The quiet man

News & Politics

Turns out John Roberts is a man of a few, well-chosen words -- as in chosen to deliberately shield his politics from the public eye. Howard Kurtz is surprisingly tough on the judicial stud in today's Washington Post: "As you plow through the blizzard of memos he wrote as a government lawyer, you get the sense of a man who is more conservative, more combative and more sarcastic than he has been portrayed in these walk-on-water profiles."

Kurtz then goes on provide a series of instances when Roberts carefully disguised his ideological motivations in public.

As the New York Times noted: "Responding to a letter from the American Jewish Committee in 1981, he asked a supervisor, 'Is this draft response O.K. - i.e., does it succeed in saying nothing at all?'" ...
As The Washington Post pointed out, he advised then-AG William French Smith in 1982 on how to tell Coretta Scott King that Justice was axing a $250K grant for what he called the "very poorly run" MLK Center in Atlanta. JR's advice: Just tell Mrs. King " 'there is simply no money available for additional funding,' and 'indicate support for the activities of the King Center, and even pleasure that the Justice Department was able to be of assistance in advancing' its goals." ...
The Boston Globe examined Roberts's "deeply skeptical review of a report outlining the need for affirmative action" by an outgoing Carter aide. "'The logic of the report is perfectly circular: the evidence of structural discrimination consists of disparate results, so it is only cured when 'correct' results are achieved through affirmative action quotas." What's more, wrote Roberts, "the affirmative action program required the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."
Did Roberts suggest making this potentially explosive argument in public? No way. He wrote Smith: "I have drafted an innocuous reply to [the civil rights commission chairman]. The report is attached, although I do not recommend reading it." [LINK via Daily Kos]
Ah, mendacity in the service of politics. Judge Roberts was truly every inch a Bush man long before the president picked him for the job. Maybe Joe Biden should stop being so impressed with his decency and intelligence.

Postscript: Steve Hill, a reader, just sent me this great comment on Roberts:

WHAT PASSES FOR SHREWD: A conservative friend praised Bush’s nomination of John Roberts for Supreme Court Justice as a "shrewd move." Roberts has the looks, affability, generic name and judicial background of your average mid-market television anchor. Amazing what passes for "shrewd" these days. Then again, it’s also amazing what passes for "president" these days.

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