Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Roberts Choice: Reaction from the Center

The left and right ... we know what they're saying about John Roberts. The big question for us all will be how the center reacts to this choice. What I'm hearing so far is not jubilation or even satisfaction, but a general (if cautious) acceptance. There is nothing in his background to suggest that Judge Roberts will exhibit judicial activism on the Court, and while we obviously cannot say for certain how any justice will ripen on the bench, he seems, from his past writings, to be a reliable conservative - but also a jurist who understands the consequences of his actions.

Would I have preferred a nominee of a more centrist/pragmatic/moderate stripe? You bet. Did I expect one from this president? Hardly. What I do know is, we could have gotten a much more divisive choice than John Roberts, someone with a long track record of conservative activism and a mediocre intellectual record. I may not agree with every one of Roberts' decisions from the bench, but his academic background is impeccable, and if confirmed I believe he will raise the level of intellectual dialogue on the Court.

As a centrist Republican, I can't say that I feel betrayed by this nomination. The president ran, both in 2000 and 2004, saying that he was going to appoint justices like Scalia and Thomas. That was part (but only part) of the reason that I did not vote for him in either election. But many others did vote for him, and as much as I might have preferred a different result, those elections do have consequences. The president is fulfilling a pledge, and I actually think that the choice of Roberts is about as far from Scalia and Thomas as we could have hoped he would go. Roberts is not the ideologue who would have been favored by many on the right who were hoping for a nuclearizing choice like Bill Pryor, Priscilla Owen, or Janice Rogers Brown.

It could have been worse.

I hope that the nomination process proceeds smoothly. Presuming no discovery of anything ethically or financially damaging appears during the next weeks and months, and assuming that Roberts handles himself well before the Judiciary Committee (which will mean answering some questions, and leaving some others alone), I expect that he'll be confirmed. While I was afraid that Bush's nominee might be the kind who would necessitate the invocation of the "extraordinary circumstances" clause, I do not think Roberts does. I expect (assuming nothing untoward) that he'll be confirmed by a wide bipartisan majority in the Senate.

This impression is not to say that I don't reserve judgment on Roberts. My opinion may come to change if we learn more about his record or his potential future holdings. But for now, I will simply say that while I'm not delighted by this nomination, I do accept it as the president's choice, and I will not oppose it at this time.

I'm going to update this as the morning progresses and more comes in from the center on this point, so check back in for links, etc.

[Update: I hadn't read this Linda Greenhouse piece from today's Times before I wrote the above. I wish I had, because it reinforces exactly what I was trying to argue. She writes "the question is whether Judge Roberts, if confirmed, will, like [Scalia and Thomas], commit himself to recapturing a distant constitutional paradise in which the court was faithful to the original intent of the framers or whether, like the justice he would succeed, he finds himself comfortably in the middle rather than at the margin.

His résumé suggests the latter, as does his almost complete lack of a paper trail. There are no flame-throwing articles or speeches, no judicial opinions that threaten established precedent, no visible hard edges. To the extent that as a judge he has expressed a limited view of federal power, that is consistent with the views of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he is being named to succeed, and would not change the balance on the court." Please, do read Greenhouse's piece in its entirety - it's worth it. -- 9:20 a.m.]

[Update: Some more reactions from the right-center-left-center blogosphere from last night and this morning. I do not necessarily agree with any or all of these.

- Steve Clemons at The Washington Note: "Bush did not pick someone who is a flaming right-wing ideologue for the Supreme Court. Roberts is someone who impresses people on both sides of the aisle - and he certainly isn't going to be a good target for the left and isn't going to give the Christian right the kind of assurances it wants."

- Mathew Pruitt at Centerfield: "[M]y take on the nomination of Robert's is a positive one.
This is clearly not the nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O'Conner that I would have liked, but I will say that if the President wants a conservative ideologue on the Court, I am glad John Roberts is the choice. I think undeniably he is qualified for the job. ... On a personal note, I was impressed with the Judge's speech after the official announcement this evening. He seems to be a thoughtful man with solid character. Speaking only on what I saw from him tonight, my impression is that John Roberts seems to be the type of judge that will approach the bench with a respect for the rule of law and the institution to which he has been nominated to serve in."

- Alan Stewart Carl at The Yellow Line: "Roberts is conservative but nothing in his record reveals him to be outside the right side of the modern mainstream. There will be a fight in the wings over Roberts. But I think he’ll make it through the Senate without any deafening battles. This was an astute choice by President Bush. It appeases his base but won't send the Senate into crisis."

- Michael Reynolds at The Mighty Middle: "It was unexpected, unconventional, but brilliant of George W. Bush to name CBS newsman John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Roberts has long been ... what? Oh. Never mind."

- Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice: "Roberts - so far - doesn't seem to be quite the kind of red-flag nominee that would trigger a massive firestorm. (But the week is still young). The Democratic leadership may conclude that they need to save an no-holds-barred (read that filibuster) opposition in case Bush appoints someone more to the right than Roberts." Joe's also got a good roundup of blog-reaction, so check it out.

- David Schraub at The Debate Link: "Could be worse." Plus more, of course; read the whole thing.

More as I find them. -- 9:42 a.m.]

[Update: Some more posts:

- Dennis Sanders at The Moderate Republican: "On the surface, a good pick. But like many, I will be listening to the confirmation hearings to listen to what Rogers has to say. I'm hoping for a more pragmatic conservative, but only time will tell." He's got a bunch of good links, etc., so stop by.

- Charles Amico at WeThePeople: "The President deserves to have this candidate as a Supreme Court Judge. He won the last election. Those that object and didn't vote in November of 2004, be quiet and reflect on why you didn't vote. This is the consequence of that choice. Maybe if we have more consequences that upset folks, voting will become more important to more people."

- Also, just for the fun of it, Drudge is reporting that Ann Coulter is quite displeased by the choice of Roberts. Awwwww. -- 11:19 a.m.]


At 11:06 AM, Blogger Charles Amico said...

Here's an excerpt from my Blog on the nomination of John Roberts:

The President deserves to have this candidate as a Supreme Court Judge. He won the last election. Those that object and didn't vote in November of 2004, be quiet and reflect on why you didn't vote. This is the consequence of that choice. Maybe if we have more consequences that upset folks, voting will become more important to more people.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Heh...I read Ann Coulter's piece. My favorite line:

“Conservatism is sweeping the nation, we have a fully functioning alternative media, we’re ticked off and ready to avenge Robert Bork . . . and Bush nominates a Rorschach blot. ”

Great read, actually. Not her usual bile.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

In regards to post number one… Bush winning the election does not give him a mandate to nominate anyone he wants. Most people do not agree 100% with the views of the candidate who gets their vote, and there is little evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) that judicial philosophy was the defining issue for the 51% of the electorate that voted for Bush. Not to be too Ivory Tower but mathematically an election cannot determine the electorates’ preferred candidate, it can only determine their least preferred candidate (I refer you to Liberalism Against Populism for a deeper, and more coherent, explanation). Politically, and for the most part practically, this doesn’t matter but it is important philosophically.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

A, barring living in a bubble, there was no way to avoid knowing that the person elected in 2004 would most likely get to nominate another SC justice. It was splashed all over the media in repetitive fashion from the grist mills of both parties.

Bush may not have a "mandate" to nominate whom he wants, but by virtue of that election he has the "right".

Whether people voted with that fact in mind is another story. But, I don't see how they couldn't have known it was coming up.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Andrei Berman said...

I'd highly reccomend Ryan Lizza's piece at It's terrific.


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