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Justice Bird's Losing Campaign

November 16, 1986

Well, it seems that Bird-bashing is still the order of the day, even after the voters have handed down what should be the last word on her court: their overwhelming rejection of her as chief justice. Now along comes Bill Zimmerman to throw some more stones at poor Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird (Opinion, Nov. 9), "The Campaign That Couldn't Win: When Rose Bird Ran Her Own Defeat."

Zimmerman's article takes the prize for having more self-serving statements in any analysis piece I've read in The Times. According to Zimmerman, Rose Bird lost because she rejected the "negative" campaign that Zimmerman and his firm wanted to run for her. Zimmerman actually seems to think that if Rose Bird accepted his campaign strategy she'd still be on the Supreme Court along with her colleagues Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin.

Zimmerman states a truth that Rose Bird wanted to win. But, and Zimmerman does not appear to realize this, she did not want to win at the expense of politicizing her court.

Bird was forced to play a major role in a truly classic political tragedy. She found herself caught up in controversies surrounding the issue of the death penalty (which involved only a few of the many opinions she wrote while on the court); while she obviously was wholly committed to win, she could only do so by adopting the same measures as her opposition. She decided not to do this.

What kind of campaign could Rose Bird have waged against her opposition? Her opposition had it easy as their position was totally negative. It is rather hard to be positive about wanting to put people to death.

Bird could not discuss the Theodore Frank decision, yet her opposition could--and did. The use of these victims of crime by the organized opposition to Bird was unconsciousable and even immoral. And our governor should be the most ashamed by bringing political expediency to a new low.

In the end Zimmerman's article is very disquieting. Negative advertising exists and should exist, his argument runs, because of uninformed voters. And who's responsible for them being so uninformed? Certainly not negative advertising, says Zimmerman. In the same breath even, he puts the blame on the media (an instrument that negative advertising uses) and our schools. Now really.

Should it not be the responsibility of political advertisers to raise the quality of political campaigning to lessen the numbers of voters who are uninformed? Or really isn't the actual case that voters, rather than being uninformed, are mis informed? If this is the case, and I think it is, do we really want to blame the media and our schools for playing a role in Rose Bird's defeat? Do we want to blame Rose Bird for her own defeat?

The time has come to leave her alone.

STEPHEN C. JORDAN

Reseda

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