Historians' Petition Against the Nomination of Charles Pickering, Sr.

News at Home

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

On behalf of eighty historians of the South and the African American experience—most of them teaching and writing in the South—we are writing to urge that you withdraw the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As scholars and researchers who have spent our career teaching and writing about the American South, we believe the time has come to turn to the future. Unfortunately, the career of Judge Pickering reflects some of the most shameful aspects of the region’s history and he should be rejected for the following reasons.

1. Judge Pickering has been evasive and misleading in describing his personal history insofar as race relations in Mississippi are concerned.

In response to questioning about the Mississippi’s State Sovereignty Commission that was set up to spy on (and intimidate) advocates of civil rights, he claims he knew little of the agency. His sworn testimony is inconsistent with the following facts. As a state senator, he twice voted to continue funding the agency. Secondly, the work of the Commission was known to almost every adult Mississippian and it challenges credulity to believe that Judge Pickering, as a prominent political figure, was unaware of the organization and its workings. Third, his old law partner during the 1960s was the late Carroll Gartin, a passionate segregationist and—as Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi— a key member of the Commission. Lt. Governor Gartin was personally and directly involved in instigating investigations of “subversive” Mississippians who were critical of segregation and racial discrimination. Fourth, when the Commission’s papers were made public, the public learned that Judge Pickering (then a state senator) had contacted the Commission to ask about materials they had on workers striking against the Masonite corporation in his hometown of Laurel in 1971 and 1972. When confronted with this discrepancy in 2001, Judge Pickering acknowledged he had contacted the Commission and explained that he was concerned about possible Ku Klux Klan infiltration of the union involved in the organizing drive. But the relevant Sovereignty Commission Memo of January 5, 1972 clearly shows that the concern was not over possible violence by the KKK, but over the involvement of the Southern Conference Education Fund, a civil rights organization that the memo describes as led by "known Communists."

Due to the questioning of Senator Edwards of North Carolina, members of the Senate are (or should be) aware of the facts involved in Judge Pickering’s intervention on behalf of a man convicted of burning a cross in Mississippi— an action that several independent legal ethics experts have called a flat-out violation of the ethics code for federal judges. But it is worth emphasizing that Judge Pickering acknowledged under questioning that this was the only time in his entire judicial career he had ever undertaken such an act of intervention.

Judge Pickering’s defenders point to his testimony against Klan leader Sam Bowers in 1967 (which consisted of affirming in three lines that Bowers had a bad reputation and taught Sunday School) as proof that he was, in Senator Mitch McConnell’s words, a man of “great moral courage.” If he had taken that stand in the 1950s or early 1960s, this might be an accurate description. But this was 1967, not 1963. As historians familiar with the case have shown, the white leadership of Laurel had already turned against Bowers after the Klan started dynamiting Laurel businesses and threatened chaos. And it is worth noting that Judge Pickering explicitly said at the time that his opposition to Bowers in no way meant that he had slackened in his support for "our Southern way of life.” He still blamed "outside agitators" for stirring up "racial hatred."

2. Much of this might seem historically irrelevant were it not for the fact that Judge Pickering's record as a judge seems consistent with that personal history. When Senator Russell Feingold asked him during his confirmation hearings about the tactics used by Mississippi counties to keep African-Americans from voting in the 1960s, Judge Pickering responded that some counties were more “progressive” than others in allowing them to vote. He seemed unaware of (and unconcerned about) the violence and harassment adopted or encouraged by local officials to keep blacks from voting as late as the mid-1960s.

His supporters note that the great majority of his decisions as a federal judge have been upheld on appeal. But the fact is that he has had twenty-six decisions overturned by a very conservative Fifth Circuit Court in roughly ten years on the bench. In fifteen of these reversals the Circuit Court, one of the more conservative in the nation, reversed Judge Pickering for ignoring or violating "well-settled principles of law.” A careful analysis shows that eleven of those 15 reversals involved civil rights, criminal procedure, labor issues or other fundamental constitutional protections. (In contrast, Judge Edith Clement, another Bush appointee recently confirmed to the Fifth Circuit, had only one similar reversal of this kind during her slightly shorter tenure as a district judge.)

What is particularly troubling is that Judge Pickering has expressed skepticism over such well-established principles as “one person, one vote.” (In one opinion, he called the one person/one vote decision “obtrusive,” and described it as a legal principle that legislatures have reluctantly learned they "must live with.") As a judge he has bluntly questioned the motivation of individuals suing under anti-discriminatory employment laws. ("When an adverse reaction is taken affecting one covered by such laws, there's a tendency on the part of the person affected to spontaneously react that discrimination caused the action,” he said on another occasion).

When Senator Edward Kennedy questioned him about his tendency to dismiss employment discrimination claims, Pickering replied that, since the EEOC resolved cases in which discrimination had actually taken place, those that reached the district court were generally without merit. (In reality, because of the EEOC’s massive backlog, the courts are often the only option for individuals suffering from discrimination.)

We need not return to Judge Pickering’s actions before he was appointed to the bench—his defense of anti-miscegenation statutes as a law student, his 1964 decision to leave the Democratic Party because it had “humiliated” white Mississippians by supporting civil rights, or his anti-civil rights positions as a State Senator—in order to conclude that he would be unlikely to defend forcefully the civil rights of individuals in the Fifth Circuit. In the aftermath of Senator Trent Lott’s resignation as Senate Majority leader, we heard a great deal of rhetoric about the importance of insuring equal rights for all Americans. The elevation of Judge Pickering to the second highest court in the land is inconsistent with those rhetorical commitments.

Based upon his record as a Judge and his prior responses to questioning from members of the Judiciary Committee, we urge you to withdraw his nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Many of our citizens continue to suffer from the consequences of our nation’s long history of racial discrimination. We urge you to nominate only those individuals who have a clear record of commitment to the enforcement of civil rights laws as well as other legislation designed to protect the rights of our citizens as these rights are reflected in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. We do not believe that Judge Pickering meets that standard.

Sincerely yours:

Dan T. Carter (Originating Petition Organizer)
Educational Foundation Professor
Department of History
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208

John Hope Franklin (Petition Organizer)
James B. Duke Professor Emeritus
Duke University

Anne Firor Scott (Petition Organizer)
W.K. Boyd Professor Emerita
Duke University

Additional Signatories:
(Note: The originators as well as the first nine signers have served as President of the Southern Historical Association. The twelfth signer, Professor Wayne Flynt will take office this fall as president of the organization. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.)

