Bush's Frankenstein judges 

Court nominees would be funny -- if liberty wasn't at stake

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The howl from the GOP, reverberating through the empty heads on talk radio, is that the Democrats are being mean to nominees such as Estrada, Owen, Carolyn Kuhl, Charles Pickering, James Leon Holmes -- and now Pryor. U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, for example, trumpeted Pryor's "zeal for the law" as Republicans tried to dismantle the time-honored filibuster rules.

When you look at the records of the Bush picks, "zeal for the law" doesn't flash in big letters.

  • Estrada is a stealth missile from the far right -- he refuses to disclose his thinking on key issues, but he did help concoct the strategy that overturned democracy in the 2000 Florida recount scandal.

  • Owen once required a young girl to prove she could cite the religious objections to abortion.

  • Kuhl ruled that a woman couldn't sue for invasion of privacy after a doctor allowed a drug company representative to covertly peek at the patient's breast examination.

  • Pickering, of Mississippi, has tried to downplay recurrent themes of racism in his record -- and has lied about his former law partner, one of the South's most virulent segregationists.

  • Holmes has opined that a wife is to "subordinate herself to her husband" and that rape victims don't need access to abortions because they seldom become pregnant.

    Pryor combines all of the worst elements of Bush's other nominees and adds a new layer -- total, thorough scorn for 30 years of judicial history.

    The most incendiary elements of Pryor's record include his astounding conclusion equating homosexual acts with "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be 'willing')."

    He has written that the "Christian perspective" should dominate public life. He has called the Roe v. Wade abortion decision by the U.S. Supreme Court "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." He has vowed (claiming Jesus' support) to end the "so-called wall of separation between church and state."

    Environmental groups are unanimously appalled at Pryor's record -- which includes such extreme opinions as that the federal government has no power to protect wetlands from destruction.

    Pryor is adamantly "state's rights" -- for example, he doesn't feel federal courts should be allowed to declare torturous forms of punishment unconstitutional. His one state's rights exception: He was the only state attorney general to back the five GOP Supreme Court justices when they stopped the Florida vote recount.

    The real question Americans should be asking about Bush's judicial appointments is "why?" Equally perplexing, even amusing: From what vat does Bush find one legal monster after another?

    The Bush regime is shrewd -- it's the handiwork of Karl Rove. I have no doubt that those behind Bush wouldn't flinch at the overthrow of the freedoms essential to America. But brutal, overt attacks create resistance. Bush practices compassionate despotism. For example, unlike the European totalitarians or the dictators in the banana republics, who sent in the goons to break up printing presses, Bush buys media acquiescence with hundreds of billions of dollars in deregulation giveaways.

    Similarly with the courts, Bush knows that a dispassionate and largely non-political judiciary would eventually muster the courage to thwart the regime's assault on the Constitution. So, Bush, looking ahead to a political Armageddon in which Americans' freedoms are at stake, is furiously stuffing the courts with his ideologues. Then, when our rights are declared inoperative or even unpatriotic, Bush can assert it's all very "legal."

    Pryor, among his failings, has constantly injected politics into his view of the law. He praised the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the Florida vote case because it was a political statement by the Republican justices. He belittles respected jurists, such as Supreme Court Justice David Souter, because they won't submerge their faith in the Constitution to political exigencies.

    There is another force at work here. Two Supreme Court justices, William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor, may retire as early as this summer. Not content with a 5-4 conservative majority, Bush wants to up his Supreme Court majority and to turbo charge the fanaticism of the court's right wing.

    However, Bush knows that the public and the Senate will be much more skeptical of an extremist nominated to the high court than they have been of lower court appointees. The Democrats might actually wake up and act like an opposition party.

    So, Bush has unleashed his right-wing fringe judicial candidates for two reasons. First, almost anyone he nominates to the Supreme Court will seem "moderate" by comparison.

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