Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Open Court

Sandra Day O'Connor's letter to the President annoucing her retirement seemed to portend an epic conflict in the Senate. Many anxiously awaited President Bush's nomination, with names ranging from Alberto Gonzales to Roy Moore (the "Ten Commandments" Judge) being tossed about the political landscape. E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote in the Washington Post on July 9th a column titled "Let's Have This Fight," encouraging special interest groups to ignore the calls of others to be quiet "because these groups tell the truth about how important this battle is for the future of our country." One could have plausibly forecasted the decibel level of the reaction to Bush's annoucement yesterday at 9 pm to be on par with that of a shuttle launch. However, the uproar, like the Discovery, appears to have been at least delayed from blasting off for the time being.

The reason? No one really expected John Roberts, or a man like him, to be nominated. Sure, Jeffrey Rosen floated his name in a short list of potential nominees that The New Republic published in November, before anyone knew of O'Connor's resignation. Rosen wrote, "Roberts appears willing to draw sensible extremely able lawyer whose committed conservatism seems to be leavened by a judicious temperament." However, the most recent issue of TNR had the editors writing as if Alberto Gonzales had been selected long ago. Most analysts have expressed similar surprise.

However, the reaction has not been entirely silent. Although many Democrats have publicly said, in essence, that they're going to wait and see until more about Roberts is known, various groups have already passed judgement. sent out a mass email today proclaiming, "This much is clear already. Judge Roberts is no Sandra Day O'Connor...President Bush wants to replace a woman who voted to uphold Roe v. Wade with a man who argued against Roe v. Wade, and that sends a clear signal that this White House remains bent on opening old wounds and dividing America." What the email fails to mention is that Roberts was deputy solicitor general at the time, and he was charged with advocating on behalf of the first Bush Administration, which had openly stated it wished to overturn Roe. However, Roberts, during his career as a lawyer, also advocated for prisoners' rights and affirmative action. The truth is that none of these things tell us anything about Roberts's personal beliefs, as all of these arguments were made on behalf of his clients, not himself.

And of the charge that Roberts is no O'Connor? The reported O'Connor's immediate reaction to the news that Roberts was being nominated to replace her was, "That's fabulous!" going on to say "He's good in every way, except he's not a woman." That, at least, we can be certain about.

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