Tuesday, July 19, 2005

So who's it gonna be? (Oh, right, Roberts...)

All day long, it looked like Clement -- that is, Edith Brown Clement of the 5th Circuit Court. And then Luttig. Until just recently, I'd been sticking with Gonzales, as many of you know, but his candidacy lost much of its initial buzz as "the Laura factor" took over. But forget "the Laura factor," at least for now. In a few minutes, Bush will announce (on national TV, so as to enhance exposure and to move certain other stories out of the headlines) that John Roberts of the D.C. Circuit Court is his nominee to replace O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

It's a surprise, I must say. Among the non-Laura factor conservative candidates, I'd been leaning towards Luttig, and, to be honest, I'd more or less forgotten about Roberts. McConnell or Wilkinson, sure, but Roberts? Here's what Slate had to say about him:

Roberts has been floated as a nominee who could win widespread support in the Senate. Not so likely. He hasn't been on the bench long enough for his judicial opinions to provide much ammunition for liberal opposition groups. But his record as a lawyer for the Reagan and first Bush administrations and in private practice is down-the-line conservative on key contested fronts, including abortion, separation of church and state, and environmental protection.

And, indeed, his record is scary. From Slate's review:

Separation of Church and State: For Bush I, co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that public high-school graduation programs could include religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court disagreed by a vote of 5-4. (Lee v. Weisman, 1992)

Criminal Law: Joined a unanimous opinion ruling that a police officer who searched the trunk of a car without saying that he was looking for evidence of a crime (the standard for constitutionality) still conducted the search legally, because there was a reasonable basis to think contraband was in the trunk, regardless of whether the officer was thinking in those terms. (U.S. v. Brown, 2004)

Habeas Corpus: Joined a unanimous opinion denying the claim of a prisoner who argued that by tightening parole rules in the middle of his sentence, the government subjected him to an unconstitutional after-the-fact punishment. The panel reversed its decision after a Supreme Court ruling directly contradicted it. (Fletcher v. District of Columbia, 2004)

Abortion: For Bush I, successfully helped argue that doctors and clinics receiving federal funds may not talk to patients about abortion. (Rust v. Sullivan, 1991)

Great, eh?

Look, I was realistic. I wasn't pushing for a liberal or even moderate candidate. Even Gonzales, my pick, is only a "relative" moderate. And I likely would have been willing to accept someone like Luttig, or maybe even Clement. (See here for what I wrote at Daily Kos not too long ago.) It might be too early to judge Roberts, but he is, as Wolf Blitzer just said, "a rock-solid conservative". I'd call him a right-wing radical. Bush could have gone a number of different ways, but this one's clearly for the base.

Well done, Mr. President. You continue to be a divider, not a uniter. And it looks like your "legacy" is more important than your country.

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