Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mr. Roberts

OK, so Dumbya (snicker, snicker) has selected a conservative WASPy guy with less than two years of judicial experience to serve on the high court. Even the name is vintage WASP: John Roberts. Could a name be any more WASPy in terms of conjuring up images of backyard barbecues, ice cream church socials, Saturday morning 8 a.m. tee-off times and missionary-position begetting?

Still, unless the nominee is a teeth-gnashing Mr. Potter out to destroy George Bailey and the poor ol' Building & Loan, I'm inclined to think the guy deserves Senate confirmation. Hey, like it or not (and you can count me as a not), voters reelected Dumbya knowing full well that the president for the next four years would likely have as many as three appointments to the high court. Anyway, provided the appointee doesn't harbor too checkered a past (Long Dong Thomas, f'instance) or an extremist ideology (Robert Bork), I'm inclined to concede that it's fair enough to give a Supreme Court nominee the benefit of the doubt. I might be one of the few people in America (certainly one of the few in Oklahoma) who thought John Kerry is a good man and was a good candidate, but I have to bristle when I read asinine statements from him such as (via The New York Times), "This much is clear already. Judge Roberts is no Sandra Day O'Connor."

Well, no shit, John. For one, Roberts can piss standing up. But aside from that, the Supreme Court has a long history of jurists who were unpredictable going into the job. Sandra Day O'Connor wasn't even Sandra Day "Swing Vote" O'Connor when she was tapped by Reagan. And you know sure as hell that David Souter and Anthony Kennedy weren't quite what their conservative proponents had expected.

On the question of abortion and choice, I don't support the notion that Roberts can be judged based on his actions as deputy solicitor general, a job that required his advocacy of White House policies. Still, what must be a tad unsettling for pro-choice groups is Roberts' nuanced statement regarding Roe v. Wade to Sen. Dick Durbin during the judge's 2003 appellate court confirmation hearing. "I'll be bound to follow the Supreme Court precedent regardless of what type of constructionist I might be," Roberts said. On the high court, of course, Roberts is not bound to follow such a precedent; he can help craft a new precedent. notes that Roberts' short time on the bench will make it particularly difficult for the Senate to gauge his ideological bent:

"As a result, some conservatives have made unflattering comparisons between Roberts and Supreme Court Justice David Souter, whose short stint on the 1st Circuit before being appointed in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush failed to reveal Souter's moderate-to-liberal leanings on some issues.

"Yet those who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for [Justice William] Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. 'He is as conservative as you can get,' one friend puts it.

"In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas. But this take on Roberts puts some of his biggest boosters in a quandary. They praise Roberts as a brilliant, fair-minded lawyer with a perfect judicial temperament. But can that image as an open-minded jurist co-exist with also being viewed as a predictable conservative?"

The article is worth reading for its summary of Roberts' more provocative decisions as a federal judge. Read here for more.

The Alliance for Justice has emerged with guns a-blazin' against Roberts. Read here for that wrap.

Finally, Howard Bashman of How Appealing, the king daddy of legal blogs, has a comprehensive roundup of editorials on Roberts.


At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I ad this:

The left would do well to grin and accept this nomination. NARAL, Moveon.stupid and the like did an enormous disservice to the moderate left by waging war so quickly. Save the rhetoric and the war chest for nominee two. If the left fights this guy, Bush can next time nominate a complete nut...and when the left squawks, he'll just give that knowing smirk and say 'i told you so.' For all you abortion rights advocates (and I count myself among them) I encourage you to read froma harrop's column about why the republicans know it would be unwise to overturn roe v. wade. The mystery surrounding Roberts' views, harrop argues, is to placate the right more than the left.

And chase, um, Roberts is not a wasp. He's a Catholic. You know, the whole Mary thing and all.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Chase said...

Um ... I covered my bases by the phrase "WASPy" -- accent on the "y." So there. Face!

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous buddyhackett said...

I thought this article was excellent!
Keep up the good work!


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