Sunday, September 18


The prime suspects, the editorial boards of the NY Times and WaPo are split on whether or not John Roberts should be confirmed as Chief Justice of the U.S.:

NYTimes editorial:

If he is confirmed, we think there is a chance Mr. Roberts could be a superb chief justice. But it is a risk. We might be reluctant to roll the dice even for a nomination for associate justice, but for a nomination for a chief justice - particularly one who could serve 30 or more years - the stakes are simply too high. Senators should vote against Mr. Roberts not because they know he does not have the qualities to be an excellent chief justice, but because he has not met the very heavy burden of proving that he does.

WaPo editorial:

Mr. Bush deserves credit for making a nomination that, on the merits, warrants support from across the political spectrum. Having done their duty by asking Judge Roberts tough questions, Democrats should not respond by withholding that support.

WaPo isn't enthusiastic, exactly. They just think Roberts is as good a candidate as we're likely to get from Bush. They caution that Roberts is likely to rule in ways the editorial board might oppose: he's a strong supporter of presidential powers and congressional authority over the states and weak on civil liberties, affirmative action, and civil rights. They believe it's possible that he, like Rehnquist, will favor overturning Roe v. Wade. As they note, "These are all risks, but they are risks the public incurred in reelecting President Bush."

I personally haven't commented much on the Roberts issue. Perhaps it's because lately my intuition has been running amok, and I've been afraid to trust it. At first I was absolutely opposed to the man, horrified by his record in the '80's and convinced that his privileged life, isolated from the real challenges that ordinary people face every day, would result in his ruling by ideology and theory rather than by wisdom and understanding.

But now I have this weird feeling that Roberts is going to surprise his conservative sponsors and make it a point of honor to rule as a justice should: on the constitutional merits of the individual case. I have a sneaking suspicion that once independent of any political considerations or control, he may turn out to be a David Souter or a Sandra Day O'Connor, and that's about as good as we liberals could possibly hope for from this president. I don't know what it is about him, I really don't, but during the hearings I got the feeling (and I had it for quite some time before the hearings, perhaps even since I read about his pro bono work for the gay community) that he's just as cautious about revealing his true intentions to the ultra conservatives as he is to liberals.

But then, my intuition told me that Jeff Bowden would be fired as the offensive coordinator for my Florida State Seminoles last year, and he's still there.


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