The recent elections mean more than just a Republican majority in the House and the Senate. They also mean that a newly invigorated Republican Party could and probably will appoint highly conservative judges to the federal judiciary. Bush, defiant as ever, has renominated his most controversial judge – Charles Pickering. An obviously sound strategy from the Republican standpoint means an ever-growing threat to civil rights and liberties for all people.

Pickering, a U.S. District Court judge in Mississippi, was defeated in a straight party-line vote last March by the then-democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. Pickering has displayed glaring racial insensitivity in his decisions, particularly one in which he reduced the sentence of a man convicted in a 1994 cross burning. Moreover, Pickering has been overturned by higher courts 26 times, 15 of which were because his rulings “departed from well settled principles of law.” In fact, one obvious example is a 1993 case where Pickering criticized the fundamental “one-person, one-vote” principle recognized by the Supreme Court under the 14th Amendment by calling it “obtrusive.”

But more important than the actual flaws with the renomination of Charles Pickering is the general racial strategy that President Bush has created. During the 2000 election, President Bush called himself a compassionate conservative many times. Essentially what this meant was that he was more moderate on social issues than were conservatives. When interviewed once during the election, he begged the reporter to ask him his views on interracial dating, stating, “I support it.”

Since this election, however, President Bush has not lived up to his “compassionate” claim. His views on race have been more conservative than previous Republican administrations. Bush, who received an extremely low percentage of the African American vote (eight percent), has now decided to court the conservatives. Pickering is only one example of the growing trend in the Republican Party toward extreme conservatism. The recent comments by Senator Lott, though taken out of context, still show the segregationist tendencies of conservatives. And then there is also the recent Bush denouncement of the University of Michigan’s acceptance policies. Bush, though saying he is a compassionate conservative, has yet to show his compassion.

But it’s more than just that. Some democrats may have even done the same thing Bush has done if they were in the same position. Throughout his presidency, Bush has claimed to be trying to unite the country and to fight against partisan bickering. He ran on this platform, saying that in Texas he “brought Republicans and Democrats together.” The Pickering renomination is not a way to bring Republicans and Democrats together – it is simply a means to get what he wants through the use of sheer numbers. The Republicans now control the senate – and he doesn’t care what the Democrats think, Bush is simply going to get what he wants done.

Maybe that’s the way things should be. But then Bush should rescind his claim that he is bringing Democrats and Republicans together because all he has done so far is unite the right and the far right. Pickering, though probably a pretty good judge, has made some decisions that bring into question his own philosophy. Sure, this is a ploy by Democrats to get a more moderate judge into the office – but the Republicans did the same thing during the Clinton era to a much greater degree. They attacked not only the beliefs and decisions of judicial nominees, but also their homes and families. For example, during President Clinton’s first term, he nominated a woman who had unknowingly hired an illegal immigrant as a maid. It was simply because of this mistake that she was denied the position, though she met all other qualifications.

Pickering represents a policy that this administration has been pushing. This administration loves to look compassionate, but loves even more to bully its own agenda through Congress. Shrewd? Maybe. But definitely not fair, and not good for the country.

Chirag Dedania is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. He is Media Relations Director for the Georgetown University College Democrats.

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