Friday, July 22, 2005

SCOTUS Watch: Who is John Roberts? The Republicans know, but don't want to tell the country 

I love a charade!

I always felt that Bush calling in all those Senators for their "advice" on selecting Sandra "Swing Vote on Bush v. Gore" O'Connor's replacement was a charade, just because talking to anyone but lackeys and true believers from the base is the kind of thing Bush so obviously hates to do. (Exhibit A: Social Security "barnstorming" tour.)

But now I don't just feel it; I know it. The Times actually has a reporter willing to rise from his knees, look around, and do a little reporting. And efore we issue 50-year-old "blank slate" John Roberts a free pass to a lifetime appointment on the court, we might want to examine what the Republicans have been doing to make straight the way for him:

For at least a year before the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court, the White House was working behind the scenes to shore up support for him among its social conservative allies, quietly reassuring them that he was a good bet for their side in cases about abortion, same-sex marriage and public support for religion.

So much for "consultation," eh? The Roberts campaign is (yet another) example of a well-planned informational warfare campaign executed by the Bush White House—the current spate of hagiography being a typical component of such campaigns (as we know from the run-up to the Iraq war).

But with a series of personal testimonials about Judge Roberts, his legal work, his Roman Catholic faith, and his wife's public opposition to abortion, two well-connected Christian conservative lawyers - Leonard Leo, chairman of Catholic outreach for the Republican Party, and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of an evangelical Protestant legal center founded by Pat Robertson - gradually won over most social conservatives to nearly unanimous support, even convincing them that the lack of a paper trail was an asset that made Judge Roberts harder to attack.

So, Roberts is a stealth nominee. Surprise!

Mr. Leo said he told wary social conservatives that even though Judge Roberts had not ruled on abortion or other issues his other opinions showed "a respect for the text and original meaning and a presumption of deference to the political branches of government."

For example, Mr. Leo told allies, Judge Roberts had supported the administration's argument that executive privilege protected Vice President Dick Cheney's meetings about energy policy...
(via NY Times)

Ah! Roberts is sound on the Cheney task force! Thank God. For a moment, I thought that ordinary, unsanctified citizens might be able to take a look at the decision-making processes of the Godly! (I hate to think what "deference" is a synonum for...)

But wait! There's more:

Supporters of Judge Roberts bolstered their case with the opinions of two leading legal thinkers in the movement to oppose abortion rights: Prof. Robert George of Princeton University and Prof. Hadley Arkes of Amherst.

At a dinner with friends after Judge Roberts's appeals court confirmation, Professor Arkes said, he had suggested that nominees questioned about Roe v. Wade should turn the tables to put the senators on the defensive, asking them whether they understood the implications of the ruling. "He didn't rule it out, but he didn't think the hearings could be turned into that kind of seminar," Professor Arkes said.

[Akers] had presumed they both believed [Roe] should be overturned, Professor Arkes said, because they were with friends who shared that view. But he said Judge Roberts never said so explicitly. "He is a very, very careful guy."

Yes, this has all the handwriting of a Rovian disinformational warfare operation:

1. The press "catapulting the propaganda" (all that hagiography)

2. The candidate's mysterious antecedents (no paper trail, "no recollection" (huh?) of being a member of the Federalist Society (back)

3. Discreet Republican operative ("very careful," no doubt, in the "private advice" he gave Jebbie in Florida 2000 as well (back)

And most revealing of all:

4. The winger dogs aren't barking in the night. That means they think they're going to get what they want (i.e., someone who's even loonier and has less regard for the Constitution than Albert "Torture Memo" Gonzales).

So, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! There's no reason to ask Roberts any questions (since it's those pesky questions that eliminate the "fog of war" in disinformation campaigns). That, at least, is what the Republicans are counselling:

On his second day of making courtesy calls to key senators, Roberts generally received warm receptions, especially from Republicans who spent more time advising him how to handle his upcoming Judiciary Committee hearings than probing his judicial philosophy. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), citing court nominees who won unanimous confirmation, said he told Roberts: "It seems like the less they say to the committee, the better off they are."

Good advice, Charles! Of course, Grassley's a winger, so he's part of the base, and already "in the know." Over the past year, he'll have been briefed, so he can emit his disinformation at the proper place and time.

But shouldn't the two-thirds of the country that isn't part of the base be given the opportunity to find out who Roberts really is?

Say, by asking questions?

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