Carol Platt Liebau: Wishing John Roberts Well

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wishing John Roberts Well

Judge John Roberts should be confirmed tomorrow as Chief Justice of the United States.

An interesting post over at Confirm Them wishes Judge Roberts well, but carries a whiff of disappointment that (quoting Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon) "Roberts is not as conservative as Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia."

As I see it, the fact is that neither we -- nor anyone else, for that matter -- really knows whether he is less/more/as conservative as Justices Scalia and Thomas. Certainly, his intellect is dazzling. And just because there's no lengthy and outspoken record, we shouldn't be premature in extrapolating a tendency toward "squishiness" from his caution and care in responding to the Judiciary Committee and from his avoidance of controversy in his career. For all we know, he could be a Scalia or a Thomas . . .

Of course, the element of uncertainty is unsettling, but that's what comes of a nomination system under which, for years now, Republicans have been willing to confirm well-qualified albeit ideologically abhorrent liberals (Ginsburg, Breyer) -- while Democrats have behaved in bad faith on Republican presidents' Supreme Court picks since the Bork debacle in 1988.

One thing is clear: The President would do the country a great service by choosing a nominee with a clear and well-known judicial philosophy and track record. Because Republicans have been unwilling to risk a fight in the past, they have tended to choose justices like Kennedy and Souter -- who are either unknown or unthreatening to the left. As a result, some of our picks (with the honorable exception of the fabulous Clarence Thomas) have been disappointing surprises.

That's got to end. Unlike the days of Ronald Reagan (post 1986) and President George H.W. Bush, Republicans have a majority in the Senate -- and, with the rise of the "new media," a voice to fight back against MSM distortion. Why have 'em if we're not going to use 'em?

Here's hoping that President Bush's next pick is an unabashed strict constructionst (but one with the kind of demeanor and temperament that will show up disgraceful Democratic baiting and smear tactics for what they are).


Blogger wile e coyote said...

I have great respect for Scalia, and consider him to have been the keenest legal mind on the Court for some time. (Roberts will now give him a run for his money.)

However, Scalia would likely have made a lousy Chief Justice. His stridency has hurt his ability to put together majority opinions, which is the name of the game.

I think a less conservative but more politically and personally astute jurist like Roberts will result in more majority opinions that are conservative, even if he results in less conservative opinions.

The Court also needs to resume its proper place in the political and cultural life of the country. I think Roberts, as a newcomer with a background in history and policy, will be in a better position to accomplish this.

8:39 AM  

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