Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Justice?

Here's what Kathleen's friend Rana's friend Phil has to say about Bush's nomination for the supreme court. I don't think I could say it like this at all, but I sure wish I could. I mean, who uses 'augurs' and 'wignut' without the least hint of irony? Not too shabby.

Based on my experience, I find him a very conservative, results-oriented judge who happens to be able enough to disguise his basically results-driven approach. By that I mean that he has strong biases and he will work very hard to manufacture a result that accords with those biases, albeit within the bounds of basic reason. That is, he is no Priscilla Owen, who will perform the vilest and most perverted unnatural acts on precedents and legislative enactments in order to get where she wants. Roberts tends not to go too far out on a limb to get to his preferred result.

What this augurs for Roberts as a Supreme is that I think he will be a pretty reliable vote for the Scalia-Thomas-Rehnquist* bloc. Given his solid Repugnican creds -- White House counsel's office under Reagan, "political" deputy Solicitor General in the Bush I Justice Department, etc. - the likelihood of him turning Souter- or even Kennedy-ish is pretty damn slim. But I wouldn't be surprised if he occasionally departed from the wolf pack here and there. I figure him as more interested in the "federalism revolution" -- that is, the devolution toward the Articles of Confederation -- than the hot-button wingnut social issues, but that doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't vote with the Gang of Three on, say, Roe. But he could surprise.

Meanwhile, here's hoping that the increasingly nutty vitriol that Scalia is spilling in his recent opinions (or, rather, the Wall Street Journal Op-Eds he publishes in the Supreme Court Reports) continue to alienate Kennedy so much that that he inches further leftward.

*Rehnquist is clearly opting for death-at-desk, so I think we can probably count on him being in on at least the first cases in October.

Aside from that, all the hype about his intellectual firepower is pretty well warranted. As a judge, I've found him to be smart, tough, and extremely well prepared. He gets right at the heart of the issues with incisive questions. That is to say, he is more Scalia than Thomas. This, of course, makes him more dangerous than a whacknut like J.R. Brown or Priscilla Prissy-Pants Owen.

While Brown and Owen would -- like Roberts -- be reliable conservative votes on various issues, those two are so crazy and thick that they would probably have little influence beyond their votes: A Brown or an Owens would write whacknut concurring opinions saying all sorts of crazy shit that would be very unlikely to garner other votes or be cogent enough to have influence in other ways (like, say, being picked up with any seriousness in the legal academy).

Politically, this was a shrewd move, not just as the opening fusillade in Operation Knock Rove Off the Headlines. I think that Democrats in the Senate would be well advised not to attempt to launch a major war against the nomination but rather should save their ammunition for other fights (like, say, recapturing the Senate in '06 while hoping that Rehnquist has the best doctors in the world). There is no way that Roberts is not going to be confirmed. To be sure, sometimes you should fight even if you think that confirmation is a sure bet, but he does not have the kind of crazy-ass record that would allow the Dems to score any political points that way. Quite the contrary. My advice to Dem Senators: Question him hard, show as much as you can where he stands, show where he's unwilling to commit, vote against him, and move on. The Rethugnicans who actually have to run for re-election are likely to pay a price for Bush's failure to replace O'Connor with a woman. If they smoke Roberts out on any major issues (which is unlikely in any event), his appointment may cost them moderate votes as well.

In the (let's hope) enduring words of Karl Rove, I've already said too much.

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