Thursday, July 21, 2005

Roberts: the next Souter...or the next Clarence Thomas

Conservatives are circulating not unreasonable fears that John Roberts will prove to be the next David Souter.

The counter-argument from Beldar is that Roberts is more likely the next Clarence Thomas. The key point is that Souter was an unknown in Washington with only John Sununu to vouch for him. By contrast Roberts--like Clarence Thomas--has a long track record of work for the Reagan Administration and within DC conservative legal circles. If he is not a true-Reagan-blue conservative, then he's been fooling a lot of people for a long time.

A further contrast was that Souter was a confirmed New England batchelor---Roberts is married to the former executive director of Feminists for Life. If Roberts has an opportunity to reverse Roe v. Wade and doesn't take it, he might come home to find that all the locks on the house have been changed....

Nonetheless, the point raised by conservative worry-warts is reasonable--this guy is not on-the-record to reverse Roe v. Wade.

It means nothing that Roberts wrote briefs arguing for the repeal of Roe v. Wade when he worked for Republican administrations. He was arguing on behalf of his client, the United States of America. Roberts has specifically disassociated himself from those cases, dropping a footnote to a 1994 law review article that said:

"In the interest of full disclosure, the author would like to point out that as Deputy Solicitor General for a portion of the 1992-'93 term, he was involved in many of the cases discussed below. In the interest of even fuller disclosure, he would also like to point out that his views as a commentator on those cases do not necessarily reflect his views as an advocate for his former client, the United States."


This is very shrewd politics for someone hoping to be a future Supreme Court Justice--by not affirming outright that he believes his briefs for Reagan Justice Department, he leaves a loophole for liberals; by not denying outright that he believes his briefs (and it's hard to imagine that he doesn't personally believe most of it or he wouldn't have worked there in the first place), he leaves a loophole for conservatives.

The end result is: Vague rhetoric about strict construction is not good enough: GOP presidential candidates should be asked point-blank to commit to choosing justices who will reverse Roe v. Wade.

McCain--the GOP's most famous moderate--has been willing to do that. Voters in Iowa, NH, and elsewhere need to press GOP presidential hopefuls to do the same.

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