Sep 162005

Well, I was prepared to give Roberts the benefit of the doubt, but his self-serving attitude about answering questions during his confirmation hearing make me issue a solid "thumbs down".

At one point, I heard him say that he’d been very forthcoming because he’d answered every question that was related to issues he did NOT expect to come before the court…well golly ghee whiz…I guess I’m supposed to think those are the really relevant and important ones. Sorry John, I think you owe us answers to your opinions on matters that will come before the damned court you are going to be running. Those just might have some importance.

Roberts repeatedly and emphatically refused to give answers to questions about his views on "specific cases." At one point Roberts said, "I do feel compelled to point out that I should not … agree or disagree with particular decisions. And I’m reluctant to do that. That’s one of the areas where I think prior nominees have drawn the line when it comes to, Do you agree with this case or do you agree with that case? And that’s something that I’m going to have to draw the line in the sand." Later, when it suited his purposes, Roberts gave his views on particular cases. Responding to question by Sen. Herb Kohl, Roberts said, "I agree with the Griswold court’s conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception and availability of that." On multiple occasions Roberts "said that he believed Brown against Board of Education was correctly decided." (At one point he called the decision "genius.") But Roberts refused to answer questions about Roe v. Wade and related cases, like Casey. Roberts claims that the distinction is that Roe and other cases are "live with business." As Sen. Arlen Specter noted, there have been 38 cases where Roe has been taken up and had its core holding upheld but Roberts considers that case "live" and off-limits. There is no principle. Roberts talked about cases when it was politically convenient; when it wasn’t he clammed up.

Roberts and his staunch supports continually make reference — either explicitly or implicitly — to the so-called "Ginsburg precedent" to justify Roberts’ refusal to answer questions that he decided were related to specific cases. Roberts said, "My understanding, based on reading the transcripts not just of Justice Ginsburg’s hearing, but of the hearings for every one of the justices on the court, is that that was her approach; that she would generally decline to comment on whether she viewed particular cases as correctly decided or not." His understanding is wrong. As Sen. Joe Biden pointed out, Justice Ginsburg "commented specifically on 27 cases." Roberts also refused to respond to specific legal issues that Ginsburg had written on and answered questions about.

The White House "has refused to give the Senate memos that Roberts wrote when he was deputy solicitor general for the president’s father, President George H.W. Bush, from 1989 to 1993." Roberts dismissed the Reagan-era documents the White House agreed to disclose as out-of-date. Responding to a sharp line of questioning by Sen. Kohl, Roberts said, "I certainly wouldn’t write everything today as I wrote it back then, but I don’t think any of us would do things or write things today as we did when we were 25 and had all the answers."

Again, I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt on these. After all, he was an "employee" but, I think we have a right to see them.

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