Bad cops like Robert Novak, on CNN’s Crossfire yesterday “repeated the baseless accusation” that Democrats are opposing the nomination of Judge Pryor of Alabama to the 11th Circuit “because of his religion.”

In his April 28 press conference, President Bush played “good cop.” When asked if he agreed with the “head of the Family Research Council [Tony Perkins]” who said that “judicial filibusters are an attack against people of faith,” Bush said “I just don’t agree with it.”

QUESTION: You don’t agree with it?

BUSH: No. I think people oppose my nominees because of judicial philosophy.

QUESTION: Sir, I asked you about what you think of…

BUSH: No, I know what you asked me.

QUESTION: … the way faith is being used in our political debates, not just in society generally.

BUSH: Well, I can only speak to myself. And I am mindful that people in political office should not say to somebody, You’re not equally American if you don’t happen to agree with my view of religion.

More below:
Media Matters caught Novak’s remarks on the April 27 edition of CNN’s Crossfire:

NOVAK: They are — they are opposing Judge Pryor of Alabama because of his religion.

PAUL BEGALA (co-host): No! No!

NOVAK: They have said —

BEGALA: They’ve approved any number of Catholics.

NOVAK: They talk about his religious views. They have.

BEGALA: They talk about his judicial views.

Another “bad cop,” Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro, titled his April 27 news article, “Judicial battle seen as attack on faith.” Lambro, notes Media Matters, reported “on the emerging religious character of the filibuster debate.”

In that article, Lambro lent credence to the baseless claims on the part of some religious conservatives that Democrats were opposing nominees because of their religion: “Meanwhile, moderate Democrats have warned their party that attacking religious Americans over cultural and social issues in the political arena can only hurt the party’s chances of expanding its base in the next election.”

Lambro further alleged that the filibuster “is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.” In fact, says Media Matters, “[T]he Constitution makes no mention of filibusters, but explicitly empowers the Senate to determine its own rules, and Senate rules allow for unlimited debate on any subject, including judicial nominees.”

Further, reports Media Matters:

[S]enators who have opposed William H. Pryor’s nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals — and even current Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter (R-PA) — have questioned Pryor over his willingness and ability to put aside his personal views and follow the law. Specter also echoed Democrats’ concerns over inconsistent statements Pryor made to the committee regarding his involvement in the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). …

… What distinguishes Pryor, as well as the other nine nominees Democrats have filibustered, are statements they have made or actions they have taken that critics say suggest that they would allow personal ideology — and not the dictates of the law — to control their decisions.

On the issue of abortion, for example, Pryor referred to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade as “the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children.” He has criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey “for preserv[ing] the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history: Roe v. Wade.” In a response to a 2002 NARAL Pro-Choice America survey of attorneys general, he reiterated, “Abortion is murder, and Roe v. Wade is an abominable decision.” Such statements on that issue, as well as similarly inflammatory statements and actions he has taken on other issues, motivated several senators, including Specter, to question whether Pryor would be willing to follow the law. From the transcript of the June 11, 2003, hearing published by Federal News Service:

SPECTER: With that personal belief, Attorney General Pryor, what assurances can you give to the many who are raising the question as to whether, when you characterized [abortion] as an abomination and slaughter, that you can follow the decision of the United States Supreme Court, which you consider an abomination and having led to slaughter?


SPECTER: Attorney General Pryor, you are obviously a man with a very distinguished record. A magna cum laude undergrad and magna cum laude in law school, and you are a very articulate witness. You’ve had a very distinguished career. And what arises as a point of concern is that when these questions come up and they are so very, very close, whether your own philosophical orientation will steer you one way as opposed to another. So could you give us a statement as to the prevailing principles on these decisions which go both ways and have a very hard time to see somebody find a clear path as to what the standard is?

And, contrary to conservatives’ claims that Democratic opponents have made an issue of Pryor’s Catholicism, it was Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) who first raised Pryor’s religion, at a June 2003 committee hearing. According to a July 29, 2003, Newhouse News Service report: “The issue of Pryor’s Catholicism surfaced at a June 11 hearing in Washington when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked him to state his religious affiliation.” The report went on to note that Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Specter “quickly protested that the question was out of bounds.” …

In his press conference, Bush further said:

As I said, I think faith is a personal issue. And I take great strength from my faith. But I don’t condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion.

The great thing about America is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want. And if you chose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you’re equally American if you’re a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim.

And that’s the wonderful thing about our country and that’s the way it should be.

Indeed. And he has the wiggle room to take the “high road” while his “enforcers” do the dirty work.

View the full text of Bush’s April 28 press conference.

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