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Everybody Loves John (Sorry Sam)

Whose confirmation hearing is this anyway?
 
 
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I know there are complaints but, nerds that we are, my three-year-old daughter and I have been loving listening to the Senate Judiciary Committee talk about new Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. Oh, we know (at least I do) that it's Samuel J. Alito's turn now and that these are his hearings, but everyone seems to be just pining for the good old days when Roberts was before the Committee.

These are just some of the choice tidbits from Day 1, when Roberts was mentioned 37 times, at least once by each Senator. [All quotes from Washington Post transcripts]:

Senator Leahy: "As the Roberts hearings showed -- for Chief Justice John Roberts -- there will be real questions asked, I would hope."

Senator Specter: "The preliminary indications are from Chief Justice Roberts' performance on the court and his Judiciary Committee testimony on modesty, stability and not jolting the system, all suggest that he will not move the court in a different direction."

Senator Hatch: "As Chief Justice Roberts described it when he was before this committee last fall, judges are not politicians. "

Senator Grassley: Like Chief Justice Roberts, it appears that Judge Alito tries to act like an umpire, calling the balls and strikes, rather than advocating a particular outcome.

Senator Kyl: "Like Chief Justice Roberts, you served in the Solicitor General's Office representing our government before the Supreme Court."

Senator Grassley: "I like Judge Roberts' phrase of modesty. I believe that is your philosophy also."

Senator Dewine: "In my opinion, Chief Justice Roberts put it best during his recent confirmation hearings."

Senator Feingold: "As with the hearing on the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts, I approach this proceeding with an open mind."

Senator Conryn: "We know that 22 senators, including five on this committee, voted against Chief Justice Roberts' confirmation just a few short months ago."

Senator Brownback: "As I stated at Justice Roberts' hearing, the court's injected itself into many of the political debates of our day."

Senator Coburn: "I asked Chief Justice Roberts about this definition of life -- you know, what is life? "

Even the press can't quite get over John. Most of the reports from the hearings mention him in the first few paragraphs. Dahlia Lithwick's report from Day 2, is a good example:

There are, it seems, better and worse ways to game your Supreme Court confirmation hearings. John Roberts charmed his way through the proceedings.

As Michael Scherer, points out, there are plenty of similarities between the two Bush nominees. Both came from middle-class families and went to Ivy League schools. Both got their jobs during the Reagan era by being ardently conservative on civil rights, abortion. Both seem unconcerned about abuses of executive power. So why didn't the groups that are lobbying hard against Alito make the same case against Roberts. A big reason was that Roberts didn't have a paper trail to point to but the biggest reason, I'm afraid, is the one thing progressive and conservative groups can agree on about these hearings: Roberts wins the popularity contest, hands down.

The best the conservaties can do is to try to convince us, that Alito is just like Roberts, minus the charm, the good hairstyle, and the humor. Unfortunately, they're right.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.