Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NARAL Ad Unfairly Attacks Roberts

The advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America (National Abortion Rights Action League) has released a television ad (viewable here) which links Supreme Court nominee John Roberts with violent anti-abortion activists. The campaign, which urges viewers to call their senators and request that they oppose Roberts' confirmation, is based on a brief that Roberts wrote back in 1991 while working as deputy solicitor general in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

In the case of Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, the Bush Administration argued that the anti-discrimination provisions of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act did not apply to anti-abortion protesters. Roberts wrote a brief on behalf of the Administration, and later argued the case before the Supreme Court. In his argument, he said in part "The United States appears in this case not to defend petitioners' tortious conduct, but to defend the proper interpretation" of the Ku Klux Klan Act. As the LA Times reports today, Roberts went on to say that "[t]he century-old law applied only to a 'discriminatory deprivation of rights, not simply the deprivation of rights,' he said. 'Opposition to abortion is [not] the same as discrimination on the basis of gender. That's wrong as a matter of law and logic,' he said. Many women as well as men oppose abortion, and it is not because they hate women, he argued." The Supreme Court agreed with Roberts' conclusion in a 1993 decision.

NARAL's ad features a woman injured in a 1998 abortion clinic bombing saying she is "determined to stop this violence," and includes a voiceover saying "Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." After urging viewers to call their senators, the ad ends by saying "America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans." The ad will begin airing this week on local stations in Maine and Rhode Island (the home states of pro-choice Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Lincoln Chafee, both up for reelection next year) and on CNN and Fox News nationally.

It is not often that I agree with the the chairman of the RNC, but Ken Mehlman has it right on this: "By attempting to assert that Judge Roberts supports shameful criminal acts, NARAL has shown how far they will go to slander a good man for political gain." This ad crosses the line between decent debate over Roberts' stance on the issues and unfair attack, by implying that Roberts somehow supports or condones violent attacks against abortion clinics. There is absolutely nothing in the record to justify such a conclusion; in fact, the opposite may be closer to the truth.

According to Roberts allies, the nominee supported the conclusion of the Reagan White House back in 1986 that violent protesters should not be eligible for special consideration to receive presidential pardons: "No matter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence to achieve it are criminals," the Reagan Justice Department held in a memo which Roberts endorsed.

NARAL's president said of the ad "We're not suggesting that Mr. Roberts condones clinic violence." Okaaay, what exactly does "America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans" mean, then? That is exactly what they're suggesting, in a blatant attempt to inflame passions and derail the civil-to-this-point confirmation process.

I hope that senators will completely ignore this ad campaign, and I hope that all those around the country who view the ad will take the time to find the truth. This is probably the first of many volleys to come - from both left and right - that will distort the record of Judge Roberts unfairly. It will be up to our political leaders to keep to the high road, and let these interest groups slog through the muck on their own.


At 11:56 AM, Blogger The Cynical Liberal said...

While I agree that the ad is misleading and unnecessarily accusatory, I find it extremely hypocritical that Ken Mehlman would say that it shows how far a liberal group will go to smear a man.

Should we point to the Rovian strategy comparing Max Cleeland to terrorists, or suggesting that a vote for John Kerry was a vote for Osama?

I'm a staunch abortion rights supporter... And I look forward to the hearing on Roberts, cuz I want to hear his positions on such things.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Mister Hand said...

Based on what I know about Roberts, I believe he will make a fine judge. And I'm a liberal. AND while it is just and right that you should point out unfairness in ads such as these, the above commentor is correct. Why single out this instance of unfairness when the Bush Administration was elected using far worse tactics. If they say a vote for John Kerry is a vote for the terrorists, and then have that repeated and agreed to by a slew of Fox News TV "reporters," that's worse than a television ad. The fact is, John Kerry was our best hope for a good outcome from Iraq. George W. Bush has ripped the seat of his pants with every country in the world.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger JBD said...

I agree with both of you that the Bush Administration and RNC are hardly eligible to offer sincere criticism of ads like this since they've engaged in similar and worse (I'll never forgive them for the nastiness against Sen. McCain before the NY 2000 primary, not to mention So. Carolina). If this ad or something similar were coming from the right, I would criticize it as well ... and had I been blogging during the last campaigns, the ads against Kerry in '04 and Cleland in '02 would have warranted the same treatment as this gets.

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Michael Westendorf said...

You will most likely not get to see “his positions”, ‘cynical liberal’. The confirmation process should showcase or seek to display Robert’s knowledge of the Constitution of the United States and of the law.

I remember reading the other day on a Senator’s web site that, “…we will need to know what his future decisions will be on the high court…” That’s ridiculous! Roberts has no obligation, to the Senate or to the American people to preview his future (whatever they might be) decisions on the while serving on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Roberts’ obligation lies completely in demonstrating how knowledgeable he is in the law and nothing else. Even the folks who are whispering the phrase ‘judicial philosophy’ are somewhat misguided. Roberts’ ‘judicial philosophy’ is to adhere to the letter of the law and nothing else. His political views should have nothing to do with his ability to serve on the high court because as a Justice, he is obligated to be impartial.

Any Senator who opposes Roberts’ confirmation should do so because he doesn’t feel that the Judge is qualified, and that will be hard to do with a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. Any Senator who opposes Roberts’ confirmation because of an opposition in political views is irresponsibly abusing their power as a Senator and quite frankly this country deserves someone with a better intellect. I will be watching Barber Boxer very closely.

One other note to ‘mister hand’: John Kerry was (and is) the wrong person to lead this country – period.

Great analysis, Jeremy.

-Westendorf of the SpecticalPolitrum.com

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

NARAL has shown how far they will go to slander a good man for political gain.

I almost spit Coke on my monitor when I read this.

Disgusting hypocrisy aside, and divorcing the statement from any and all past, present, or future activities on the part of Mr. Mehlman, I have to agree with JBD that he's right in this instance.

NARAL marginalizes itself with statements like this. They further marginalize themselves by being a single-issue organization (witness the tongue-lashing they are getting from their fellow libs at the Daily Kos over their endorsement of Linc Chaffee). I have to imagine the only people who think NARAL has a good strategy are the absolutists who use the term "anti-choice."

(BTW, "anti-choice" is a huge pet peeve of mine: Leaving aside the question of who is right and who is wrong, the only purpose of this epithet is to denigrate your opponent. Not helpful.)

At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Phil S said...

I agree the ad goes over the top, but Mehlman is hardly the one to talk smear tactics!!
I disagree with Micheal above regarding questioning Roberts' "judicial philosophy". We should ask what his view is of the Contitution, and how it might be interpreted; however, we should not ask directly about his "politics"


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