Is the renomination of Charles Pickering for a federal appellate judgeship a clever feint by George Bush? That's what many Senate Democrats now think. Bush announced last week that he will send Pickering's name back to the Senate for an appeals-court seat in New Orleans. The conservative Mississippi judge, strongly backed by Senator Trent Lott, was nominated last year but blocked by Democrats over questions about his civil-rights record, including a 1959 law-review article he wrote opposing interracial marriage. Why would President Bush revisit that battle so soon after Lott resigned as majority leader over racially loaded remarks, particularly knowing the other side is likely to block it with a filibuster?
Democrats smell a trap. A campaign against Pickering would consume the resources of liberal lobbying groups and the political capital of Democrats in the Senate. That might give Bush an easier time getting confirmation for other nominees--equally conservative but younger judges, who would probably be on the bench much longer than Pickering, 65. "We need to be careful that we don't become too hysterical about one choice," says Democratic Senator Jon Corzine. --By Douglas Waller