Terrorizing the judiciary

How much invective from Pat Robertson & Co. can the Republicans stand up for? MoveOn.org asks TV audiences from Texas to Washington.

Published May 5, 2005 7:48PM (EDT)

The Reverend Pat Robertson's assertion last weekend that federal judges pose a greater danger to America than al-Qaida wasn't a real shocker; right-wingers have been assailing the judiciary a lot lately. Robertson's was the latest (yawn) in a string of similarly "inartful" remarks.

The religious far right has been the driving force behind the current GOP campaign to end the judicial filibuster -- but do Republicans really want to keep standing up in front of this stuff? The folks at MoveOn.org think maybe not. On Wednesday, the group called for Majority Leaders Bill Frist and Tom DeLay to repudiate Robertson, and released a television ad to keep the pressure on.

"Robertsons comments are part of the religious rights effort to create a culture of intimidation against the American judiciary," said MoveOn's Ben Brandzel. The Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourners agreed: "Pat Robertsons comments are yet another example of the irresponsible and ideological use of religion. His dangerous attack on judges is exactly what we do not need.

Adele Welby, the mother of a firefighter who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also lent support to MoveOn's campaign. "For those of us who lost family members on September 11th, like my son Timothy, a firefighter, this type of comment, used for the purpose of political shock value, is remarkably insensitive."

Noting Robertson's role as a ringleader of the religious right, MoveOn's ad (which can be viewed here) reminds viewers that Osama bin Laden "ordered the worst terrorist attack in American history." It asks, "Will Bill Frist and Tom DeLay continue to pander to the radical fringe, or will they have the guts to repudiate Pat Robertson and all the others who are threatening federal judges?"

TV audiences in Frist's home state of Tennessee, DeLay's Houston-area Congressional district, and in Washington, D.C., will get to start pondering that question in the coming days.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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