Monday, July 25, 2005

Random Thoughts on the Roberts Nomination

I've been on the road a lot over the past week, and so I heard a lot of radio news reports during the time of the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court and the days afterwards. Listening to several different interviews with people who know Roberts (many of them self-described "liberals"), it became increasingly clear that there was a well-planned campaign with clear talking points for friends of Roberts. The agreed line is: he's exceptionally smart, nice, and fair. The strategic craftiness of the Bush Administration thus also became clear. They confused the media all day long beforehand with clever leaks focusing on someone else, then hit everyone unprepared with a white male insider. The Roberts supporters were much better prepared, and his potential opponents were left grasping for some way to dent a juggernaut of framing and conventional wisdom that had already become established.

Of course, I realize that the chances of defeating Roberts in the Senate are pretty hopeless. However, I still think it is worth it for Democrats to mount a fierce fight, as much as they can, by asking him as many questions as possible in an attempt to pin him down. My impression is that he is a pretty far-right guy with lots of elite business connections and some scary social issue and civil liberties positions as well. I am not convinced by the line that he is as good as we can expect from the Bush Administration. It is utterly predictable for this Administration that the first nomination would be quite conservative...they will only back down and nominate someone more reasonable/moderate under exceptional pressure, which looks unlikely. But I think it is worth a struggle at least. After all, this is a lifetime appointment to the Court.

For what it's worth, I heard an interesting theory from a conservative Republican friend of mine back in Nebraska...this friend has some pretty substantial connections and experience in the state party structure. He speculates that Bush may have nominated Roberts with the intention of making him Chief Justice when Rehnquist retires, which may not be too long from now. Vetting him so easily through the current process will make it a breeze for his later confirmation as Chief Justice, thus installing a young far right conservative for a very long time. It sounds like a plausible idea to me, and I fear my friend may be right about this...


MacDoug said...

The misdirection about the nominee was breathtakingly weaselish, wasn't it? And yet the nominee himself seems mild in comparison with my expectations. Perhaps this is what the administration wanted us to think - "Oh, he's not so bad, let him through." Personally, (as I was just saying to thirdpartydreamer, who is sitting to my right at the moment) I have to wonder if Roberts will turn out to drift toward the center like other "conservative" justices have done, much to the Right's chagrin.

You have to figure that he has a lot of life left to live, even if he becomes Chief (a frightening thought, thanks for planting that in my nightmares) he'll be surrounded by very bright, argumentative folks for the next 30-40 years. Any thinking person has to change their views a bit in that environment, no? Perhaps for the better?

What if Rehnquist is holding out until the end of the Bush administration? What if he's secretly hating on them and sticking it to them by hanging in there until there's a changing of the guard? Probably not true, but a nice fantasy to hold on to. Heck, he's only got cancer, he's not dead yet. :)

Tess said...

Jeremy, is this you? Are you in Germany yet?

I agree that Roberts isn't as bad as he might be, and I'm holding out hope that he drifts towards the center. Let's hope Rehnquist stays healthy.