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September 8, 2005
Girding For Battle

Be sure to read John Hinderaker's excellent column in today's Daily Standard, "Preparing for World War III". When John and I debated the various possibilities for Bush to consider for Chief Justice, neither one of us contemplated the elevation of Roberts to the position. John notes that this changes the dynamic considerably, improving Roberts' confirmation chances to a near-lock while deferring a very ugly battle to the next nominee:

Substituting Roberts for O'Connor would have been a significant upgrade, from a conservative point of view. Replacing Rehnquist with Roberts, on the other hand, is good to the extent that it likely represents another 30 years of conservative service on the court, but it will not effect a short-term change in the balance of power. In that sense, the key appointment has always been O'Connor's successor. And for that appointment, Roberts had turned out to be an inspired choice. The Senate Democrats and their supporters badly wanted to block the rightward shift that would be implicit in the replacement of O'Connor with a conservative. But Roberts proved to be an immensely circumspect figure. In 50 years, he seems to have said or done almost nothing controversial, while nevertheless establishing his reputation as a solid conservative. In personal, professional, and ideological terms, Roberts appears bullet-proof, and Democrats had more or less resigned themselves to being unable to block his succession to O'Connor's prized "swing" seat.

Now, the Democrats have been granted a reprieve. They can let Roberts go through with only token opposition, knowing that the philosophical composition of the Court will not change significantly, and concentrate their fire on Bush's second nominee, who will fill the critical seat being vacated by Justice O'Connor. One question, from a conservative point of view, will be whether President Bush can find another nominee who is both as solidly conservative and as non-controversial as John Roberts. Unfortunately, it is not obvious that he can.

As I noted earlier, that calculation has already occurred in the media, which has significantly toned down its rhetoric on Roberts over the past few days. I suspect John has it correct and that Roberts will quickly get a pass, while the Democrats sharpen their knives for the conservative that will officially follow O'Connor's departure.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 8, 2005 7:24 AM

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» Roberts For Chief Justice from Secure Liberty
As I predicted from the very beginning, President Bush has nominated John Roberts for Chief Justice. I'm willing to guess that Roberts is the odds on favorite for Rehnquist's job of chief justice. It may be that President Bush anticipated two vacancies... [Read More]

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Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) are planning to link John Roberts, George W Bush's nominee for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to the suffering of those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Pat: Um,... [Read More]

Tracked on September 9, 2005 4:12 PM

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