Roberts Roast: Field guide to the inquisition

Politics | When Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter brings down the gavel on Sept. 6, as scheduled, he will commence hearings on the man nominated to be the 109th Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. Capitol police waffled on which hearing room would provide the best security for proceedings many anticipate will be a circus. Regardless of the venue, the names-and their games-will remain the same

Issue: "Katrina: Unnatural disaster," Sept. 10, 2005

The Hot Seat

John Roberts

The Handlers

Former Sen. Fred Thompson, now a D.A. on Law and Order, plays public chaperone, at the White House's request. Asked by a reporter, "What's the biggest pitfall you've advised John Roberts to avoid?" Thompson replied: "Oh . . . the press."

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Former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie, also a veteran of Capitol Hill confirmation wars, will coach and advise Roberts.


To conservatives it's a pedigree while to liberals the list of past employers reads like a resumé torn from a nightmare. Roberts clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and worked in the Reagan Justice Department. Then-deputy solicitor general (and former Whitewater prosecutor) Ken Starr says Roberts is "right down the middle of the fairway as a traditional conservative."

Party line

Republicans should line up behind Roberts. Look for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to be his most vehement defender at the dais, hiring an extra staff lawyer to prep for defense.

Sen. Ted Kennedy will fight and has returned to the ring this summer James Flug, a political operative with four decades as a Kennedy muscle man specializing in assault and smear campaigns. Besides helping to take down Robert Bork, Mr. Flug almost derailed the appointment of William Pryor in 2003 and helped destroy Mitt Romney's 1994 Senate campaign against Sen. Kennedy.

Look for ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to shovel red meat to his liberal base. Roberts' views are "among the most radical being offered," he said.

Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says he's "troubled" by the potential effects on the law of the nominee's deeply held Catholic faith.

Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is "troubled" by Roberts' abortion record. He voted against Roberts' 2003 appeals-court confirmation but last month pressured NARAL to pull an attack ad the senator said "grossly distorted" the Roberts record.

The Straddlers

Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted to confirm Roberts to the U.S. Circuit, but has made a career out of being unreliable.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) also voted to confirm in 2003 but remains undecided.

Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)-each voted for Roberts in 2003 but this time around: "I really don't know where I'm heading on this nomination," said Sen. Feingold.

Cheering Section

If Alliance for Justice invented borking, the Committee for Justice (CFJ) was born to fight it. It and the Judicial Confirmation Network will monitor, strategize, and counterattack Roberts' opponents.

Who says left-wing feminists speak for all females? Women for Roberts co-founder Linda Chavez worked with Roberts in the Reagan justice department and is no Anita Hill. "He doesn't have a sexist bone in his body," she said.

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) lead counsel Jay Sekulow has known Roberts for 17 years, advocating with him before the Supreme Court on several cases. Mr. Sekulow calls the nominee a "consistent conservative" who doesn't "legislate social policy from the bench."

What's not to like? say business boosters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business organization, last week endorsed him, as did the National Association of Manufacturers.

Family Research Council calls for "a fair hearing for this fair-minded judge." Focus on the Family will stay home. Said VP for Public Policy Tom Minnery, "It's cheaper for us to watch it on C-SPAN."

Rogues Gallery

Ralph Neas of People for the American Way: Think Fred Thompson in reverse, a judicial squabbles veteran, effective at pressuring Senate Democrats.

Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice: Where Neas cajoles, Aron moves in with a lethal weapon. Democrats should fear her vengeance if they support Roberts. Remember (former) Illinois Sen. Alan Dixon's defeat in the Democratic primary after supporting Clarence Thomas.

With attack ads sufficient to embarrass even Senate Democrats, NARAL accuses Roberts of "supporting . . . a convicted [abortion] clinic bomber." The ads were aired widely, criticized widely, and eventually pulled. What next?


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