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After a strange campaign on its news pages against the nomination of John Roberts, the Washington Post editorial board issued a strong endorsement of his confirmation as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court today.
JOHN G. ROBERTS JR. should be confirmed as chief justice of the United States. He is overwhelmingly well-qualified, possesses an unusually keen legal mind and practices a collegiality of the type an effective chief justice must have. He shows every sign of commitment to restraint and impartiality. Nominees of comparable quality have, after rigorous hearings, been confirmed nearly unanimously. We hope Judge Roberts will similarly be approved by a large bipartisan vote.
Why did this come as such a surprise? Perhaps because of the history of the paper's coverage of John Roberts during most of the pre-hearing period. Instead of focusing on his record as a jurist, where he has written over fifty opinions in two years, they covered a wide range of questionable topics and out-of-context writings that had little to do with his ability to serve on the Court. Among them:
* Using his connections to the Federalist Society to paint him as a closet reactionary: "Through the years, the Federalist Society, which has a $5 million budget, has also received substantial financial backing from a network of foundations that has supported a diverse menu of conservative causes, including promoting school vouchers and investigating the personal life of former president Bill Clinton. These include the John M. Olin and Charles G. Koch foundations. Conservative activist Richard Mellon Scaife is also a major benefactor."
* The efforts of the Bush administration to vet potential Court candidates before the opening occurred, hinting that initial contact between Roberts and the administration was inappropriate: "[T]he White House did not previously disclose Cheney's role in questioning Roberts more than two months before he met Bush."
* Critiquing the way the Roberts family dressed their children for his announcement as the nominee: "In a time when most children are dressed in Gap Kids and retailers of similar price-point and modernity, the parents put young master Jack in an ensemble that calls to mind John F. "John-John" Kennedy Jr. Separate the child from the clothes, which do not acknowledge trends, popular culture or the passing of time. They are not classic; they are old-fashioned. These clothes are Old World, old money and a cut above the light-up/shoe-buying hoi polloi."
* Accusing Roberts of misogyny for opposing the intellectually bankrupt notion of "comparable worth": "Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called "the purported gender gap" and, at one point, questioning "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good." ... In internal memos, Roberts urged President Ronald Reagan to refrain from embracing any form of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment pending in Congress; he concluded that some state initiatives to curb workplace discrimination against women relied on legal tools that were "highly objectionable"; and he said that a controversial legal theory then in vogue -- of directing employers to pay women the same as men for jobs of "comparable worth" -- was "staggeringly pernicious" and "anti-capitalist." "
* John Roberts, Confederate-loving redneck: "A fastidious editor of other people's copy as well as his own, Roberts began with the words "Until about the time of the Civil War." Then, the Indiana native scratched out the words "Civil War" and replaced them with "War Between the States." ... While it is true that the Civil War is also known as the War Between the States, the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the term is used mainly by southerners."
* Taking a quote out of context to accuse him of calling the EEOC "un-American", when he was responding to that charge from a letter-writer: "We should ignore that assertion in any event," Roberts said, "as well as the assertion that the EEOC is 'un-American,' the truth of the matter notwithstanding. I have drafted a deliberately bland response for your signature." [The "truth" Roberts questioned was whether Reagan had promised to disband the EEOC during his campaign, not whether it was "un-American".]
Now after this string of embarrassing articles by its staff and the demolition of Democratic opposition during the televised hearings this week, the Post decides to endorse Roberts after all. Perhaps at some point in time, the Post can explain their endorsement in light of their almost-unrelenting attack journalism on Roberts, an especially personal attack that at times seemed coordinated with the NARAL and PFAW campaigns.
It's good to see the Post change their minds. Let's hope they learned a lesson this time that they can apply to the coverage of the next nominee. Eating one's own words makes for a bad diet for any newspaper.Sphere It View blog reactions
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