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The editorial "Hyperactive" renews The New Republic's effort to squash Judge Charles Pickering's appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (January 27). While exonerating Pickering from the "racist" charge pinned on him last year, this latest argument is based upon the editors' assessment that he is a "shoddy judge."

Unfortunately, the basis for this conclusion is little more than a rehash of Pickering's handling of the sentencing of Daniel Swan. The New Republic's cavalier suggestion that the "good reason" to let Swan's 17-year-old partner in crime go free was his age is extremely shortsighted. If this decision was made by local federal prosecutors, one would expect The New Republic to voice indignation that the perpetrator of such a heinous crime could be set free. If, on the other hand, the decision was made by the Civil Rights Division in Washington, is it not fair to ask why the Justice Department had so little concern for the victims of this monstrous act? More significantly, why does The New Republic not ask?

The only person whose actions reflected any concern for the victims of this cross-burning is Pickering. His remarks at Swan's sentencing indicate not only a revulsion for the crime but an intention to use Swan as an example. One hopes that 27 months in prison will deter him from behaving in such a criminally stupid way in the future and that others will be similarly deterred. Pickering may not be a good candidate for elevation to the circuit court, but The New Republic's editorial is less than convincing.
Scranton, Pennsylvania

IN HIS LATEST book review, Jackson Lears tosses dead cats onto the perfumed altars that have been raised to worship H.L. Mencken ("The Sophomore," January 27). Along the way, he draws a cartoon of Mencken as a champion of a master race of German aristocrats and an ignorer of modern art. That's a shallow evaluation. Missing is the Mencken who was the first major editor to publish James Joyce in the United States; one of the first translators to bring Friedrich Nietzsche's writings to our country's attention; and, most importantly of all, the first editor to create a magazine that rattled the conventional wisdom in a snarky voice, which is a pose one would think that Lears and TNR could appreciate.
Washington, D.C.

ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH realignment theory, even apart from its numerological roots, is that it assumes that the most important thing in politics is the party affiliation of the president and the congressional majorities ("Turn, Turn, Turn," by Alan Ehrenhalt, January 27). But, to paraphrase Lord Palmerston, party affiliations aren't eternal, interests are. U.S. history is filled with liberal/conservative splits that transcend party lines. Thus, the alleged realignment of 1896 broke up by 1912, as progressive Republicans and Democrats joined forces in Congress against their conservative opponents and kept control until 1918. And Franklin Roosevelt's fabled realignment of 1932 ran out of gas by 1938, when a coalition of conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats took control of Congress and kept it until 1964. Our current era is unusual in that partisan divisions largely track ideological ones.
Associate Professor of Law
Zicklin School of Business
Baruch College
New York, New York

IN PETER BEINARTS TRB column, he makes the case that Latin American policy suffers because the "White House has marginalized the position of assistant secretary of state for Latin America," so the anti-Fidel Castro hard-liners can "harvest votes in South Florida" ("South End," January 27). I agree with Beinart 100 percent. But I would like to add that things probably wouldn't be any different if Al Gore and the Democrats had won the election because the Democrats are proven anti-Castro sops themselves. Why do I think the Democratic leadership veers "right" every time the anti- Castro hard-line agenda is challenged? The report "The Cuban Connection: Cuban- American Money in U.S. Elections 1979-2000," offers an important clue. "The total of all Cuban-American related political money given between 1979-2000 is $8,821,202. Of that total, $8.6 million went to candidates, party committees and leadership PACs, of which almost 60 percent went to Democrats." The Democrats are willing to sacrifice coherent Latin American policy for the sake of following the money. That's why Gore and the Dems probably would have nominated Otto Reich or somebody else of that ilk themselves. And the train wreck that is now Latin America would have happened anyway.
Miami, Florida