Willard B. Gatewood
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

George B. Tindall
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

James Cobb
University of Georgia

Bertram Wyatt Brown
University of Florida

Harold D. Woodman
Purdue University

Carl Degler
Stanford University

Donald Higginbotham
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Darlene Clark Hine
Michigan State University

Jacquelyn Hall
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Wayne Flynt
Auburn University

Harry L. Watson
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill

Kenneth Campbell
University of South Carolina

Christine Lutz
Georgia State University

Gail W. O'Brien
North Carolina State University

Thandekile Ruth Mason Mvusi
Millikin University

Julian Bond
American University and
The University of Virginia

Cheryl A. Armstead
University of South Carolina

Nancy Hewitt
Rutgers University

Grace Hale
University of Virginia
Connie Curry
Emory University

Larissa Smith
Longwood University

Page Miller
University of South Carolina

James L. Roark
Emory University

Leslie S. Rowland
University of Maryland

Pamela Tyler
North Carolina State University

David C. Carter
Auburn University

Barton Shaw
Cedar Crest College

Glenda Gilmore
Yale University

Ralph Luker
Atlanta, Georgia

Fred Hobson
University of North Carolina
At Chapel Hill

Clarence Mohr
University of South Alabama

Charles K. Ross
University of Mississippi

Nancy Bercaw
University of Mississippi

Jonathan Leib
Florida State University

Elna Green
Florida State University

Catherine A. Fosl
University of Louisville

David Goldfield
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Lewis Burke
University of South Carolina

Anthony Carey
Auburn University

Winfred B. Moore, Jr
The College of Charleston

Charles Bussey
Western Kentucky University

Lawrence N. Powell
Tulane University

Gaines M Foster
Louisiana State University

Leroy Davis
Emory University

Michael Johnson
Johns Hopkins University

William Holmes
University of Georgia

Raymond Gavins
Duke University

Steven Lawson
Rutgers University

Marion Lucas
Western Kentucky University

Winthrop D. Jordan
University of Mississippi

Arvarh E. Strickland
University of Missouri, Columbia

Sally Hadden
Florida State University

Patricia H. Minter
Western Kentucky University

Allen Tullos
Emory University

William Hine
South Carolina State University

Cleveland Sellers
University of South Carolina

Robert McMath
Georgia Institute of Technology

Charles Joyner
Coastal Carolina University

John Dittmer
Depauw University

Roger Wilkins
George Mason University

John Howard
King’s College, University of London

Jack Bass
The College of Charleston

Paul Cimbala
Fordham University

Paul Gaston
University of Virginia

Timothy Tyson
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Alex Lichtenstein
Rice University

Patricia Ann Sullivan
University of South Carolina

Vernon Burton
University of Illinois

Diane Johnson
University of South Carolina

George White
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Richard King
Vanderbilt University

John Boles
Rice University

Randall Woods
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Richard Blackett
Vanderbilt University

Wanda Hendricks
University of South Carolina

Elsa Barkley Brown
University of Maryland

Raymond Arsenault
University of South Florida

Sheldon Hackney
University of Pennsylvania

Juliet E. K. Walker
University of Texas, Austin

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More Comments:

cajiedog - 12/15/2003

Well I Declare! I posted my message before I even got down the page to this and lo and behold - The Racist Academic Left fits exactly what I was thinking.........

Great Minds coming together -----you know it is hard to deceive a Southernor ------don't shoot till you see the whites of their eyes!

cajiedog - 12/15/2003

I am late reading this board, but couldn't resist noting the contrast.

We have MLK as a HERO in this country, even a Holiday named for him, yet you historians know that he was a RED COMMUNIST, LIAR, PLAGARIZER, and has his FBI records sealed for 50 years.

Where were your petitions to deny the MLK icon. Which surely enfluences American Culture far more than Pickering ever will!

In light of the above, What Pickering did 40 years ago is irrelevant - I must say you people love to discriminate and you are the RACIST!

DRJ - 12/10/2003

I appreciate the forum on the nomination of judge Pickering. I admit to not being as aware as I would prefer to be about the whole situation. As a result of the original letter and the article by Nat Hentoff i feel somewhat better informed. Thoughtful exchanges on both sides of an issue are what this country needs. People who have a position to defend rather than a desire to learn the truth are neither interesting nor wise. I will take one moment to show my personal bias,however. Why is it that when Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas were candidates for the Supreme Court we constantly heard the question,"Is there a litmus test on abortion?"? Indeed,that question seems to be prevalent with any Republican nominated judge. When we look at how the judges have performed,however,it seems that the abortion litmus test question should have been asked of the Democratic appointments. It is the Republican appointees who seem to be the swing votes.

Steve Brody - 11/13/2003

Oh alright, I'm sorry. You've got a clue.

Derek Catsam - 11/10/2003

Steve --
Enough with the "get a clue" crap, Steve. I misspoke and made a mistake. I'm willing to admit as much. I do not think that means I do not "have a clue." Be better than the lessers who populate the HNN chat-o-rama. Or don't, but expect to be taken as seriously. Especiall;y when you have the story half wrong as well.

On the get a clue front: What I should have said is that the GOP filibustered and Fortas withdrew his nomination for Chief Justice. He did so on October 4, 1968. I never denied that he was a Supreme Court Justice. But he in fact was nominated for Chief Justice and did not get it. Enough histrionics, Steve. I misspoke. But you did not exactly know the full story yourself, or worse, you chose simply to ignore it for the sake of your side of the debate. People who live in glass houses . . . Further, my larger point was that intellectual integrity would seem to me to demand that those who claim that such use of the filibuster is somehow endemic to the left look at the historical record -- both parties are equally guilty in the past few decades. Pickering may be a partisan question, but the use of the filibuster is not. Conflating the two might make for self-righteous rhetoric; it also makes for lousy history.

I have no idea what the Ninth Cuircuit has to do with this, but you keep bringing it up as if it were some sort of talisman for you. The 9th Circuit is a full court. Pickering is an individual up for a promotion. You apparently think that simply being up for a promotion makes it an obligation that he get that promotion. I do not.

As for the "Advise and Consent clause being widely interpreted" yadda yadda yadda, where in the Constitution does it say anything beyong advise and consent being just that? There are plenty of people, scholars, lawyers, and politicians who disagree with you. And when the President does not take "advise" seriously he should not expect a free ride on "consent."

As for competence, I think being overturned on clear points of law does go to competence, but as much it goes to ideology and how he'll use it even when the law does not back him up. Forgive me if the highest rating from the ABA does not exactly convince me of much -- it seems like the minimal qualification, a necasary but ot sufficient standard we should aim for.

Neither side will get rid of the filibuster -- it is in their self-interest, for good or for ill, to keep that arrow in their quiver in case of minority party status.

Steve Brody - 11/9/2003

Abe Fortas never confirmed? Derek, get a clue

These are the facts: Fortas was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Supreme Court of the United States on July 28, 1965. The Senate confirmed the appointment on August 11, 1965. He was commissioned in August 11, 1965 and he was sworn in on October 4, 1965. In 1969, Life magazine revealed that Fortas had accepted and then returned a fee of $20,000 from a charitable foundation controlled by the family of an indicted stock manipulator. Fortas resigned from the bench on May 14, 1969 but denied any wrongdoing. He returned to private practice after serving on the Supreme Court for three years.

