Thursday, July 28, 2005

Roberts, Roberts, Roberts:
Catholics, Queers & Congress

Recusal revisited
It's been such a busy week for your blogstress that she's barely had time to blog. (Being an apparently self-loathing Catholic takes much more energy than one would imagine.)

In the meantime, all manner of fascinating pieces about Judge John Roberts, President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, have emerged. In the interest of fairness, you cybertrix begins with yesterday's New York Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick on the flap over Jonathan Turley's Los Angeles Times commentary about Roberts' reported response to a question from a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the nominee's religious conscience vis-a-vis the high court.

You'll recall Turley reported that, as noted in an earlier AddieStan post, the nominee told Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) that he would recuse himself from rendering decisions in cases in which correct intrepretation of the law contradicted the law of the Roman Catholic Church.

Parties to the actual discussion, Kirkpatrick reports, dispute Turley's account:

A spokesman for Mr. Durbin and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who spoke to Judge Roberts on Monday about the meeting, said Professor Turley's account of a recusal statement was inaccurate.

But in an interview last night, Professor Turley said Mr. Durbin himself had described the conversation to him on Sunday morning, including the statement about recusal.

Click here to read Kirkpatrick

Still making waves
The controversy over your Webwench's piece at The American Prospect Online, "Meet John Roberts", continues today, with an article by AP religion writer Richard Ostling on the attention given Judge Roberts' religion.

Speaking of which, your Ă©crivaine can't imagine how she missed this gem from the super-righty, hatchet-job rag, The American Spectator, wherein TAS executive editor George Neumayr quotes your blogstress's Prospect piece, making the case that support for abortion rights is, in and of itself, an attack on Catholicism:

"In choosing a Roman Catholic," [Stan writes,] "Bush is betting he's bought himself some insulation -- any opposition to Roberts, particularly because of his anti-abortion record, will likely be countered with accusations of anti-Catholicism. A timely pitch, one must say, to conservative Catholic voters prior to the midterm elections."

Let's hope she is right, and the Republicans repeat what they did
during the Pryor hearings and draw attention to the anti-Catholic test contained in the Democrats' criteria.

Click here to read Ostling

Click here to read Neumayr

Now, let's think about this
Two very thoughtful pieces on how the Dems might play the Roberts nominiation appear, respectively, at The American Prospect Online and in The New Yorker.

At the Prospect, Matt Yglesias urges Dems, filibuster or no filibuster (the latter being the most likely scenario), to vote their consciences. Sure, it will be a symbolic protest vote. But symbols convey meaning, and if there was ever a time for meaningful debate, it's now.

[B]arring some dramatic revelation, Democrats can't block [Roberts] anyway. They simply don't have the votes. In terms of influencing policy outcomes, this renders their behavior irrelevant. In terms of political framing, however, it opens up the opportunity for Democrats to simply state their beliefs -- that a Justice Roberts would have a negative impact on the country -- and vote "no."

In his "Comment" piece in The New Yorker, the incomparable Hendrik Hertzberg, with customary caution, appraises the Roberts confirmation as all but a done deal, but holds out the tiniest smidgeon of hope that the guy is not all that liberals and lefties fear:

Roberts’s confirmation will be a bitter pill for Democrats, but it is a pill they have known since last November that they would have to swallow. Their bitterness is deepened by the conviction that Bush won the 2004 election in spite of his domestic policies, including his likely judicial choices; he won it because he was the post-9/11 incumbent, and he was the post-9/11 incumbent because, in 2000, the Court whose members he now appoints appointed him. All the same, there is at least a possibility, however slim, that Roberts will surprise.

It would be wrong of your net-tĂȘte to reveal the second half of that paragraph here in the breakaway republic; a wry, gallows sort of humor pervades a very prescient observation. So, do, dear reader, turn your eye to this week's "Talk of the Town" for a bit of balm.

Click here to read Yglesias

Click here to read Hertzberg

A funny guy
One thing Roberts has to recommend him is an excellent sense of humor. Here, AP reporter Michael Blood writes about some of the judge's Reagan-era memos. This one made your blogstress laugh out loud:

In August 1983, he reviewed what he called a "snide letter" to Reagan from a University of Georgia professor who alleged that a government agency was compiling a blacklist and then suggested the government might investigate him for complaining.

In a memo to [White House counsel Fred] Fielding, Roberts added parenthetically, "Once you let the word out there's a blacklist, everybody wants to get on."

Anyone who has ever encountered an insufferably earnest but self-important ideologue will get the joke.

What's not funny, though, is that during the time at which Roberts rendered this ha-ha, the Reagan administration WAS doing some very underhanded things, like infiltrating anti-contra groups, and taking in-kind contributions from big PR firms in the guise of "public diplomacy" in support of those very same thugs (the contras, that is).

Click here to read Blood

And what about the queer folk?
In his brief tenure on the D.C. Circuit federal Court of Appeals, Judge Roberts has yet to have the opportunity to render a decision on anything bearing on gay rights. With his confirmation, he will likely have a nearly immediate opportunity to do so, with the case, Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) v. Rumsfeld.

As described in admirable detail by Jeffrey Toobin in this week's New Yorker, it's a case your blogstress finds troubling all around. A coalition of academic institutions is fighting a law known as the Solomon Amendment that prohibits the disbursement of federal funds to any educational institution that denies, in any way, military recruiters the right to pitch graduating students through the usual campus job-placement programs and job fairs. The institutions in question had barred recruitment by any employers that discriminate against gay people (a most excellent policy), a category into which the military notoriously falls.

What troubles your cybertrix is the coalition's First-Amendment basis for its argument. It seems to her that the academic institutions are not being denied their right to speech; they're simply paying a price for their stance. Your Webwench fears that if the good guys (the academics) were to win, the teeth could be yanked out of Title IX, the law that forbids federal funding to any educational institution that fails to provide equal facilities for men and women students.

Here's Toobin:

Most observers regard the legal arguments of both sides in fair as at least plausible, but most of the current Justices would probably want to defer to the needs of the military. Roberts’s history suggests that he would do the same; the concept of judicial restraint means a reluctance to invalidate the actions of the other branches of government.

The "other branch of government" referred to here is Congress; it passed the Solomon Amendment by a wide margin.

While your blogstress does not wish to see a gay rights victory come at the expense of female college students, neither does she find solace in the specter of a justice who bows to the executive and legislative branches, both of which have lately seized powers never intended for them.

Click here to read Toobin

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