12/15/04 — Sad decision: That’s enough, Pickering says, and he’ll step down

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Sad decision: That’s enough, Pickering says, and he’ll step down

Charles Pickering has decided to end his career of public service rather than cause another fight in the Senate over his nomination as a judge. We are worse off for it.

Pickering, you may recall, is a Mississippian who was an early advocate of equal rights for blacks and for racial integration. But because he is a Republican who holds anti-abortion views, his nomination to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was blocked by liberals in the Senate.

Liberal senators grilled Pickering at Judiciary Committee hearings about his religious and political beliefs. Despite his years of meritorious public service, and despite many personal decisions that demonstrate his lack of prejudice, he was slandered without mercy.

Pickering had the highest recommendation from the American Bar Association, and blacks who know him in Mississippi stood up for his integrity.

Still, he was among the nominees whose consideration in the Senate was blocked by a Democratic filibuster. Finally, President Bush put him on the bench through a recess appointment. That is an appointment that is made when Congress is not in session. It does not require a Senate vote when it is made, but a vote is taken later.

Last week, Pickering decided to spare himself, the president and the country further conflict over his appointment. He announced that he would retire rather than seek renomination.

Pickering is leaving with some wise departing thoughts:

“The bitter fight over judicial confirmations threatens the quality and the independence of the judiciary,” he said. “The mean-spiritedness and lack of civility reduces the pool of nominees willing to offer themselves for service on the bench.”

Pickering’s decision is a victory for the Left, and a loss for our country as a whole.

Published in Editorials on December 15, 2004 12:41 PM