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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Mr. (Justice?) Roberts

Well, after an extended campaign of indirection, George W. Bush tonight named D.C. Court of Appeals Judge John Roberts as his nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.It’s an interesting choice, politically and philosophically. Roberts obviously doesn’t get any diversity points, particularly since he would replace one of the two women on the Court. He’s not, by general assent, a crazy person; liberal legal analyst Jeffrey Rosen has categorized him as a “principled conservative,” free of “Constitution-in-Exile” hubris. But Rosen was evaluating him as a replacement for Rehnquist, not O’Connor; it’s likely Roberts would move the Court to the Right.On abortion, Roberts’ record is unclear. Yes, as Deputy Solicitor General under Bush 41, he wrote a brief in an abortion case that in passing referenced the administration’s support for reversing Roe v. Wade. But that was his job as a lawyer representing his client, and is not a reliable indicator of his position as a Supreme Court Justice. Conservatives tonight seem happy with the appointment, but Democrats should let things sift for a while before taking a definitive position. Without question, the confirmation hearings could produce some questions and answers that might either discomfit the Cultural Right or create legitimate concerns for everybody else.

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