The Tennessee Pud

Last weekend, the much ballyhooed and egregiously misnamed "Justice Sunday" was held in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was sponsored by several right-wing Christian groups that claimed the gathering was meant to protect "people of faith" against the evils of "activist judges."

Family Research Council president and event organizer Tony Perkins said, "We are not saying that people who disagree with us are not people of faith." However, promotional materials for the event directly implicated Senate Democrats' possible use of the filibuster to fight some of President Bush's judicial nominees as the work of heathen nonbelievers.

It was an over-the-top spectacle that played to fear, rabid ideology, and an ignorance (or a purposeful ignoring) of history. The fact that certifiable nubjob James Dobson (who bravely exposed the SpongeBob SquarePants homosexul conspiracy and who recently compared the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan) was one of the primary organizers and speakers for the event should have given even the most uncircumspect politician pause. But no. Tennessee senator and Majority Leader Bill Frist saw the gathering as a chance to make political hay with religious conservatives for his all-but-announced presidential run in 2008.

Though hundreds of religious leaders, even his own minister, implored Frist to reconsider participating in the event, the senator joined the festivities and reiterated his threats to change Senate rules while simultaneously calling for "more civility in political life." Sorry, Senator, but you can't have it both ways. You can't proffer civility and reason and simultaneously pander to religious wackos.

In denouncing the filibuster, Frist neglected to mention that in 2000 he was among a group of conservatives who voted to filibuster an appeals court judge nominated by then-President Clinton. Frist's reason: Judge Richard Paez was "out of the mainstream of political thought and ... should [not] be on the court." And so, we must add hypocrisy to the sins of the ambitious Senator Frist.

To his (minimal) credit, Frist shied away from direct attacks on the judiciary, saying, "... the balance of power among all three branches requires respect -- not retaliation."

But a man is known by the company he keeps. And we suspect Frist will long rue the company he kept last Sunday.


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