“Beyond the pale”

The Washington Post finds it “beyond the pale” that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will participate in a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which argues that Democrats are opposing some of President Bush’s judicial nominees because the nominees are people of faith. The Post essentially demands that Frist make it clear that he does not believe this “slander.” Yet the Post makes no real attempt to show that the “slander” is untrue. It argues that there are “people of faith and goodwill on both sides of the issue.” But that can be true and it can still be the case that at least some Democrats are opposing some nominees because of their faith.
In fact, some are. William Pryor is a highly principled conservative who has declined to follow his personal views where they are in conflict with the requirements of the law. Yet the Democrats have blocked his nomination, in part, on the theory that because his views on abortion are founded on “deeply held religious beliefs,” he cannot be trusted to follow the law when it comes to this issue. As I argued here, this argument indeed amounts to opposing Pryor because he is a person of faith and moral conviction:

The Senate Democrats don’t claim that having passionate views about issues like abortion should disqualify someone from being a judge. Nor do they claim that having passionate views that stem from adherence to doctrine should so disqualify nominees. Doctrinaire feminist nominees have never encountered difficulty from the Democrats. But in the case of William Pryor, the Senate Democrats base their opposition (as far as I can tell) on (a) his passionate views about the issue of abortion and (b) the concern that, because these views stem from deeply held religious beliefs, they will influence his rulings in cases on the subject where there is room for disagreement (Pryor has said he will follow settled Supreme Court doctrine). To me, this is discrimination against Catholic doctrine and against its adherents, namely believing Catholics. The fact that the discrimination stems from animus against the doctrine, rather than the person, is not a mitigating factor. Ill treatment of Jews because they do not accept Christ is religious discrimination (and indeed anti-Semitism) even if it is not motivated by a stereotype (Jews are greedy) or raw hatred. It is also discrimination (and anti-Semitism) even if the same treatment is imposed on non-Jews who do not accept Christ, and even if Jews who accept Christ (“Jews for Jesus”) are not ill-treated.

The Post, naturally, has no desire to parse what opponents of Pryor have said to see whether the nominees religious beliefs are a factor in their opposition. But it loves to parse the statements of Tom DeLay, John Cornyn, and Todd Tiahrt in search of “aggressiveness in conservative attacks on the judiciary that cumulatively takes one’s breath away.” The Post might be less breathless if it parsed these statements honestly. For example, the Post notes that Cornyn posited a connection between violence against judges and the perception that judges are “making political decisions.” It goes on to state that Cornyn “later insisted that he was not condoning violence against the judiciary.” But, in fact, Cornyn stated in his original speech (not just later) that violence against judges was “entirely without justification.” So the Post implicitly is misrepresenting Cornyn’s original remarks.
The Post has decided essentially to ignore the mistreatment of Bush’s nominees on the theory that both parties do this. Through this dodge, it can direct its outrage exclusively at the Republican reaction to the Democratic tactics. In reality, as Rick Santorum points out in today’s Post, the Republicans have never killed any court of appeals nominee through a filibuster. In addition, the number of nominees the Democrats have killed through filibusters or the threat thereof (16 of 52) is unprecedented. Indeed, Bush has had a smaller percentage of appeals court nominees approved than any present in memory.
The Post’s partisanship on this issue may not fall “beyond the pale,” but does the paper no credit.


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