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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, January 09, 2003
1:12 PM

The Washington Times does a much better job of informing readers about both sides of the Judge Pickering issue. As you know, Bush renominated Pickering and Democrats are passing out in stage-managed apoplexy. Both in this story by Dana Milbank and this story by Helen Dewar, the Post doesn't really try to explain why some people don't think Pickering's opinion in an old cross-burning case has anything to do with racial prejudice, for example. Their brief outlines are basically out of the Democrat playbook.


Democrats say Pickering, whom they rejected in September, helped a cross-burning defendant and was hostile to civil rights claims.


During last year's debate and again yesterday, Republicans defended Pickering as an early civil rights supporter who fought the Ku Klux Klan while Democrats focused on other actions such as his efforts as a judge to reduce the sentence of a man convicted of burning a cross outside the home of an interracial couple.

The latter at least has the veneer of an attempt to quote both sides. But it suggests there's no direct answer to the cross-burning episode. Enter the Washington Times with Bill Sammon and Amy Fagan:

Democrats said Judge Pickering has a poor record on civil rights issues, and specifically mentioned a case in which they said he tried to get a lighter sentence for a convicted cross-burner. Mr. Schumer called that "simply mind-boggling."

But Mr. Fleischer defended Judge Pickering regarding that case. "Judge Pickering expressed his record of disdain for this heinous crime," he said. "He was concerned in this case about disparate sentences. The person he deemed most guilty was given no jail time, while the person he believed less culpable faced what even the prosecutor agreed was a draconian sentence."

Without a doubt, the Times story is more balanced, which saves me a lotta time as a reader. If you want to know what both sides think, read the Times.

I should note that the main topic of Milbank's story is Bush's political audacity, and in many ways it's complimentary. But it's the assumptions and omissions that drive PostWatch crazy. So there.

NRO's Byron York has the details on the cross-burning.

Every lawyer in the case — the defense attorneys, the prosecutors, and the judge — faced the difficulty of dealing with an ugly situation and determining the appropriate punishment for a bad guy and a somewhat less-bad guy. Pickering, who believed the Civil Rights Division went too easy on the 17-year-old bad guy, worked out what he believed was the best sentence for Daniel Swan. It was a real-world solution to the kind of real-world problem that the justice system deals with every day. And it was the end of the cross-burning case until Pickering was nominated by President Bush to a place on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

UPDATE: Eleven Day Empire has more on this.

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