Did Specter tell the right to "butt out"?

The chairman of the Senate Judicary Committee complains about the noise from special interest groups. The Family Research Council is fuming.


Tim Grieve
July 13, 2005 5:21PM (UTC)

The White House is putting on a good show of playing kissy-kissy nice-nice with Senate Democrats when it comes to replacing Sandra Day O'Connor. George W. Bush had Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy over for breakfast Tuesday morning, and the White House is stressing that the president's people have reached out to more than 60 U.S. senators about the process so far.

The religious right is having none of it. After Tuesday's breakfast meeting, the senatorial participants -- Reid and Leahy and Bill Frist and Arlen Specter -- talked with reporters outside. Amid all the talk about "consultative" discussions and a "dignified" process, Specter suggested, as he has in the past, that Washington politics might not be so overheated if interest groups toned down the demands and rhetoric he called "counterproductive and a lot of times insulting."

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They didn't much like that over at the Family Research Council. In a message to supporters, FRC President Tony Perkins says that Specter "is essentially telling concerned Americans to butt out of one of the most important debates this nation has seen in years."

"After serving nearly a decade in elected office, like Mr. Specter, I realized that many of the laws that I authored were simply dealing with the symptoms of our nation's cultural decline," wrote Perkins, who served in the Louisiana legislature before taking over at FRC. "Now we have the opportunity to address one of the major sources of this decline - the Supreme Court. For the last 40 years, the court has steadily chiseled away at the religious heritage of this country while imposing radical social policies like abortion on demand, virtual child pornography and constitutionally protected sodomy. I am sorry, Senator, with so much at stake, America's families will not be silent."

Perkins had better hope he's wrong. If "America's families" get their say in choosing another Supreme Court justice, Perkins and his Christianist allies on the far right aren't going to like the outcome: According to a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, 30 percent of the American public want Bush to appoint a justice who will make the court more liberal and 24 percent want a new justice who will keep the court just as it is today. Taken together, that's 54 percent -- or a whole lot more than the 41 percent who share Perkins' desire for a justice who will move the court farther to the right.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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