‘NYT’ and ‘Wash Post’ Split on Roberts for Court

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By: E&P Staff

In lead editorials this morning, The New York Times and The Washington Post took conflicting stands on the nomination of John G. Roberts as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court.

The Post, urging a ?large bipartisan vote? in his favor, appears convinced of his ?commitment to restrain and impartiality.? The Times, on the other hand, urged a no vote saying it still knew far too little about his views.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and many other Knight Ridder papers, often critical of the president, also offered support. They declared: “Roberts, a conservative who views the role of federal judges as very limited, wouldn’t be most Democrats’ first choice for the job. But President Bush won the election; he gets to make these nominations.
And a week’s worth of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms that Bush has chosen well.”

From The New York Times editorial:

?John Roberts failed to live up to the worst fears of his critics in his confirmation hearings last week. But in many important areas where senators wanted to be reassured that he would be a careful guardian of Americans’ rights, he refused to give any solid indication of his legal approach. That makes it difficult to decide whether he should be confirmed. Weighing the pluses and minuses and the many, many unanswered questions, and considering some of the alternatives, a responsible senator might still conclude that he warrants approval. But the unknowns about Mr. Roberts’s views remain troubling, especially since he is being nominated not merely to the Supreme Court, but to be chief justice. That position is too important to entrust to an enigma, which is what Mr. Roberts remains?.

?If he is confirmed, we think there is a chance Mr. Roberts could be a superb chief justice. But it is a risk. We might be reluctant to roll the dice even for a nomination for associate justice, but for a nomination for a chief justice – particularly one who could serve 30 or more years – the stakes are simply too high. Senators should vote against Mr. Roberts not because they know he does not have the qualities to be an excellent chief justice, but because he has not met the very heavy burden of proving that he does.?

From The Washington Post:

?John G. Roberts 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.

?This is not to say we expect that as chief justice, Judge Roberts will always rule as we would like. Reading the tea leaves of any justice’s future votes is a dicey business. But on a number of important issues, Judge Roberts seems likely to take positions that we will not support. His backing of presidential powers, and willingness to limit civil liberties, appear worrisomely large, while his deference to congressional authority relative to the states may be too small. He appears more suspicious of affirmative action than we think the court should be, and his view of certain civil rights protections has been narrow. Given his comments about precedent and the right to privacy, we do not believe a Chief Justice Roberts will be eager to overturn federal abortion rights. But we recognize that he might end up supporting that unfortunate step, as the late chief justice William H. Rehnquist did unsuccessfully. These are all risks, but they are risks the public incurred in reelecting President Bush.

?Judge Roberts represents the best nominee liberals can reasonably expect from a conservative president ?.?

Post columnist E.J. Dionne came out against Roberts today, but David Broder roundly backed him, with these words: “The question of whether Judge John Roberts is qualified to be chief justice of the United States has been rendered moot by his performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. He is so obviously — ridiculously — well-equipped to lead government’s third branch that it is hard to imagine how any Democrats can justify a vote against his confirmation.”

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