Editorial: Judicial nominees' return is bafflingSan Antonio Express-News
President Bush's decision to re-nominate to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals two controversial judges who were rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a major disappointment. The two are Charles Pickering, a Mississippi judge who appears to share U.S. Sen. Trent Lott's racial views, and Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen, whose strident anti-abortion beliefs raise serious questions about her judicial temperament.
With these misguided nominations, Bush is playing partisan hardball at a time when he should be looking for ways to work with Democrats and unify the nation.
With problems in Iraq and North Korea and the continued threat of al-Qaida, this is no time for Democrats and Republicans to be at each other's throats over judicial nominees who were rejected last year for good reasons.
Bush's decision to try to push Owen and Pickering through the Republican-controlled Senate was both unwise and baffling.
After all, the Lott debacle is only a few weeks old, and Pickering, who was supported by Lott, has a record on civil rights as toxic as Lott's rhetoric. As a state senator in Mississippi, he called for repeal of the Voting Rights Act. In 1994--only nine years ago--he intervened from the bench to help a man convicted of burning a cross on an interracial couple's lawn to get a shorter sentence than was mandated.
Bush's decision to renominate Pickering contradicts his statements denouncing Lott's insensitive stance on race.
In its own way, the Owen re-nomination is equally problematic. On the Texas Supreme Court, she always voted with a small court minority that consistently tries to bypass the law as written by the Legislature.
Her most controversial opinions involve cases in which minors were seeking a legal bypass allowing them to get an abortion without parental consent.
Former Justice Al Gonzales, now the White House counsel, once called one of her opinions an "unconscionable act of judicial activism."
Though Republicans hold a narrow 51-48 edge in the Senate, Bush could face a tough fight with these nominations. The Senate requires 60 votes to cut off debate, and Democrats are vowing to fight. What a pity to spill so much partisan blood over two nominees who should not be recycled.
When Bush was governor of Texas, he had a genius for bipartisanship, based in part on his ability to nominate moderates to important positions.
At a time when America urgently needs to be united, we urge Bush to return to his successful Texas strategy.