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Speaking from his 60-acre timber ranch in central Oregon, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Alfred Goodwin said Friday he wasn’t surprised by the furor over his ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance. Although Goodwin stressed that he couldn’t talk about the merits of the case itself, he did share some of his observations about the flag, the politicians who have seized upon the controversial decision holding the use of the phrase “under God” unconstitutional, and the public’s reaction to it. “I never had much confidence in the attention span of elected officials for any kind of deep thinking about important issues,” Goodwin said. “When they pop off after what I call a bumper strip headline, they almost always give a superficial response.” Goodwin, who turned 79 Saturday, was pilloried in the Senate last week as a “stupid judge” whose ruling was “just nuts.” He said he was disappointed in President Bush, who called the decision “ridiculous.” “I’m a little disappointed in our chief executive — who nobody ever accused of being a deep thinker — for popping off.” Goodwin said he knew the decision would catch people’s attention, but suggested the issues are complex. “The more you know about something, the more difficult it gets sometimes,” he said. But he said he isn’t bothered by the fury of personal criticism, including being branded a liberal. “I’ve been a judge for 47 years and I’ve been called everything, so it doesn’t bother me. It comes with the territory,” Goodwin said. The former Oregon Supreme Court justice was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Nixon in 1971. He was born in Washington and is a self-professed cowboy who, evidently, shoots from the hip. “That was just damage control,” Goodwin said about his Thursday order staying the decision in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, 02 C.D.O.S. 5700, even though the case is automatically stayed anyway. He said that was done for the benefit of the media, who don’t understand the intricacies of court rules — especially TV reporters. “Their attention span can’t handle anything more than a haiku of about four lines,” he said. “The worse thing about it was that some people said we were caving under pressure.” He said he also issued the order so that other judges could get back to work. Judges that weren’t on the panel were getting lots of calls, he added. Goodwin pointed out that he won the Combat Infantry Badge in World War II, and remembers that on the belt buckles of dead German soldiers was an inscription claiming God was on the German side. “I was supporting the flag then and I still support it,” he said. He also noted that some of the criticism is being fueled by what he called “this wrap-yourself-in-the-flag frenzy.” The defendants in the case have announced that they intend to ask an 11-judge en banc panel to rehear the case, which many experts expect to happen. Normally, senior judges aren’t included in the pool of active judges from which the panel is drawn. But under Circuit rules, senior judges who author the three-judge decision in question are eligible — meaning Goodwin could possibly join the panel. Goodwin said he was “pretty sure” the case would be taken en banc. He added that he wasn’t impressed with the media’s interpretations of the ruling. “I wasn’t too surprised,” Goodwin said. “I did work for newspapers � so I know how they work.” The ruling does not outlaw the Pledge, but if it stands, it would mean that teachers in the nine Western states covered by the 9th Circuit cannot lead their classes in a patriotic pledge that tells students the country is “one nation, under God.” “ The Wall Street Journal gave [the ruling] about a half-inch, which is what it deserved,” Goodwin said. He said he has received much reaction –from strangers, lawyers and old Army buddies — which has been running hot and cold. All the e-mails go into a folder marked “Newdow.” “Someday when I haven’t got anything else to do, I’ll read them,” he said.

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