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Posted by on Jul 24, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

John Roberts Continues To Wow ‘Em


If Supreme Court nominee John Roberts was a submitted movie script, he’d be in production by now. And if he opens his mailbox on Monday, it’ll probably be crammed with Valentines….

Every day a new tidbit comes in where he wins praise from quarters where you’d either least expect it or expect a cautious sounding statement. This time highly enthusiastic praise — coupled with info about how he’s perceived by many Democratic lawyers — comes from NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg on Meet the Press:

MS. TOTENBERG: He’s the most–he is the most prepared person I think I’ve almost ever seen before the Supreme Court.

MR. RUSSERT: You’ve interviewed him.

MS. TOTENBERG: I’ve interviewed him lots and lots of times, and he’s been very generous with his time with reporters when he’s got a case in front of the Supreme Court. And you come in, he does an interview. He knows everything about a case. He has literally gone out to the place where he is defending, whatever, and walk the property, for example, if necessary. He’s that kind of person.

MR. GREGORY: The other thing, Tim, I think is interesting is that the White House has sort of set this up from the very start. Remember, even before a nominee was selected, they liked this Ginsburg model, somebody who is clearly ideologically liberal, but certainly qualified. That’s what they want for Judge Roberts, as well. They want to dare Democrats to make this a fight about ideology, and they can say, “Hey, that’s fundamentally unfair. You got yours, we want ours.”

MS. TOTENBERG: Well, and John Roberts has most–you name every establishment Democratic lawyer in town, they know John Roberts, and they adore John Roberts, and they will go to bat for John Roberts.

Several things come across here. One is that Roberts has figured out what a lot of empty-headed politicos and lawyers who’ve read too many blogs (we have to say) haven’t. And that is: if you respond to the press, sit down with a reporter and respond to him/her and cooperate, you will gain the reporter’s respect. This doesn’t make a public figure immune from a negative story, but it means their perspective is understood. And if they are a decent human being, they will get the benefit of the doubt. It also cuts down on being stereotyped.

Secondly, if what Totenberg says is true, Democratic lawyers respect Roberts because of his legal knowledge and the way he deals with them.

So this means apart from future rulings — which clearly are important to people on the right and left (and middle) — Roberts isn’t an angry sounding jurist, or one who seems resentful of elected officials, Democrats, liberals. He simply may not agree with them — and perhaps in the long run not agree with them on many issues that are passionately important to them.

But it would seem his selection and his very demeanor has (for now) broken the political brinksmanship both parties seemed to be falling into with the political controversies that turned 2005 in year with politics at the boiling point.

This raises a slew of speculative scenarios:

  • When (and it most certainly will be when and not “if” over the next few years) the Supreme Court Justice slot opens up, with Bush opt for Roberts? There had been all kinds of speculation several months ago that he’d go for Clarence Thomas (who is much more controversial).
  • Does selecting Roberts mean GWB is going to be free to pick his friend and employee Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to be on the court? For instance: if Roberts becomes Supreme Court Chief Justice. (Not that we think Bush bothered to read Anita Hill…)
  • Will Roberts’ appointment mean social conservatives are going to clamor for someone who takes a harder line and has a far more ideological reputation for the next S.C. opening? Or will this essentially placate them, giving Bush a freer hand (if Bush indeeds wants someone like Gonzales)?
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