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Opinion Column
For the week of May 17 through May 23, 2000

Judge Eismann caught up in morass of Christian Coalition

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


How fitting that the Idaho Christian Coalition, which demands squeaky clean behavior in politicians, finds itself engulfed in an untidy family feud with ugly inferences of (gasp!) fraudulent conduct by members.

The fuss is about the election year questionnaire that has become a signature political device of the coalition. Directors of the Idaho Christian Coalition are pleading with the public to disregard the newest version bearing the coalition’s name, insisting questions weren’t approved. The board also asks volunteers not to distribute it in churches.

But another coalition member, Kelly Walton, has been on Boise television showing what he claims are minutes of the coalition board approving the questions and distribution of the questionnaire.

So, is someone lying in the holier-than-thou Christian Coalition?

No matter. It’s too late for the Christian Coalition to disavow a document designed to influence elections. Since its creation by Pat Robertson (he dropped the title "Reverend" to create the impression politics and religion weren’t being mixed), the Christian Coalition has acted as a virtual political action committee for Republicans by distributing pamphlets in churches to energize support for political pets.

This is the outfit to which District Judge Daniel Eismann has tied his political fortunes in hopes evangelicals will install him on the state Supreme Court. He pandered by submitting to coalition questions—on abortion, evolution, gun ownership—that his rival, incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Cathy Silak, wisely refused to answer out of ethical concerns.

Whatever else might separate them, this much is certain: Eismann seems all too willing to disdain accepted ethics expected of judges by willingly expressing advance opinions on a wide range of issues, including abortion, evolution and gun ownership, in exchange for coalition support. Lawyers who’ve been critical of Eismann feel he can’t fairly judge issues on the high court if he’s already expressed a public opinion.

Justice Silak, on the other hand, understands obligations of a judge to hear cases on their merits and the law before rendering an opinion.

Put another way, Eismann leaves the impression he doesn’t want to be bothered with facts or lawyers’ arguments. He’s already made up his mind on some issues, and is willing to trade opinions for votes.

This cheapening of the judiciary will get worse, as long as judgeships remain an elective office mired in political promises. Promises-for-votes will get more irresponsible as some candidates choose to pander to voting blocs with promises for whatever their hearts desire.

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"Straight Talk" John McCain is busy retracting campaign positions since bowing out of the presidential sweepstakes. He confessed he was guilty of "political expediency" for not expressing his real opinion that the Confederate flag should be hauled down from the South Carolina statehouse. He says he feared he’d lose votes.

Now, in what seems to be more political expediency, McCain endorses the man he said earlier was ill-equipped to be president.

And then he staged a $5,000-a-plate fund-raiser Monday night in Washington to which he invited donations from PACs—groups he roundly denounced during the primaries.

Maybe he should henceforth be identified as Sen. John "Mc-Con."

Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.

 

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