You claim that Pickering has been overturned on clear points of law my conservatives? Still sounds like the Ninth Circuit to me. Besides that objection seems to go to his competence. You may believe he isn’t competent, but the ABA gave him their “well qualified” rating, the highest possible rating.

At the risk of repeating myself, Derek, the Advise and Consent role of the Senate has been widely interpreted to require that the Senate provide an up or down vote on Presidential nominations. Many Lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of using the filibuster to prevent the Senate from fulfilling their constitutional duty. Hell, Joe Biden has stated that the Senate should give every nominee a vote even if the Judicial Committee fails to send the nomination to the floor. In this case, the Committee referred the nomination to the full Senate and now the minority prevents a full vote because Pickering has got the votes to be confirmed.

By the way, I’m not whining. I just happen to believe, as do many liberal law professors, that this is an unconstitutional use of the filibuster. Incidentally, the Senate could change the filibuster rules on a simple majority vote. It will be interesting to see if they do so.

Derek Catsam - 11/4/2003

Just a few points in response to Steve Brody --
It's not a matter of Pickeriung being overturned. It is a matter of his being overturned buy conservative courts on clear points of law -- that is what is damning.
Second the historical justification for the filibuster was never merely to prevent acts from being "steamrolled through Congress without proper debate." After 1806 a single senator could hold up legislation endlessly by filibustering.
In 1917 the Senate adopted rules establishing a procedure by which a supermajority could invoke cloture and end a filibuster. There have rarely been particularly noble purposes for the filibuster, and certainly as applied it was rarefly merely an exercise in keeping debate open on important topics. Plus, why this, for good or for ill, would exclude the nomination process is beyond me. In any case, when somone whines about the filibuster and proclaims it to be the province of one party or one ideology they reveal a remarkable ignorance about the whole issue -- conservatives and liberals from both parties have used the filibuster. To paint its use now as some sort of anachronistic extremism is at best ahistorical.
As an aside, remind me of why Abe Fortas never got a confirmation hearing?

Stephen Thomas - 11/3/2003

The notion that the U.S. corporate world is staffed by rightists doesn’t square with my experience. In fact, I seldom meet the dreaded "rightist" so often referred to on this site.

The U.S. corporate world, particularly in the executive suites, is very liberal, whether it be Republican or Democrat. Oddly, it is the lower level workers who tend to be much more religious and conservative. Diversity training has been a mania in the corporate world. The enthusiasm for that agenda seems to come mainly from the higher ranks and mainly to provoke disinterest in the lower ranks.

Read The Fire’s website, take a look at today’s U.S.A. today article on speech codes at colleges and take a look at the current congressional hearings on speech codes for answers as to how far left ideologues silence their opponents on campuses.

As for the dreaded "racists" and "rightists" so often demonized on this staff. My wife and I performed music at a party for Vietnam vets and their friends on Saturday night. We’re talking strictly redneck folks here, most of whom make their living with their hands. They hunt and fish. Among the party participants were black and Asian folks in just about their representative numbers in the populace. At other functions I’ve attended with these folks, bi and gay folks have been in attendance and their presence didn’t even cause a remark. Remember, these are conservative, redneck, working folks. Don’t think my experience is that unique. The great racist, sexist, homophobic infestation so often referred to on this site and throughout academia just doesn’t exist.

cogito - 11/1/2003

"Huumanities departments," you say, "systematically vett the politics of job applicants." Ok--so Ecn, english, sociology, psych, geograhy, history, the languages, anthro, etc., are all out the "systematically vetting" the politics of applicants. That's tousands of departments, but they are all doing the same thing. How are they doing this, pray tell? Is it based on an evaluation of their work? let's assume everyone's "politics" are foregrounbded in their work in a way that makes it possible to tell how they feel about Pickering from their work on the Stamp act. it's asinine, but let's assume it's true, so you can keep your persecuation fantasy alive.. So you are saying all faculty have A: the same politics, and B: the ability to discern the same politics, and C: all applicants political positions can be predicted from their work. Hmmm.

Ok, but it remains true that departments have autonomy in hiring, just as, say, bussinesses do. This seems to be part of the whole "freedom of contract" idea. Departments are allowed to choose the work that seems best to them. Would you apply a politics test to all investment banks, so they had to hire both leftists and rightists. i think you would have to. So I'll be calling Enron to see how many leftists they hired. But wait--maybe it's kind of hard to tell, from a resume, how someone will vote. so maybe the whole politics test is a really dumb idea!

But all of us in humanities department think alike. Horowitz says so, and stereotypiong is so much fun, eh Steve?

Stephen Thomas - 10/31/2003

As a Cub fan from birth, I must take exception.

This was a great Cub season.

And they played the Marlins better than the Yankees did.

Stephen Thomas - 10/31/2003

The permanent Civil Rights Crisis has to come to an end one day.

Don't really have any interest in Pickering on an individual basis. As hard as it may seem for you to believe, I am quite simply sickened by the tactics of the petitioner. Those tactics are no different than the commie witch hunts, and in my opinion there is a lot more evidence to support the commie witch hunts. It's a pox on both sides issue for me, but you'll observe the commie witch hunts aren't being prosecuted.

It would take a long time to explain this, but outside the academy just about nobody behaves this way any more. The academy is now the focal point of racial hatred. In the real world where most of us live, we are interacting very pleasantly and happily with all kinds of people. Integration, racial and sexual, has been a great success.

The attempt to pretend that a Civil Rights emergency continues to exist is ludicrous. It really only exists in the academy, which is now wedded to a permanent ideology of racial conflict and hatred.

The rest of America moved on. The academy did not. The academy is so far behind the rest of America that it is becoming laughable.

Stephen Thomas - 10/31/2003

If humanities departments had not systematically vetted the politics of job candidates for 30 years, you wouldn't be witnessing history profs making fools out of themselves in such an extravagant manner. They would have faced real opposition in their departments, and their ideas would have been somewhat tested against reality.

I have repeatedly posted on the site the very simply idea that white heterosexual men (and especially southern men) have a political self-interest and that they have the right to prosecute that self-interest just like any other group. This idea has repeatedly been met with the accusation that this simple exercise in self-interest brands a man as racist, sexist and homophobic.

Nobody outside the academy believes such nonsense. The academy has systemtically purged its own staffs of any man who dares to aggressively state this self-interest, thus depriving the academy of some important information about reality. In essence, a white hetero man must be a racial and sexual apologist to work on the staff of a humanities department. (And this is only one aspect of the vetting of job candidates that pervades the academy.)

