Manners and Morons
Sheesh, all I knew about John Roberts was that everyone says he has lovely manners -- and already I was prepared to be against him. Knee-jerk liberal? No, congratulations to the White House, Sen. John Cornyn, Fred Thompson and everyone else involved in "managing" Roberts' confirmation process. Can't these people do anything without being devious about it?
My first reaction to Roberts was: "Sounds like that's about as good as we can get. Quick, affirm him before they nominate Bork, Bolton or Pinochet." A conservative with good manners and no known nutball decisions or statements on his record? Hey, take him. At least he's not (whew!) a member of the Federalist Society.
No such luck. Cornyn, who I would have sworn is not this stupid, apparently signed off on having the nominee "forget" he was a member of the Federalist Society, and Roberts obliged, which is strange considering his reputation for brilliance and a spectacular memory.
Turns out the guy is listed in the society's 1997-98 "Leadership Directory" as a member of its steering committee in Washington. How many steering committees have you been on that you've forgotten about?
The reason that matters is that the Federalist Society is the alpha-primo ultraconservative legal group in the whole country. Since we have only two years worth of Roberts' decisions on the bench (in itself unheard of for nominations to the Supremes), the information about how this society plans to steer the country can be very revealing of his positions.
So Roberts already looks disingenuous at best, and then the White House up and decides it's entirely too risky to let the public in on his record as a government lawyer and refuses to release documents requested.
Excuuuuuse me, that is public record. Roberts worked for us, he was paid by the taxpayers, this is not a matter of national security. Where does this White House get off pulling this kind of stuff? Right away, it looks like they're trying to cover something up. Lawyer-client privilege? Are they nuts? Everyone's first reaction is, so what's he guilty of?
As Jay Leno notes, this is an important job -- these are the people who pick the president. Of course we're entitled to know what the man's public record is.
So, now all we know about John Roberts is that he has nice manners and is being managed by a bunch of morons -- and he's willing to say what they spin for him. Then we start getting the record. He's defended the often violent Operation Rescue. He went to Florida to advise Jeb Bush during the 2000 election recount. Other Federalists, Timothy Flanigan (who's now in confirmation hearings for deputy attorney general) and Ted Olson (who became solicitor general of the United States) signed onto the brief to convince the Supremes to stop the count in Florida and install Bush. It's all classic, right-wing judicial activism -- the very "activism" they complain bitterly about if it doesn't fit their radical agenda.
Restrict the right of courts to end school segregation, slow down on enforcing laws against discrimination, divest lower courts of jurisdiction over school prayer cases, go easy on Title IX for women and so on. All that was when Roberts was a junior White House lawyer and the records were opened during the Clinton administration. The records from his time as assistant solicitor general during Bush I are what they're trying to keep under wraps.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page (the People Who Don't Read Their Own Paper) tried to describe the Federalist Society as an anodyne debating society. No, it is not -- it is a radical right organization, which explains why the White House made calls to national media to deny that Roberts was a member.
Jerome Shestack, president of the American Bar Association in 1998, said, "So much of the society's leadership consists of active politicians and others whose slouching toward extremism is self-proclaimed."
The society is funded by millions of dollars from right-wing and libertarian foundations. It attempts to influence legal education and works with right-wing legal advocacy and litigation organizations.
Alfred Ross, of the Institute of Democracy Studies, explains that "through its own 15 practice groups, the society is busy developing new legal theories for every area of American jurisprudence, from civil rights law to national security law, international law, securities regulations law and so on. And if one goes through the publications of their practice groups, one can only gasp not only at the breadth of their agenda, but the extremism of their ideology."
The society has argued for the abolition of the Securities and Exchange Commission, severely limiting the Environmental Protection Agency, and rolling back gender equity laws (Title IX) and voting rights law. Its publications have criticized teaching evolution and attacked the principle of separation of church and state.
According to Ross, they recently launched a state judicial selection project to try to dominate the state, as well as federal, bench. This is all standard, ultra-right-wing claptrap. It's all about control.
If we can't shake loose the actual records on John Roberts, we certainly should pay attention to the group he's most identified with.