Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Is Bush hoodwinking pro-lifers?

The accolades from the social conservatives this morning for Bush's nomination of John G. Roberts, Jr. are deafening.
"There's no question that President Bush is a promise keeper," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which is marshaling support among evangelicals for Bush's judicial nominees.

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, described Roberts, who has served for two years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as an "all-star" on key social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

"Conservatives who supported George W. Bush have no reason to be disappointed," Sheldon said. "He has more than fulfilled his pledge."
Yet what is the foundation for all this enthusiasm?

It seems that both activist sides on the abortion debate are basing their judgments on one piece of evidence: Roberts' role as Deputy Solicitor General in the G.H.W. Bush administration and its 1991 brief in the Rust v. Sullivan case in which Poppy Bush now famously argued:
We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.
What social conservatives don't seem so much interested in is the fact that Roberts was the sixth author of said brief and didn't even argue the case before the Supreme Court. Roberts, in his capacity as Deputy Solicitor General, had the obligation of advancing his client's interests to the best of his ability. There seems no reason to assume that this comment represents Roberts' personal beliefs.

Roberts has been more candid about his personal beliefs concerning Roe. During his 2003 confirmation hearings to the D.C. Circuit, Roberts said
The statement in the brief was my position as an advocate for a client . . . Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. . . . There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.
Interesting how that quote isn't making the rounds, either among pro-lifers or the NARAL set.

Perhaps we need to move to the level of code language. Roberts is being praised by social conservatives for his commitment to "judicial restraint". That being said, in light of Roberts comments regarding Roe as the "settled law of the land," a commitment to judicial restraint would suggest being supportive of Roe. In this light, consider the comments today of Sean Rushton, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice:
Roberts "rules based on the application of existing laws and specific facts of the cases before him, rather than making new laws or creating new policies based on personal opinion."
Again, this doesn't sound hostile to Roe.

What else do conservative pro-lifers have to support their glee? The New York Times reports that Roberts and his wife are "devout Catholics". It's hard to find anybody else noticing or commenting on this fact, including pro-lifers.

My sense from reading social conservative commentary today and last night is that [1] they trust Bush and want to believe and support him; [2] they are reading a lot into the 1991 Rust brief; and [3] they are up to their necks in oppositional interest group politics which says 'if NARAL is against him, then we're for him!'.

There seems no doubt that Roberts will give capital everything it asks for and then some. But why social conservatives are absolutely convinced that Roberts is not another Souter is unclear to me.


At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a foolish question. Bush wanted a tough minded conservative and that is exactly what he has. Conservatives are not fools. They know who Roberts is, and they will easily get him on confirmed. The Supreme Court will be more conservative. Duh.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Gen. Glut said...


Not a helpful comment. Is Roberts "pro-life"? -- that's the issue at hand. I already said that Roberts was capital's water boy. Being "conservative" in a broad sense is not under dispute.

Gen'l Glut

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous peBird said...


So if he turns out to be pro-life, you would support his nomination?

At 9:07 PM, Blogger calmo said...

Anything but Plame is good news. Time to pile on whatever the decision and support the President's mighty leadership which seems to have suffered a little popular support lately.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Elaine Supkis said...

Opus Dei.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Gen. Glut said...


Roberts looks quite bad for labor. That being said, in my view we could also have done a lot worse, e.g. Alito, especially Brown (a true nut) and even Clement. Bush nominated Roberts out of weakness, not strength.

I wouldn't vote to confirm Roberts. That being said, he is going to the Supreme Court. I just hope the Dems in the Senate highlight his record as a corporate shill far more than what they are doing now -- putting all their efforts into screaming about Roe.

Gen'l Glut

At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Mandos said...

However, in the feminist blogosphere, there's the opposite complaint: how easy some of the famous male bloggers and democratic leadership are willing to give in when Roe itself is at stake, and how Roe is central to women's rights.

At 1:49 AM, Anonymous Mandos said...

And by the way I wrote a post about this one on my own blog.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger calmo said...

Thankyou mandos. There are only a few views here that need untwisting and to point out that women are disserviced by this nomination helps.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous peBird said...


I think all the right-wing accolades about someone who is more or less a cipher is a circle-the-wagons tactic by the administration. I hope the Dems can make a couple of points: 1) corporate lawyer type, 2) this legalistic french fry case decision shows an anti-libertarianism edge - gives power to governments to harass people. If the judiciary can't make some common sense decisions, then the conservative "Constitutionality" argument shows a small crack.

I agree that harping on Roe is not going to help (either in the public arena nor in slowing down a nomination) - but it's going to happen anyway.

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I suspect that even religious conservatives are motivated mainly by anti-tax fervor and racism, and that issues like abortion are just window-dressing that gives them an issue through which they can present themselves to the public as morally superior, and prevents them from seeing themselves as motivated primarily by covetousness.

Of course, it is only human nature to begin at some point to believe the lies one tells about oneself.

Thus they might be happy to welcome Roberts, believing they care about abortion, and believing he cares too.

Nancy Irving

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