Don’t Assume Roberts Is Another Souter Just Because He Doesn’t Have A Long Paper Trail

There is some concern out there among conservatives that John Roberts doesn’t have a long career on the bench. Ann Coulter for example says:

“So all we know about him for sure is that he can’t dance and he probably doesn’t know who Jay-Z is. Other than that, he is a blank slate. Tabula rasa. Big zippo. Nada. Oh, yeah…we also know he’s argued cases before the supreme court. big deal; so has Larry Flynt’s attorney.

But unfortunately, other than that, we don’t know much about John Roberts. Stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives. Never. Not ever.”

Daniel Flynn makes a similar argument:

“Republicans have tried the blank slate route before. That’s the Supreme Court pick whose opinions are unknown–perhaps even to himself. What did it get the GOP? David Souter, for one. President Bush has twice been elected president, and his party controls 55 Senate seats. If he really is a social conservative–let’s face it, this is all about Roe v. Wade–why should he operate from a position of weakness and nominate a consensus candidate? While Roberts is neither the consensus candidate nor 2005’s David Souter, his views on Roe v. Wade, at least, are unknown. Is a crapshoot the best conservatives can do?”

This is a totally reasonable concern. After all, out of the 7 Justices on the Supreme Court that Republican Presidents have chosen, there are 3 originalists, 2 swinging door moderates, and 2 liberals. That’s why it’s generally a good idea for a Republican President to select a judge with a long track record: because it lessens the chances that they’ll turn into another Souter or Kennedy.

Still, even though I publicly campaigned against Alberto Gonzales or Edith Clement getting on the court, I feel very comfortable with John Roberts as a selection — no, let me revise that, I feel very good about Bush taking John Roberts despite his limited time on the bench.

Keep in mind: Roberts is not some compromise choice, he was considered to be one of the most desired candidates all along by conservative court watchers. As a matter of fact, the general word on him pre-nomination was that not only would he make a fantastic justice, he’d be a great candidate to take over for Rehnquist when he eventually steps down as Chief Justice.

Moreover, Roberts does have a very solid conservative pedigree. He clerked for Rehnquist, he served in the Reagan Justice Department, worked with Ken Star, he’s a member of the The Federalist Society and his wife is the ex-Executive Vice President of Feminists for Life. There’s just nothing there that makes you think he’s going to turn out to be a squish like Kennedy or Souter.

Plus, we’re not talking about a judge who’s been writing opinions for two years out on the cowbell circuit in the middle of nowhere. Roberts has been moving around conservative legal circles in Washington since the eighties and as Rich Lowry wrote last night:

“Quick take from someone monitoring how it will play politically: “…It probably helps that he’s already been here in Washington, the way Scalia and Thomas were. He’s not going to ‘grow’ here.”

What it all boils down to is that there’s not going to be a way to get a nominee who’s going to swear in blood which way he’ll vote on every decision that comes down the pike. So in the end, we’re just going to have to wait and see how Roberts does. That being said, don’t get down on Roberts because he doesn’t have a track record as long as some other candidates, because a few Democrats have said nice things about him, or just because “somehow, Republican Presidents always seem to screw up their picks for the Supreme Court.” Remember, we wanted this guy, we’re going to get him, and it seems to be highly likely that even if he doesn’t turn out to be another Scalia or Thomas, he’ll at least be another Rehnquist, which is close enough and should suit conservatives just fine.

*** Update #1 ***: By the way, my personal take on Roberts is that he’s an originalist, a strict constructionist, and if he gets the opportunity, he will vote to abolish Roe v. Wade. So, I’m totally satisfied with the pick and look forward to having him on the Supreme Court…

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