Sorry, I just couldn't resist The Rolling Stones reference.
I think Daily Kos has the right of it. All the newspapers and news magazines just fell all over themselves last week to write glowing reports that Justice John Roberts was not a rightwing ideologue. They were oh so careful to point out that while he was indeed a conservative, it was definitely a small "c" conservative out of the tradition of genteel "country club" conservatisim, served up with a generous helping of moderation, politeness, and civility. Right of center, with the emphasis definitely on center, at least as far as his temperament went.
The major national papers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, dragged out references from Robert's liberal colleagues at his current law firm to attest to his polite non-ideological manner. A host of liberal lawyers who knew him personally were apparently willing to vouch for the fact that although they knew he was "probably conservative, probably Republican," they actually didn't know what he thought because he was so reticent to impose his views on them, which they took to be a sign of Roberts' much vaunted temperate personality.
Look, that was in the workplace. Do you go around sticking your face into your colleagues' business and haranguing them on politics and religion in your workplace?
I certainly don't. And not because I don't have strong opinions (I mean I blog, for cripes sake, of course I have strong opinions). Sure, I might get involved in a political discussion around the water cooler, especially if it's at election time or if something is prominent in the newspaper and everybody else is talking about it. But I'm polite and I watch what I say and how I say it. It's the workplace, for heaven's sake.
So, yes a liberal lawyer could have worked alongside Roberts for years and not known the extent of Roberts' beliefs or just how much of a true beliver he was.
And it's emerging that he was quite a true believer in conservative circles. He was one of the Young Turks in the Reagan White House, often weighing in with more conservative opinions than the older members of the Administration. More conservative than even Theodore Olson - yikes!
And he also was pretty snarky at times. The recently released documents, which contain his legal opinions and writings, reveal a witty, sometimes cocky mind. He was young, self-confident, even arrogant at times.
Yes, he might appear more humble now. Growing up does that to you. Being alive a long time is a humbling experience that tends to moderate your views and mellow your personality.
Certainly two of the things living a long time teaches you is discretion and circumspection. It appears less likely, though, that John Roberts has modified his opinions or his ideology so much as he's learned to package himself better to the general public, including his liberal Washington, DC colleagues.
The early reports that he is a non-ideological conservative now look more like a Bush Administration "charm offensive," carefully calculated to disarm the public and press, as well as to hide just how truly rightwing Justice Roberts really is.
But with the release of his papers, the real John Roberts is out of the bag, just like the proverbial cat.
As both The Washington Post and The New York Times show, Roberts' views on a host of issues, including busing, civil rights, sex discrimination, affirmative action, presidential war powers, prayer in public schools, separation of church and state issues, First Amendment rights, and the power and role of the courts have showed him to be out of the mainstream and in support of views that are harmful to both individuals and our nation. His views, in short, would put this country on a backwards, reactionary and regressive trajectory that would make us lose years of real gains for women, blacks, workers, and those in minority religious faiths. His decisions would impact women struggling to have a workplace free of harassment; blacks striving for a fair deal in employment and educational opportunities; and Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and even liberal Christians who don't wish to have rightwing Christianist views pushed on them. It would affect the middle class at every turn as they too struggle to keep a decent standard of living.
I think, given this record, it would be a huge mistake for Democrats and liberal interest groups to allow Robert's confirmation hearings to boil down to simply a discussion of his views on Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. As important as the pro-choice position is to many liberals, I think they need to launch a more broad based opposition that demonstrates to the general public that this nomination is about more than just an abstract "culture war" which won't affect them personally. Rather, the public needs to be convinced that the Bush Administration's judicial nominations, like this one, are detrimental to their interests too.
Therefore, it's best for us not to focus on any one issue, but to show that across the board, Roberts has shown neither circumspection nor mainstream judgments on anything.
And while we're opposing his nomination, it would be good to also articulate what we would propose as an alternate vision. It's not enough to simply say what we don't like. Critics are right that focusing only on what we oppose, simply sounds negative and whining.
On the other hand, the hallmark of a charismatic leader is one who can come out with a stirring vision of what he or she would do differently. So Democrats, don't be afraid to propose an alternate vision of where we want to lead this country. And especially, don't be afraid to think and act boldly.
As I've said before, this isn't so much about defeating John Roberts' nomination as it is about setting out an alternative to the Republicans' vision so that voters truly have a choice next time. Let's face it, we don't have the votes to win. And I don't think we should try to fillibuster or do anything that might be perceived as obstructionist. I say, let's grill Roberts, make him express his true views and mount as much oppositional rhetoric as possible so that voters know what we stand for. And every Democrat should feel free to vote against Roberts' confirmation. But let it be an up or down vote. The point isn't to stop the nomination, it's to oppose it in a way that makes it clear to people what it is we're opposing and what it is we stand for instead of Roberts and Bush. Fight the good fight. The victory, at this point, is getting our vision across to voters.
Democrats, this is important. Please don't blow it this time.