The punishments for those who have dared to disagree have been fierce. I'd suggest a long session at the website of The Fire to fully understand how this campaign of intimidation and silencing has been carried out.

Once again, the humanities have made themselves stupid through these tactics. And I'm not the one silencing people.

John Kipper - 10/31/2003

I too would like advise and consent to work. I would have liked to see Estrada brought to a vote on the Senate floor and look forward to having Pickering voted up or down by full body of the Senate. Of course, this would mean that Daschle, Kennedy and Leahy would have to submit to a concept foreign to them, you know, democracy. They seem to practice it about as well as your beloved Red Sox play in the league championships.(Cheap shot, but I couldn't resist--my Cubs didn't really do any better.)

Josh Greenland - 10/31/2003

How often do whole threads get deleted on HNN?

Steve Brody - 10/30/2003

Derek, the samples of the use of the filibuster that you cite differ from the judicial filibusters going on now.

The filibuster originated to prevent legislation from being steamrolled through Congress without proper debate. It acted as a check on the majority misusing Congress's Legislative power. All of the examples you cited were used as a check on this Legislative power.

The Senate also has the power to Advise and Consent. This power is supposed to be used to give each specified nominee an up or down vote by the Senate. That is the power that is currently being checked. Many legal scholars, including extremely liberal ones, such as Erwin Chemerinski of USC Law School, believe the filibuster to be unconstitutional when used this way.

The rules under which the filibuster is being used today are subject to being changed by the Senate. The filibuster is not based in the Constitution and only exists in the rules of the Senate. Rules that could be changed by a simple majority vote.

All that aside, I find the petition unpersuasive (I’m sure you’re shocked).

A higher court has overturned him often? So what. By that measure, the entire 9Th Circuit Court of Appeals would be unfit for further service.

He was involved with the State Sovereignty Commission? “Involved” is an imprecise term, which overstates the case. He contacted the Commission with an inquiry. That’s hardly “involvement”.

He left the Democratic Party, supposedly because the Party “humiliated white Mississippians by supporting civil rights”. I would like to see the evidence on this. Many people believe the petitioners have misstated the issues in the cross burning case (Dan Carter’s comments notwithstanding). Could they be wrong about this also? Since they do not support this allegation with any details, I find it suspect.

What does impress me is the distinguished list of civil rights groups which support Pickering’s nomination. More so than a group of academicians desperately seeking some sort of relevancy.

Derek Catsam - 10/30/2003

What on earth does your vituperative screed have to do with the issues at question? What of substance on this posting link is to you racism from the left? Many of us do not believe that someone with Pickering's past should be on the bench. How is that racist? It isn't. But the right has learned the valuable lesson of trying to hoist the left on its own petard -- lookie here -- if we call em a racist we can cut off debate! Well I'm not cowed, Mr. Thomas. You bloviate about irrelevant points, tar the entire academic left (as if there is AN academic left, as opposed to many, but no matter), and in the whole process don't say a damned thing that has anything to do with this issue. I'm glad you got it off of your chest and all, but how the signers of this petition are vile is beyond me. Just because you say it is so does not mean it is so. Welcome to democracy where people are allowed to voice opinions, where some of us are allowed to think that being involved with the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was a bad thing, where clearly unethical and probably illegal ex parte communications are problematic, where being overturned on clear points of law by demonstrably conservative courts is troubling, and where Pickering's response to the MFDP in 1964 is loathsome. You can call it vile, but it isn't. No one is trying to take this man's career away. No one is trying to ruin his life. What they are trying to do is speak up about a man in a very stable position who wants a promotion and raise for life to one of the most rarefied positions in jurisprudence, and they (and I) do not think he is worthy of the post. This is an odd form of entitlement that the GOP is asking for, not to mention it is peculiar that you evidently so loathe the Constitution that you are willing to call vile those of us who take advise and consent seriously.

Derek Catsam - 10/30/2003

Stephen --
What on earth are you talking about? This is utterly incoherent. You are saying that a Mississippi judge's stances on race in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s is not relevant to his becoming a judge? I am not even sure what you are trying to say. I guess you are making a not so subtle analogy between witch hunts of Communists and taking stances against racism, But you do not write well enough to pull it off. In any case, if you can show me any judicial nominees nominated in the 1960s and 1970s and who passed, and who had in fact been known to be communists in the 1930s, then your facile attempt at a stinging rejoinder would work. In this case it does not.

As for your laughable question about the Left winning at the ballot box, I have two questions for you:

You are aware that the Filibuster is part of the Senate and House rules, right? This little truism has not escaped you? But if the filibuster outrages you, you of course loath it always, including when the GOP minority resorted to it during the 50 years they were out of power, yes? (More on this in just a moment).

Second, I find it funny that much of the left has levied the same criticism about the right in, say, the California recall (Grey Davis had been elected just a year before. So much for the sanctity of winning at the ballot box.) And if you don't support the filibuster, you certainly cannot support the Electoral College, at least if you believe in pure "most votes win" democracy. And if you do, then you have serious issues with the 2000 election. But you don't, now do you? You are simply taking this stance on convenience.

In any case, I am sure you then thought the Republicans were pathetic when, in April 1993 they filibustered Clinton's stimulus plan; Or when in October 2001 the U.S. Senate sustained a GOP filibuster against legislation to immediately aid some 150,000 laid-off aviation industry workers, including thousands of Pacific Northwest Boeing workers, who were going to lose their jobs as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States; And you must have flipped out when just a few days later the GOP also held a filibuster to prevent the passage of a foreign operations bill that would have sent $42 billion to countries to secure their borders against terrorism; Were your hands wringing in anguish over the GOP filibuster of the soft money ban? I could go on, but that would mark a bit of a filibuster itself. I think I've made my point. So do you oppose in principle all of these filibusters or don't you? Or are you just scoring cheap points because in some of these cases, as a conservative you may have seen some merit to preventing these bills from passing, but in the Pickering case you oppose the principle beind the filibuster? Are you a hypocrite ot a liar?

Derek Catsam - 10/30/2003

NYGuy --
Why are we talking about this? Because the guy was going through confirmation hearings now. So what do we do -- sorry folks, we have this vitally important confirmation hearing going on, but NYGuy says we can find all that we need to on a Google search, so let's hush up now! -- that's absurd. It's in the news now. It has historical ramifications. Historians are getting involved. Thus the petition both has merit because it is historians weighing in on an issue with historical implications but also because they are weighing in on an issue of contemporary ramifications. If not HISTORY NEWS network, then where?

