Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Roberts: Not a Stealth Hard-Liner

Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker profile of John Roberts is interesting, but bizarre in one key point. He is called "The Supreme Court's stealth hard-liner." Huh? Was there any question that he would be a right-wing ideologue?

Of course, Roberts said in his confirmation hearings that he would seek consensus and such. And since everyone says he's a nice guy, people took him at his word. Why on earth would you do that? Why didn't people look at, oh I don't know, the massive preponderance of evidence about Roberts from the beginning of his career in the Reagan administration until his confirmation hearings. Every since bit of that would show that he was a hard-liner.

The other interesting thing about Roberts, particularly in the context of the unintentionally hilarious right-wing arguments that Sotomayor is a racist, is that he actually clearly is a racist. Toobin emphasizes how much Roberts obsesses about race, looking to turn back any kind of attempts to level the playing field through the law. One might argue that in 2009, we have achieved some semblance of racial equality and such laws are not necessary. You'd be wrong, but rather than argue for that point, I would say go back and look at Roberts' record from the very beginning. Even in the early 80s, when key civil rights legislation has barely taken effect and when open racism is still the norm in much of the country, John Roberts was saying the same thing. I cannot accept any other position other than John Roberts is a racist.

Finally, Roberts has expressed a preference for authoritarian power throughout his career, particularly favoring the executive over the legislative. This seems to be a principle for him. But does anyone really question that when faced with laws created by a Democratic president that his supposed clear thinking about these issues will suddenly change to fit his political preferences? I don't.

All in all, I think a president should more or less get to name the Supreme Court justices they want, at least within reason. It's part of the job. But that anyone would believe anything Roberts said in his confirmation hearings, or for that matter, that anyone would believe anything anyone said in a confirmation hearing, is mindboggling.