Give Roberts a chance. Supreme Court nominee qualified, clean

by Brian Clarey

An old adage states that, ‘“the Supreme Court is above politics.’” And while this may (or may not) be true when it comes to the day-to-day machinations of the highest court in the land, the statement clearly does not apply to the judicial nomination process, which by all reasonable accounts is an inherently political process.

Nominees are subject to scrutiny not only by the Senate, which has the power to reject candidates for any reason able to be enunciated, but also the media, who scour past files and documents for indications of the prospective jurists’ political leanings.

Rarely does a president select someone from outside his own political party; it’s happened only 14 times in American history. Even more rare, however, is an outright rejection by the Senate, something that has occurred only a dozen times (though nine have been forced to withdraw over the years and several others have been postponed).

This time around it’s John G. Roberts in the hot seat, and he’s Bush’s man in more ways than one. The president’s father nominated Roberts for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by in 1993 (though the appointment didn’t reach a vote before Clinton took the White House in 1993) and he eventually took the bench for that prestigious panel in 2003. In the heavily contested election of 2000, Roberts played a role in the Bush-Cheney campaign. He even served in the Reagan administration, a fact that has enormous cache among the current crop of Republicans.

And as alarming as his nomination is to the Democrats in the Senate, in the grand scheme of things it seems that everything is as it should be.

Of course Bush is trying to stack the deck, so to speak, but that’s pretty much the way it goes with Supreme Court nominations. In fact, it can be argued that choosing someone who conforms to the ideology of the administration is the president’s responsibility when it comes time to pick, as long as the person is qualified for the job.

And Roberts is no stranger to the Supreme Court ‘— he argued 39 cases before that judicial body and was a clerk for William Rehnquist in 1980 and 1981, after Roberts graduated from Harvard Law and before Rehnquist rose to Chief Justice.

So he’s got the creds, and unless the Senate Dems or reporters can dig up the shady stock deal or lurid sexual scandal for which they are undoubtedly looking, the man will most likely be the next Supreme Court Justice. And that’s okay ‘— Bush is well within his powers as president to put one of his own on the bench.

But left-leaning citizens can take heart in the fact that, after the hullabaloo of the nomination process, much of the politics will be drained from the situation and when Roberts dons his robe, he will probably feel compelled to follow his own ideological compass, much like justices Earl Warren, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens, all of whom were considered Republicans at the time of their appointments and all of whom drifted considerably to the left as their tenures matured.