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Verbal abuse

Sen. Harry Reid proves those on the left will say anything to defend their tactics

Issue: "An evolving debate," May 21, 2005

At least one lesson has emerged from the now months-old debate on whether a president's nominees to the federal judiciary deserve an up-or-down vote: Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, will say anything to win.

One of the Ten Commandments prohibits slander: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." The idea is hardly foreign even to those outside the biblical worldview: Slander is frowned upon in the civil law as well as in most religious codes.

Because of the widespread belief in the evil of false speech against another, Sen. Reid's remarks to a high-school audience on May 6 jarred: He labeled the president of the United States, then abroad, a "loser," an excess for which he quickly issued an apology.

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But that was not even close to the harshest of Mr. Reid's statements to the students: He branded all of the president's filibustered nominees "bad people," and said that nominee Janice Rogers Brown, as associate justice of the California Supreme Court, wants "to take us back to the Civil War days."

Justice Brown is an African-American, the daughter of Alabama sharecroppers and an extraordinary achiever in the face of harsh obstacles. She enjoys bipartisan support. She was overwhelmingly confirmed by a vote of the people in her current office.

Mr. Reid's slander on her-he was clearly calling her an "Uncle Tom"-is reprehensible. It followed by days Sen. Ken Salazar's (D-Colo.) branding of Focus on the Family as "the Antichrist," and by weeks Sen. Robert Byrd's (D. W.Va.) comparison of Republican senators to Nazis.

Yet, in a national radio address on May 7, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on President Bush to demand verbal restraint from supporters of up-or-down votes on his judicial nominees.

The debate over judges has illuminated many things about the state of politics in America. Nothing has been more clearly exposed, however, than the willingness of many on the left to say anything-anything at all-in defense of their tactics and in the service of their ends.


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