It looks as if all the interests groups and nattering nabobs outside the White House have conspired to make placing his first U.S. Supreme Court nominee on the bench easy for President Bush. The Left certainly has done its part.
For five years, Senate Democrats on the far Left have hurled invectives at hot-button conservatives — especially female and minority judges. They’ve only got so much mud left — and they can’t afford to waste it.
Nonetheless, they will hurl more at Bush nominee John G. Roberts Jr. and waste it. It’s the only play they know.
Moveon.org quickly dismissed Judge Roberts as a “right-wing lawyer and corporate lobbyist” who should not be confirmed. That’s the best that they can do: Attack Judge Roberts for being conservative and having worked for a D.C. law firm.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal was reduced to complaining she is “dismayed” Mr. Bush nominated a man and demanding the Senate not confirm Judge Roberts unless he promises not to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Push that line, and the White House can push back. Abortion rights advocates want more than support for Roe — they want a pledge to find that the U.S. Constitution reserves the right for 15-year-olds to get abortions behind their parents’ backs. Not much support for that.
Senate moderates cinched the Roberts nomination in May. That’s when the so-called Gang of 14 — seven Republican and seven Democratic senators — announced they would not go along with judicial filibusters. They promised to engage in this stalling tactic — that prevents a full vote — only under “extraordinary circumstances.”
Translation: They will vote for a solid conservative who is not overly ideological.
And here he is. The Legal Times’ Stuart Taylor described Judge Roberts as “a good bet to be the kind of judge we should all want to have — all of us, that is, who are looking less for congenial ideologues than for professionals committed to impartial application of the law. If the Senate buries Roberts — again — it would be an outrage.”
Mr. Taylor wrote those words in 2002, when Judge Roberts was a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Senate did bury Judge Roberts by preventing a Senate vote, just as they buried him earlier after former President George H.W. Bush nominated him in 1992. In 2003, when President George W. Bush renominated Judge Roberts, the Senate confirmed him unanimously.
If not one Democrat objected to Judge Roberts two years ago, how can the Democrats filibuster now?
Conservative groups had threatened to walk away from Mr. Bush if they didn’t get a conservative judge. If Mr. Bush won’t battle for them, they argued, he wasn’t worth electing.
Mr. Bush was clever: He gave the Right a conservative, but — barring unexpected news — the activists won’t get their battle. Judge Roberts is known more for his brains than his ideas.
The right-leaning Progress for America has pledged “an initial $18 million to combat dishonest attacks on Judge Roberts.” But it’s not clear this pricey campaign is even necessary.
No fight. No fun. So flashy conservative Ann Coulter complained Mr. Bush picked “a Rorschach blot” and a “Souter in Roberts’ clothing.” The more the far Right complains he might be a centrist, the better Judge Roberts looks.
Besides, the more accurate description would be: He is a jurist who knows how to write laws from a conservative angle without using loaded language. I read what I thought might be Judge Roberts’ most controversial decision: It upheld government actions in a public-relations disaster of a case. As Judge Roberts wrote, authorities handcuffed, searched and detained a 12-year-old girl “all for eating a single french fry on the [Washington] Metro.”
Because Metro police cited adults but detained children, the girl’s family sued, citing unequal treatment. Judge Roberts wisely noted the Constitution discriminates by age — it lists minimum ages for members of Congress and president — and added that while there is reason to object to discrimination based on old age, “The concern that the state does not treat adults like children surely does not prevent it from treating children like children.” “No one is happy about the events that led to this litigation,” Judge Roberts began the opinion. But the law was constitutional.
For months now, news shows and opinion writers have been mishandling the next-nominee story. There was the scoop that Chief Justice William Rehnquist will resign. No, he’s staying. (And why not? His brain is sharp, and his will is strong.) It turns out Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was retiring.
Then, pundits were sure Mr. Bush would pick a Latino. He didn’t. Next, President Bush will pick a woman. Laura Bush is pressuring him to do so. (As if.) And he didn’t.
Tuesday, the scoop was Mr. Bush will pick Edith Brown Clement. Oops. Wrong. No, he’ll pick Edith Jones. Oops. Wrong again.
John G. Roberts is the real nominee. Mr. Bush looks brilliant for picking a conservative nominee who already passed through the Senate without a “no” vote. What Mr. Bush did was so obvious — picking a popular conservative — that everyone missed it.
Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.