As for your fatuous attempt to claim that there was a good KKK and a bad KKK (I assume you were somehow trying to implicate Democrats as hypocrites? You were being sarcastic, right? It's hard to tell.) the fact is Byrd served in an elected position, and it would requitre the voters of West Virginia to get rid of him. Meanwhile we know these things about Pickering, and before he gotr to the Federal Courts, we lept him out. It's a huge difference. Similarly, I never thought Trent Lott should be kicked out of the Senate unless the voters of Mississippi so decided. But it was incumbent upon the GOP to get him out of there, and they would have had he not resigned from his leadership role. These are different circumstances.

Stephen Thomas - 10/30/2003

In the period from 1969 to 1973, the academic left realized to its horror that Americans had made all the right decisions in regard to race, and that a national consensus had been reached. That consensus was that blacks and women should have all the rights and entitlements of citizens. The laws were changed almost overnight, and there was very little public disagreement. That consensus has produced one of the most remarkably successful transformations of a society ever witnessed.

The academic left panicked because (a) the compromise that we reached was not a perfect solution, and (b) that compromise threatened to make the academic left irrelevant. Indeed that proved to be the outcome.

So the left began to resort to a doctrine of permanent racial conflict and war. The ultimate expressions of this occurred in the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the Brinks robberies. Black and white leftist racists began to collaborate to produce the perfect solution. In every instance, the leftist racists decided that provoking racial warfare between blacks and whites was the only answer.

This solution, either through the application of propaganda or violence, has been the platform of the racist academic left ever since. And this political action is just more of the same.

Vile. It's almost impossible to conjure up a moral curse strong enough to describe what the signatories to this petition are attempting to do.

The doctrine of permanent racial conflict, hatred and violence is now the lifeblood of the racist academic left. Without it, that racist left has no function, no identity and no livelihood.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/30/2003

"HNN Features Articles and Op Eds by Historians from Both the Left and the Right" Some anonymous source lives on HNN and complains about this being true.

Stephen Thomas - 10/30/2003

And so, the eternal Civil Rights Emergency. With the requisite witch hunts.

It's pretty transparent.

In the long run, you'll lose anyway.

I'm in favor of a return to the commie witch hunt for revenge. So, commies, answer this:

1. What relationships have you had with the U.S. communist party or its affiliates, back to 1935?

2. Were any of those relationships with parties who participated in espionage or treason against the U.S.

Incorrect answers to either send you to the gallows.

And, you'll deserve it.

NYGuy - 10/30/2003


“Get historians to sign it. Present it to HNN. But then you'd actually have to present your work in a public forum with your name on it and you couldn't sit on the side and whine about the injustice of it all.”


That is my point exactly. Is this a propaganda board? Don’t you want to make it better than being a foil for political groups? HNN says it represents current history while the issues in the petition were fully discussed seven months ago. Why do you want to rehash it? Didn’t you get it the first time around? Just do a google search and you can get both sides of the issue without engaging in meaningless declarations.

As you say you are a southern historian and must have been aware of this issue and I don’t see anything new here. Same old ranting that others have made. I would think any alert historian would also be aware of this issue. What does it mean that 80 historians sign their name to a piece of paper? Does it add weight to the arguments that many others have made?

Of course it is interesting to find out that there was a good KKK and a bad KKK in the South. It seems like Byrd who joined the KKK was in the good group, and it is easy to forgive him. Pickering was part of the bad KKK for standing up to them. Hmm. I can see which one is racially sensitive and stood up for the old South.

And of course a “well qualified” by the ABA is not really a recommendation for Pickering when you can find lawyers who will says he exceeded his authority. They certainly are a trusted source to rely on.

Of course the question in my mind is not if he, Pickering is the man for the job, but goes beyond this petition, which in many ways raises the same type of arguments that the democrats have been embarrassed over, and which are criticized by many Americans.

Derek Catsam - 10/30/2003

NYGuy --
Once again your utter lack of coherence makes it difficult to follow you. As a southern historian, however, I daresay that I've probably followed the Pickering imbroglio every bit as closely as you. The funny thing is that I posted making two concrete and discrete points -- about the Sovereignty Commission and about the MFDP in 1964 and you addressed neither of them. I'm sort of tired of getting dressed down by an anonymous nonentity who doesn't address the points at hand, who thinks there is some anti-right conspiracy on here (funny how everyone sees the exact opposite conspiracy if the question is Israel) simply because there has been no pro-Bush poll. Simple solution, NYGuy -- present one. Get historians to sign it. Present it to HNN. But then you'd actually have to present your work in a public forum with your name on it and you couldn't sit on the side and whine about the injustice of it all.

In any case, if Pickering's your man, fine. Unlike many, I do not think he is necessarily a horrible person, maybe he is not even a racist. Indeed, I know a very prominent Southern Historian who knows and likes Charles Pickering and whose views are probably closer to yours than mine on the appointment, though not on politics generally. That's fine. But his record indicates to me that he does not deserve to be a judge at the second highest level in the US. I can forgive a man his transgressions. That does not mean he deserves a promotion. He is still a judge, he is not being recalled or being fired or impeached, those who oppose him simply think he also should not be promoted. I am not aware of the provision that says that everyone deserves the highest level of their chosen field. If we all do, by all means, I await my endowed chair. Until that point, I guess now many of us can echo you about issues your side has "won" in the past": you lost. Get over it.


NYGuy - 10/30/2003


"But in the small world of history, the petition is big news, and it's worth posting."


Glad you are so easily satisfied. Enjoy.

Obviously as an open-minded historian you have also reviewed all the conter arguments by people of all colors and therefore understand why some view this type of petition as an example a purely political ploy being used by the democrats to stop both black and white court appointees from being confirmed.

Now, as I understand your argument you say you are convinced and therefore accept what the petition purports to claim. Obviously I assume you and the little band of historians have an open-mind, and I guess have reviewed all the facts and come to the conclusions given in the petition. Since it appears this little band of historians agree with the petition then it is a waste of time to repeat counterarguments that have already been put forward by others. And I guess that is why no historians are speaking out against it.

Of course the question on everyone's mind is why do they not speak out and still support a former KKK member like Byrd, over a man who put his life on the line to fight the KKK? Hmm.

So to me this petition does not fulfill the mission of HNN.

But, as I said before the real world is passing this little band by as we move away from racism. And, since the little band of historians have made up their minds after careful research there is nothing more to add.

You have a reasoned argument.


PS: I don’t like dealing with people who don’t use their real names, and if this continues I may not answer:)

cogito - 10/30/2003

NY guy, this is news on HNN becaue the world of histoyr is a relatively small one, and the people involved are well known scholars. It's posted here to invite comment. No one is requiring you to take it at face value. It isn't an order, or even a declaration: rather, it is an argument based on evidence. Now why, exactly, is that objectionable. You can of course disagree with the conclusion, you can critique the evidewnce or the method of argument. But in the small world of history, the petition is big news, and it's worth posting. I found the arguments about Pickering very persuasive, but you may not. Can you debate the actual evidence that's presented, or will you simply denounce the whole thing?

