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.Yet what is the foundation for all this enthusiasm?
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."
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  they trust Bush and want to believe and support him;  they are reading a lot into the 1991 Rust brief; and  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.