wider-than-expected margin. If I had to say anyone, I'd pick Shows.

  • U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-4th): Taylor is a hardcore conserative Democrat (one of four to vote for Clinton's impeachment); he's probably been courted by the GOP to switch for years, and the chance to do so in the Senate might be tempting. Plus, appointing Taylor would open the House seat up; it's unclear if a Democrat could keep the seat.

  • State attorney general Mike Moore: Best known for his tobacco lawsuit (and subsequent enrichment of college roommate Dickie Scruggs), Moore is believed to have ambitions for higher office, and has won statewide elections in the past as a Democrat. Relatively unlikely to jump ship. Probably #2 behind Shows.

  • Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat: Sort of a dark horse candidate. Probably a Democrat, but nobody's really all that sure. Being a part of a legendary Ole Miss football team (and the Redskins) gives him the benefit of the Jack Kemp factor.

  • Finally, my out-of-left-field suggestion: Morgan Freeman. Believed to be fairly conservative, but still has the “cool factor” of wearing an earring (something none of these other candidates share).

I don't know that any of these names are on the “short list”, or even if it's time for a short list.

It's also possible a deal could be made: Lott promises not to run for governor against Musgrove if Musgrove appoints a Republican in his place. And the perfect Republican for the job: everyone's favorite district court judge, Chip Pickering's dad, none other than the widely-vilified-outside-the-state Charles Pickering. Now that, my friends, would be good politics.

Jonah Goldberg notes that Mississippi Code Section 25-15-855 requires a special election to replace any departing U.S. Senator; a Musgrove appointee would have to face the voters either in early 2003 (if Lott resigns by the end of 2002) or November 2003 (if Lott resigns in January). That strongly indicates in favor of appointing a Democrat who could win a special election from a standing start, again favoring either Shows or Moore (and perhaps favoring Moore to a greater extent; Shows isn't as well-known state-wide).

LottWatch Day 10 Roundup (updated)

Not a lot of real news today; the Clarion-Ledger editorializes on the Pickering nomination, noting:

Last March, the then-Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee split along party lines 10-9 in rejecting Pickering's nomination, unfairly painting Pickering as part and product of Mississippi's troubled racial past.

The hearing was a hatchet job, reviving old Mississippi stereotypes that had nothing to do with the competent, fair, veteran jurist that is Pickering or his qualifications. The race issue was just a cover to kill the nomination.

Slandering Mississippi is easy when you have the world's most famous living Mississippian (with the possible exceptions of Morgan Freeman and Faith Hill) making a complete ass of himself.

Meanwhile, the unofficial capital of the Delta weighs in, in the person of Washington correspondent James W. Brosnan:

Lott has been a dutiful public servant and an artful leader in the House and Senate. Some conservatives here don't like him because he has pragmatically cut deals with Democrats when necessary. After Sept. 11, 2001, Lott's maneuvering led to the federalizing of airport screening and the creation of the Homeland Security Department.

But Lott also has gotten away with wearing two faces, one for the press, politicians and the public, and one for the few remaining bigots in Mississippi.

People should not have to carry the baggage of the beliefs they held in college for their entire lives, but the choices we make do matter.

Brosnan also contrasts the political careers of incoming Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander and Our Man Trent.

Finally, you have to wonder what planet Mississippi black Republican Clinton LeSueur is from:

What's happening to Senate Republican leader Trent Lott is one more example of how the Democratic Party has used black people. Every time Democrats become desperate, they incite African-Americans, and we in the black community foolishly rush to their aid.

That doesn't really explain all those white people both inside and outside the state who found Lott's remarks equally objectionable, but why let the facts get in the way of a good paranoid rant...

The AP and CNN are reporting that the GOP caucus in the Senate will meet in January to discuss the leadership situation.