NYGuy - 10/30/2003

Please explain when the last Bush petition was presented on HNN. You can’t and you know it. But, as, usual you are predictable, change the subject and run. Reason and facts seem to elude you. We can read you like a book.

It seems you have become the apparent spokesmen for this petition but you have really not said anything meaningful on this topic. You just don’t understand the real world is passing you by. Meanwhile, can’t the signers say anything or were they just handed a piece of paper to sign. Oh, I forgot we got this exalted perspective and must accept it on face value.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/30/2003

So long as Judge Pickering only gets support from anonymous sources, I have no fear that he will be confirmed. Yet, it is odd that anonymous source complains only of opinions offered at HNN with which it disagrees. Hold a Bush rally here and anonymity will think we are doing history.

NYGuy - 10/30/2003


“This is the tip of the iceberg. I still can't believe the GOP is hitching their wagon to this guy.”


Your argument is that this is an advocacy website and that HNN’s claim that its mission is not as stated on this site:”

“History News Network offers a unique line-up of authors, week after week. We offer articles by top-flight historians. Nowhere else on the web can you find historians putting the news in perspective on a daily basis.”

I am not sure what perspective, beyond some individual prejudices are being put fourth in this petition. As you suggest, and I and others would agree, this is partisan politics at its worse. Nothing new is presented and many of the claims presented before and found to be misleading or unfounded. Being a past president does not strengthen the argument.

These people are welcome to their opinions and the proper place for such a petition would be the "letters to the editor section" of their local newspaper.

The first Pickering hearings were back in February and all the arguments in the petition were presented, and refuted by others. For people interested in this topic a review of Google would give them both sides of the argument and allow them to make up their minds. After all the audience is educated and does not have to be spoon fed.

I did not read where anyone called the petition “racist”. Both white and black people have echoed the comment that Thomas made:
“Calling those who disagree with your politics "racist" is now the last resort of the scoundrel.”

The issue is if HNN’s mission statement is adhered to:

Nowhere else on the web can you find historians putting the news in perspective on a daily basis”.

Evidently that was not the case with this petition by a group of political opportunists whose perpective were uniquely their own.

Derek Catsam - 10/30/2003

Here are two ways Pickering was involved with loathsome acts. Whether they fueled violence is beside the point:
1) He was involved in the State Sovereignty Commission, which in turn allowed, promoted, and subsidized various forms of not only fundamental violations of human rights, but, yes, violence.
2) He left the Democratic Party as a direct consequence of the Democrats offering a (pitiful) two seats to the MFDP at the democratic National Convention in 1964.

This is the tip of the iceberg. I still can't believe the GOP is hitching their wagon to this guy.

Jesse Lamovsky - 10/30/2003

Mr. Luker,

Understood. But to the best of my knowledge, Judge Pickering was not involved, not even indirectly, with acts of violence during the movement era. We can applaud or condemn Mr. Pickering's attitude toward the civil rights movement, but an opinion does not equal advocacy of the kind of terror methods employed by white rejectionist groups, and, though I certainly share your attitudes toward these methods, I don't think it's very fair to lump Judge Pickering- or any conservative property-rights advocate- with the lynchers and the night-riders.

Besides, an army of Judge Pickerings couldn't bring back the Mississippi of 1964, even if they wanted to. That's in the past.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/29/2003

Mr. Lamovsky,
If I may respectfully say so, the attitudes of what appeared to be a majority of white Mississippians during the mid-1960s _should_ be hung out to dry. Perhaps you forget too readily. We Southerners cannot and should not. That hardly constitutes thought policing, unless you want to drag out and defend that whole behemoth of disfranchisement, lynching, racial segregation, etc.

Jesse Lamovsky - 10/29/2003

Mr. Carter,

With all due respect, I have my doubts as to whether this petition has anything to do with any real or alleged cases of judicial misconduct on the part of Judge Pickering. If the Judge had engaged in tactics "beyond the bounds of propriety and judicial ethics" on behalf of progressive causes, well... I doubt this petition would exist. The case made against Pickering is purely political. Fair enough.

That having been said, we must get down to specifics: what does it mean, that Pickering has been "insensitive" to minorities as a judge? Has he denied them equal rights in his courtroom? Neither in the petition, nor in this letter, have I seen one recorded example of Pickering setting different standards of justice, in his courtroom, for blacks and whites. In that case, does "insensitivity" mean opposition to entitlements, to bias in hiring, to unconstitutional attacks on private property rights? If that's the case, I applaud Judge Pickering's lack of sensitivity, and would posit that we need a lot more of that kind of thing out of our judges. So would plenty of other people.

"Insensitivity" won't cut it as a reason to nix a judicial appointment. If I really believed the historians on the petition truly cared about the alleged ethical and judicial misconduct of Judge Pickering, that would be one thing. It seems obvious, at least to me, however, that the signers of the petition would rather just hang Pickering out to dry for sharing the attitudes of the majority of white Mississippians during the mid-1960s. In other words, thought crime.

There you go, Mr. Carter! No vitriol, no name-calling, no mud-slinging, no anonymity.

Jesse Lamovsky

Dan Carter - 10/29/2003

I believe that the petition regarding Judge Pickering speaks for itself, but--at the request of two signers, I have reluctantly agreed to respond to some of the angry responses from HNN readers.

First: I am bewildered by the charge that this petition is "slanderous" or marked by "name-calling." We lay out a series of words and actions by Judge Pickering that--we believe--show an insensitivity to the rights of American citizens, particularly those of minorities. Judge Pickering is not a monarch protected from criticism by his dutiful and obedient subjects; he is a public servant, sworn to uphold the law and to defend the constitutional rights of all the people of the United States. (If anyone wants to find examples of name-calling, however, they only have to examine the responses of at least two of those who attacked our actions on HNN. This is a “silly petition,” says one writer; nothing more than a “display of arrogance.” Those of who prepared and signed the petition are alternately described by another writer as having engaged in “gutter tactics,” “Shameful, disgraceful tactics” or “Stupid, lowlife tactics.”)

Secondly: I won't repeat the petition (it is still posted), but I should point out that the petition outlines a number of concerns about Judge Pickering's pre-judicial career and his service as a district judge.

No-one has challenged the petition's facts showing that he was evasive, misleading and downright inaccurate in responding to questions about his relations with the notorious Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.

No-one has challenged the petition's assertion that he showed--in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee--a remarkable insensitivity to the history and impact of racial discrimination in Mississippi. (I would urge any of Judge Pickering's defenders to read his responses to committee members.)

No-one has refuted the conclusion that, in the mid-1960s he left the Democratic Party because of its defense of civil rights or that he consistently showed insensitivity to the interests of African-Americans as a State Senator in the 1970s.

