As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Ultimate Stealth Conservative

The public rhetoric on John Roberts during his confirmation, even among his critics, was that he was well-qualified and brilliant, and that the President should be commended for the choice. Some commentators even twisted themselves into knots trying to allege that Roberts was some sort of moderate. But Jeffrey Toobin, who would know, delivers the reality:

Roberts’s hard-edged performance at oral argument offers more than just a rhetorical contrast to the rendering of himself that he presented at his confirmation hearing. “Judges are like umpires,” Roberts said at the time. “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” His jurisprudence as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by “modesty and humility.” After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

And honestly, this was preordained. Parties can filibuster on lower-profile issues, but succeeding in a filibuster against a Supreme Court Justice is a difficult scenario absent some major controversy. Roberts is a slave to corporate interests and a movement conservative, but George Bush won the election and those were the consequences. Now Barack Obama has a chance to remake the Court, and his critics are pre-screening the pick by warning him not to choose a doctrinaire liberal. Once again, IOKIYAR.

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