The Magazine

Judge Pickering, Arlen Specter, and more.

From the January 20, 2003 issue: Clintonus Maximus!

Jan 20, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 18
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Clintonus Maximus!

ON SUNDAY, January 5, 82-year-old Roy Jenkins died at his home in Oxfordshire, England. Jenkins was a great and distinguished man: a Welsh miner's son who became a three-time cabinet minister, founder of the Social Democratic party, president of the European Commission, author of more than 20 much admired books of historical scholarship, a British life peer, and member of the Queen's Order of Merit. Baron Jenkins's death leaves his final position, chancellor of Oxford University, open. So who on earth could possibly take his place?

Bizarrely enough, the name on everyone's lips is Bill Clinton. The Times of London calls Clinton "a realistic prospect" and likely a "hot favorite among younger graduates." Alan Ryan, a professor at the university's New College, says he'd "love" to see it happen. "It would be tremendously good fun," Oxford and "fun" being virtually synonymous, of course. Clinton has Oxford connections: He frittered away his late-1960s Rhodes Scholarship there, and his daughter Chelsea is there right now. Also, Britain's university system is suffering a severe money crunch, and nobody does fundraising like good old Bill. Perfect, no?

Except for one thing, what you might call the "Roy Jenkins problem." Oxford, as the Chicago Tribune puts it, "is the personification of gravitas and dignity." Bill Clinton, on the other hand, is . . . well, not the personification of gravitas and dignity. What to do? What, for example, would Oxford's Public Orator say when it came time, at Clinton's investiture ceremony, to read the traditional Latin citation?

Our friends at London's Financial Times have considered this question, and have offered one possible answer, excerpts of which--tremendously good fun, we think--follow:

Guilelmus Clinton. . . . In res publicis et civitatis homo erectus stupendus ut in mens et in corpore. Philosophus profundus, per exemplo, "Quae quod significatio verbi 'est' est?" Libidensis gigantem. . . . Herba marijuana fumerat (sed non inhalerat), legionus Americanus evaderat, cum multibus feminibus dormaverat. . . . Alia Occidentalis Domus Albus laborante, sibi pizza donata est a Monica Lewinsky, puella pulchrissima, sensuosa californicante, fellatrix superiore. "Non coitus est cum hac femina," dixit. . . . Domus Representatis imperator Clinton defenestrare tentavit. Senatus, 50-50 divisa est, absolvit. . . . Ergo Cancellarius Universitatis Oxoniensi! Mentor feminae juvenaliae britannicae! Clintonus Maximus! Ave! Genuflexamus!

Judge Pickering, Take Two

THE BATTLE OVER THE NOMINATION of Judge Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals--more precisely, his renomination--has become a complicated drama. Pickering was brutally treated in 2002 by the Senate Judiciary Committee, then controlled by Democrats, and his confirmation was voted down. Bush was expected to be wary of sending Pickering's name back to Capitol Hill. He wasn't, adding Pickering to a list of 30 new judicial nominees last week. But now a few Senate Republicans are wary.

Pickering is a victim of both liberal race-baiting and the fall of Senator Trent Lott, who had persuaded the White House to nominate Pickering in the first place. Since Lott lost his job as Senate GOP leader, the Pickering plot has thickened.

Lott blames Bush adviser Karl Rove and Sen. Bill Frist for his demise, but mostly Frist, his replacement as the new Senate majority leader. On the Senate floor last week, Lott hugged his old nemesis, Democratic leader Tom Daschle, but declined even to shake hands with Frist. Then, when Frist was asked if he supported the renomination of Pickering, he ducked the question. Later, an aide said Frist would back Pickering. In any event, Lott is no longer in a position to push the nomination through the Senate.

What makes the case of Pickering, currently a federal district court judge, so touchy is the race issue. This spooks some Republicans. But in Pickering's case, it shouldn't. He's suffered from the McCarthyism of the 21st century--a wrongful accusation of racism. In truth, Pickering has worked for decades in Mississippi for racial reconciliation. He sent his kids to predominantly black public schools, not white academies, and testified against the Klan.

It was because of the unfair treatment of Pickering by liberal interest groups and Democratic senators that the White House insisted on nominating him anew, and doing it early in the new congressional session. Bush didn't want Pickering's critics to win a victory through race-baiting.