No-one has challenged the petition's finding that, on 15 occasions, the very conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Pickering's decisions as violations of established principles of settled law.

Other than invective, the only specific complaint is that the petition misrepresents the facts surrounding his intervention on behalf of the young man found guilty of cross-burning.

It does not.

I am well aware of the complexity of this case; I read a lot more than Nat Hentoff's piece on the subject. Although we did not include this as a conclusion in our petition, I think anyone would reasonably be concerned over the fact that, in his judicial decisions, Judge Pickering has shown a remarkable lack of concern for discrimination suffered by minorities (and by members of organized labor). And yet, the ONLY time--by his own acknowledgement--that he ever intervened on behalf of a defendant it has been on behalf of a drunken cross-burner trying to intimidate an interracial couple.

It is equally true that a handful of individuals have flatly asserted that Pickering is a "racist" because of his defense of this convicted cross-burner.

This petition does not much such a statement.

Instead, it points to the fact that Judge Pickering violated the canon of judicial ethics by engaging in secret ex parte communications with the prosecutor in the case. Though the full circumstances of this intervention were removed from the petition in the interest of brevity, the facts--supported by the sworn testimony of a federal prosecutor--show that Judge Pickering stepped well beyond the bounds of propriety and judicial ethics in browbeating, threatening and seeking to intimidate the prosecutors in the case.

The sentence in the case may well have been too severe, but that is the law. His behavior was judicially inappropriate and contrary to the canon of legal ethics. That is what we concluded and that is what we have stated in our petition.

I spent nearly six weeks reading every document, pro and con, I could find on Judge Pickering and his nomination. After writing a draft of this petition and circulating it to more than 50 historians for their responses, I spent another two weeks responding to their suggestions and requests for documentation and clarification.

I stand by every statement made.

C. Vann Woodward once said that the greatest test of a historian was his or her ability to carefully read, honestly reproduce and thoughtfully respond to the arguments of those with whom he or she profoundly disagreed. I don't expect those who defend Judge Pickering to stop what they're doing and spend the next month researching this case. I do expect them to read our petition rather than engaging in name-calling and misrepresenting what we have, in fact, said about Judge Pickering.

Dan Carter

Ralph E. Luker - 10/29/2003

Thanks for this. In a comment that got deleted yesterday because the thread became too vituperative and irrelevant, I said that I had read the Hentoff piece and re-read the historians' letter. I agree that the letter is the more persuasive.

Josh Greenland - 10/29/2003

I hadn't commented on the petition because like you I think it makes a valid case, one that the Hentoff article on the cross burning doesn't really affect.

cogito - 10/29/2003

The cross-burning incident is only part of the argument against Pckering. Having read the Hentoff argument, I agree that it may not be, in and of itself, particularly troubling. Howwever, the petition points to a long personal and public history of indiffrence to civil rights and to MIssissippi's particularly bad record. When you put the "cross burning" case in that context, it seems more troubling. Pickering has been allied in one way or another, for most of his career, with resistance to the civil rights movement. That's the argument made in the petition. He has a history of evasiveness and obstruction on civil rights. The cross burnign incidnt is only part of that. It's the part easiest for media to hype.

Now of course people will disagree about what that history means. The historians above have concluded that the historical evidence suggests Pickering is not someone they want on the federal bench, becasue he has been persistently evasive about his long term resistance to civil equality for African Americans.. They have presented a coherent thesis with multiple examples. It seeems persuasive to me, and the cross burning case itself looks different in a context of persistant resistance to civil rights.

Does anyone have evidence on anything other than the cross burning case?

NYGuyi - 10/28/2003

Since no one has so far why start now. Seems you have nothing to say.

What is this about silencing speech on this board that you refer to. No wonder people use anonomoysus names.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

One of the commentators here has been banned already at this website: http://www.uppity-negro.com/archives/000882.html. The other will not identify himself.
Would real people like to discuss the Pickering nomination?

Stephen Thomas - 10/28/2003



NYGuy - 10/28/2003


Finally you are right. This posting is not about the Pickering nomination it is about a bunch of arrogant history professors who think the world can't live without their pronouncements. Can HNN continue to post such trash and believe it will remain a website for real historians. I doubt it.

If this was a board for real discussion they would not need you to try to suppress real debate. The old, "don't do as I do, do as I say." And you and they teach about the constituion.

Wow what a bargain for only $25-30,000 per year.

NYGuy - 10/28/2003


When an anonymous source addresses someone who hasn't entered the discussion, the discussion lives in never-never land.
Does anyone have something relevant to say?


Ralph I have been reading your responses and your posts. I guess the answer is no.



Jesse Lamovsky - 10/28/2003

Mr. Luker,

Touche on your point concerning the 9th Circuit.

Having said that, I'll stand by my post.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

Whatever it is, I'm so glad you know about it so you can post it here for everyone to read so I won't have to carry the burden and shame of it around with me.
Get over it, Mr. Thomas, this isn't about the Pickering nomination. Would you like to discuss that? If not, why bother?

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

When an anonymous source addresses someone who hasn't entered the discussion, the discussion lives in never-never land.
Does anyone have something relevant to say?

Stephen Thomas - 10/28/2003

You really do have something to be ashamed of.

NYGuy - 10/28/2003

Bravo, Bravo,

Wonderful input, Change the subject and run away maybe no one will notice. There are other views out there on this subject, but as I said it appears you have been appointed to repress all speech that does not agree with their arrogance. Can't they speak for themselves?

And think it only costs $25-30,000 year for the new wisdom.

Better to go to night school.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

On your last point, try a Google search on California's 9th circuit. That should satisfy your need.

NYGuy - 10/28/2003


Once again you are predictable. No reason, but so what this is a history board, none is needed.

The issue is this is personal private political views and it is not an article. It is only an excercise in arrogance. If someone is interested in the topic they can get a better balacnced view from the internet. Why do we need these guy who say nothing except their own personal animus. Are they the onlyh ones with a PhD?

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

Thank you for the advice.

Stephen Thomas - 10/28/2003

I'd suggest garbage man or cleaning toilets, except I have friends who do both of those jobs.

Unlike you, they have some morals.

Jesse Lamovsky - 10/28/2003

Some background on the Judge Pickering's intervention in the cross-burning case:

In 1994, three whites- a 25-year old, a 20-year old, and a 17-year old who apparently was the ringleader, burned a cross in front of an interracial couple's house in Mississippi. The 25-year old and the 17-year old pled guilty to hate crime charges and cut plea deals with the Justice Department to keep them out of jail. The 20-year old pleaded not guilty- that his motive was not racism so much as drunkenness and general stupidity, but by pleading not guilty, he faced a possible seven-year prison sentence for his actions. Judge Pickering did intervene on behalf of the 20-year old. Not because he was and is "soft on cross-burners", but because:

1. The young man had no history of violent crime
2. The sentence was disproportionate with the man's role in the act (the 17-year old, who stayed out of jail thanks not to Judge Pickering but to the Justice Department, had a history of violence, and had once fired a rifle into the same house)

Thanks in part to the judge's intervention, the young man had his sentence reduced to 27 months (with an attendant tongue-lashing from Judge Pickering, who sounds like anything but an apologist for cross-burners in his dressing-down of the convicted man). Clearly, at least to Judge Pickering, this was basically a decent young man who had done something very stupid, but didn't deserve seven years in prison for it. And quite frankly, he didn't.

