David Paul Kuhn has a column at Real Clear Politics today about the US still fighting over the 60s, with percolating debates over civil rights and service in Vietnam. I'll note that fights from the 80s still resonate too.
I wrote an obituary in today's paper for Allegheny County judge Jim McGregor, who was the first campaign manager for John Heinz and was one of the last in the line of Pa's once powerful Republican liberals -- guys like Hugh Scott (left), Heinz and (here's where we get to the '80s part) Arlen Specter. McGregor was picked twice -- by Ronald Reagan and Bush I -- for open seats on U.S. District Court, but was blocked by conservatives angry at Specter for his nay vote on Robert Bork:
Judge McGregor was "labeled at the outset" as being of the liberal GOP ilk of Heinz and Specter, said former Heinz aide Cliff Shannon, and that doomed his prospects. Reagan-Bush era conservatives viewed them as "two fellow travelers, using merit selection instead of picking the most conservative guy," he said.
I mention that because that kind of residual anger at Specter, whether among Republicans or Democrats (typically, he supported Clarence Thomas four years after the Bork hearings), was obviously still there last week when voters ended his fascinating, last-of-the-Jedi, 30-year Senate career. (And no, this is not a comment on whether becoming Republican or Democrat was his turn to the Dark Side.)
And there's one other tidbit that connects McGregor and Specter to recent political/judicial events that resonate in Pittsburgh.
McGregor's rejection bumped up with the end of the Bush I administration. One of the local federal judges picked the next time there was a Republican White House was Arthur J. Schwab, whose handling of (Specter's friend) Cyril H. Wecht's corruption case was called "inappropriate," "troublesome" and "strange and unsettling" by a federal appeals court, before it removed him from the trial. The year the trial ended in a hung jury, local lawyers gave Schwab the worst ratings of any judge on the Pittsburgh federal bench.
They gave their best marks to Senior Judge Maurice B. Cohill -- whose first court race in 1965 was handled by none other than Jim McGregor.