PRESIDENT BUSH must have worked hard to dream up an escalation of the judicial nomination wars as dramatic as his decision this week to nominate Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. A protege of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Mr. Pryor is a parody of what Democrats imagine Mr. Bush to be plotting for the federal courts. We have argued strongly in favor of several of Mr. Bush's nominees -- and urged fair and swift consideration of all. And we have criticized Democratic attacks on nominees of substance and quality. But we have also urged Mr. Bush to look for common ground on judicial nominations, to address legitimate Democratic grievances and to seek nominees of such stature as defies political objection. The Pryor nomination shows that Mr. Bush has other ideas.
Mr. Pryor is probably best known as a zealous advocate of relaxing the wall between church and state. He teamed up with one of Pat Robertson's organizations in a court effort to defend student-led prayer in public schools, and he has vocally defended Alabama's chief justice, who has insisted on displaying the Ten Commandments in state court facilities. But his career is broader. He has urged the repeal of a key section of the Votings Rights Act, which he regards as "an affront to federalism and an expensive burden." He has also called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." Whatever one thinks of Roe, it is offensive to rank it among the court's most notorious cases, which include Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, after all.
Mr. Pryor's speeches display a disturbingly politicized view of the role of courts. He has suggested that impeachment is an appropriate remedy for judges who "repeatedly and recklessly . . . overturn popular will and . . . rewrite constitutional law." And he talks publicly about judging in the vulgarly political terms of the current judicial culture war. He concluded one speech, for example, with the following prayer: "Please, God, no more Souters" -- a reference to the betrayal many conservatives feel at the honorable career of Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter.
Mr. Pryor has bipartisan support in Alabama, and he worked to repeal the provisions in that state's constitution that forbade interracial marriage. But this is not a nomination the White House can sell as above politics. Mr. Bush cannot at once ask for apolitical consideration of his nominees and put forth nominees who, in word and deed, turn federal courts into political battlegrounds. If he sends the Senate nominees such as Mr. Pryor, he cannot complain too loudly when his nominees receive the most searching scrutiny.