And Judge Pickering thought that "outside agitators" were "stirring up racial hatred" in Mississippi? We can debate the merits of the Civil Rights movement, but why wouldn't Pickering, or a lot of Mississippians, feel the same way? After all, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman certainly weren't from Mississippi. Neither were Tom Hayden, Mario Savio, Stokely Carmichael, or any other New Leftist that cut their activist teeth in the deep South. The legions of SNCC volunteers from Berkeley, Columbia, and Ann Arbor that descended on the state in 1963 and '64 must have seemed like "outside agitators" to a lot of natives of the state, white and black. They certainly weren't native Mississippians.

"As a judge he has bluntly questioned the motivation of individuals suing under anti-discriminatory employment laws."

Well, pardon me, but I would agree with Judge Pickering that at least some anti-discrimination lawsuits are completely and utterly without merit. I think anyone would, other than these eighty historians, of course. Oh, by the way, companies, restaurants- these places should have the right to discriminate anyway. It's called property rights, folks (and hey, progressives: property rights apply to all people, regardless of color or creed! Don't you realize that?). Score one for the Judge.

All this stuff about Pickering's activities during the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi, forty years ago, is a smokescreen. All hysteria aside, everybody knows that segregated drinking fountains aren't going to start popping up all over the landscape like mushrooms just because Charles Pickering gets a federal judgeship. Nor will the skies of Mississippi be illuminated with the glow of burning crosses. My guess is that the Judge is anti-affirmative action and, horror of horrors, pro-life. This is what makes him unpalatable to the Democrats, and to the signers of this petition.

By the way, we hear a lot about Judge Pickering, John Ashcroft, Robert Bork, and other "extreme right-wingers" whose nefarious designs must be stopped (in the case of Ashcroft, I agree wholeheartedly). But when was the last time we heard concerns about "extreme left-wingers" on the Federal bench? You know they're there. But we never hear about them!

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

Mr. Thomas, If you "don't care who sits on any court," why all the public bluster about this? You really should render your bitterness in private with your shrink, rather than here in public. It is a pitiful sight.

Cram - 10/28/2003

It is unfortunate to see such low-level attacks on this article. So far, people have denounced it as a "horrifying, stupid attack, "gutter tactics," "Shameful, disgraceful tactics," a piece of propaganda," and "savagery."

All the petition is saying is that a certain group of people are against the confirmation of a potential Judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. So far, no one has managed to challenge the historical facts that are presented (with the exception of the Nat Hentoff article, which was a legitimate criticism, and thank you for the link).

If you don’t believe that the article is enough to prevent Mr. Pickering from sitting on the Court of Appeals, that’s fine but no one, even Mr. Pickering, should be above challenge when faced with such a powerful appointment as a federal judge. It is a pity so many people on this board feel that anyone who dares to bring up a nominees record is engaging in some kind of shameful propaganda.

I am curious, would these same people belittle conservative historians who oppose the nomination of a judge that burnt the American flag and was once a member of the communist party? I doubt it.

NYGuy - 10/28/2003


You have become predictable with your one line Henry Youngman responses. As we used to say in the old neighborhood, we can read you like a book.

Unable to deal with reason, you change the topic. What did you learn from this petition? There is more information on the Internet on this subject than can be presented in a silly petition and it presents many different viewpoints. This is nothing more than a display of arrogance. But, the bright side is you seemed to learn something so your day was not wasted, unlike everyone else on this board.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

Anonymous speech is a function of fear, not of freedom. Ad hominem suggests that one doesn't have any evidence to present.

NYGuy - 10/28/2003


Are you the official censor for these 80 history professors? Can't the speak for themselves or must they hide in a group?

As I have pointed out to you before the purpose of HNN, according to their fund raising says:

History News Network offers a unique line-up of authors, week after week. We offer articles by top-flight historians. Nowhere else on the web can you find historians putting the news in perspective on a daily basis.

Major media outlets like the New York Times, Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times rely on HNN as do tens of thousands of historians and teachers.

Is this what they mean by a line up of top-flight historians, even if it is not about history but a piece of propaganda. They are entitled to their political views and can write to the “letters to the editor” section of their local newspaper. What value do they add to this site?

There petition is not analysis, except that pointed out by Mr. Thomas. Are we supposed to fall on the floor because some of them were past presidents? What does that have to do with their argument.

"You can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher."

The only problem is that most of us have graduated, gotten advanced degress and can make up our own minds based on reason and facts.

That is not the case with these endless petitions posted on this site to promote one particular point of view. If HNN is an advocacy site, fine, admit it and say so in their promotions. This practise has been going on too long.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2003

Mr. Thomas,
I read the piece by Nat Hentoff and read again the letter of the 80 historians. It may come as no surprise to you that I find the latter more persuasive. It does seem odd to me that at this late date in your performances in these discussions you find something objectionable in what you regard as ad hominem remarks. Most of your posts specialize in them. Frankly, I doubt if any of the historians on this list will be persuaded by your demand that they resign their positions post haste. Its a silly, powerless demand. Please do continue to be a Democrat. It's one less burden for my party to bear.

Stephen Thomas - 10/28/2003

Calling those who disagree with your politics "racist" is now the last resort of the scoundrel.

I call on the signers of this position to remove themselves from positions of responsibility. In other words, if you are capable of descending to such gutter tactics, you probably are not capable of teaching a classroom of students or participating in the legal process.

Shameful, disgraceful tactics. It's long past time for it to stop. I am a registered Democrat. Stupid, lowlife tactics like this are precisely the reason I'm beginning to wonder why I still reside in that party.

Stephen Thomas - 10/28/2003

Mr. Hentoff is not only one of the most distinguished writers about First Amendment issues, he is the most distinguished chronicler of the Bebop music scene.

He is a first rate mind, and he manages to continue to straddle the divide of U.S. politics.

He even manages to write for the Village Voice, a PC monstrosity, while upholding the principle of free speech.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2003

Thanks, Steve!

Steve Brody - 10/27/2003


Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2003

This historian would be happy to do so if you would give us a link.

Bill Maher - 10/27/2003

Such an impressive list of historians. I wonder, however, if any of them have read Nat Hentoff's "Justice Denied A Good Judge."