Friday, July 22, 2005

Judging John Roberts

I'm going to go out on a limb here: John Roberts is a great candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. Ok, I guess that's not going very far out; the man has impeccable credentials, he's young, he has a compelling story, and he's both affable and serious. By all accounts, he is everything one would look for in a Supreme Court nominee.

I also think Bush made a brilliant strategic move in choosing him. His resume is impenetrable, he's respected among the conservative base as well as within moderate circles, he doesn't come off as being extreme, and I personally doubt he is as extreme as either Thomas or Scalia. Also, unlike those two opprobrius justices, he doesn't wear his politics (or his religion) on his sleave.

To be perfectly candid, I think he's a nominee Democrats can live with, especially considering that Clinton nominated and eventually swore in justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who are far more offensive to the right than Roberts may be to the left.

There's only one problem, though. He's a white male. On a court that already has seven white males.

So what? Conservatives will argue: Look at his credentials! He's qualified! Give him a fair up-or-down vote! There the lefties go trying to be "multicultural" and "PC"!

It's a common argument, and also a simplistic one. John Roberts is not the only person in this country qualified to be on the Supreme Court. Sure, he has a fantastic resume. But so do many other judges, lawyers, and lawmakers...who happen to be women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, et al, or some combination of the above. John Roberts does nothing to advance the Court forward. He's a step back.

Look at the facts: Approximately 51 percent of U.S. citizens are women. Minority populations, particularly Hispanics, are booming, and many are advancing in their educational status. Women outnumber men in the nation's law schools. And yet, assuming John Roberts' nomination to the court, 88 percent of those deciding cases on issues that matter most to Americans are men. Just 11 percent - all in Clarence Thomas' hands - are non-white.

Despite its sometimes nativist tendencies, this is a country that by and large celebrates its diversity. We like to consider ourselves something of a melting pot, though I understand that definition has somewhat passed its prime. The executive and legislative branches are already dominated by white men, but with the judicial branch, particularly the Supreme Court, our executive is offered the choice of what it looks like. So why is it so hard to make it look like the rest of the United States?


dogpark said...

Pied-Piper-A quick request would you be able draw a direct correlation between Judging John Roberts and the hit TV show Judging Amy?

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I would submit to you part of why Roberts was nominated, i.e. a white male, was that he would less difficult in getting democrats to sign on than an equally conservative hispanic.

PiedPiper said...

But that's one of the Republican Party's favorite tactics...using race as a wedge against Democrats. Quite honestly, before this whole Rove fiasco started grabbing front-page headlines, I think Alberto Gonzales would have stood an excellent chance of being approved by Senate Democrats. His participation in the WH torture memo would have been a stickler, as it should be, but he would have had the votes. Now, though, it sounds like the WH was concerned about his ties to the Rove scandal (can we call it a scandal, yet?). I don't know...I just think they are other candidates out there that could have achieved Bush's nominee agenda, made the Court more representative of the American public, and palatable to Senators in both parties. Is it a fine line to walk? Certainly. But that's why it's such an important decision.

PiedPiper said...

And, yes, I did have the television show Judging Amy in mind when I titled this post.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Andy, I don't know if using race as a wedge is one of their favorite tactics. They don't seem to do it very successfully if so. Democrats however do. It is obvious that Miguel Estrada had been groomed over for the first nomination but one of the steps along the way, the appointment to the 1st district court, was filibustered. There was virtually no distinction in terms of experience and qualifications between Estrada and Roberts. In fact Estrada had been in Clinton's Solicitor General's office. They were nominated for the same court in 2001. Eventually Estrada withdrew his nomination. But internal memos between Ted Kennedy and Charles Schumer did indicate that his being hispanic was of concern, even Schumer went so far as to say that he was not very representative of hispanics, ostensibly because he is conservative. And it is this bone that I would like to pick. It does seem that if you are black, hispanic, or even a woman, and you happen to be an adherent of the conservative movement that you are a race or gender traitor. Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas have been called uncle tom's repeatedly with no resulting censure coming from democrats. I would suggest it is the democrats that are equally guilty of using race as a wedge if not more so. As for Al Gonzalez, it is possible that Bush could have nominated him, but frankly, in spite of Reid's overtures I am skeptical of this notion that he would be readily confirmed. Once, confirmed, keep in mind, he would have to recuse himself for any number of cases. Frankly I am not sure where you have gotten the Rove-Gonzalez nexus. I still hold though that the MSM and especially the New York Times will be the ones that end up scarred by this scandal, not the white house.

PiedPiper said...

I am unaware of memos between Kenneday and Schumer discussing Estrada. Could you provide a link to enlighten me, Your Xtraness?

You make a good point about Democrats not vying for nominees if they are not representative of their group, whether that be race, religion, ethnicity, etc. That's why I personally wouldn't be opposed to conservative Hispanic nomination. The Democratic leadership, on the other hand...

As for the issue of race-baiting, is it the Democrats' responsibility to apologize for what some of their constituents think of Justice Thomas or Condi Rice? Or, in their case, is it the responsibility of the African-American community? Justice Thomas and Secretary Rice respresent their own personal ideologies, and yes, they are not in keeping with the majority view of other persons within their racial category. But how is that a problem for the Democrats to deal with?

To give you an example of how I perceive it working on the other side, George W. Bush won more African-American votes than he did in 2000, and way more than Dole did in 1996. One of the key wedge issues in 2004 was gay marriage. African-American ministers were quoted saying some very horrible things about the gay community, and the Kerry campaign's stance on it. And, of course, they weren't the only ones, and that wasn't the only issue. (See: Swift Boat Veterans)

I don't want to get into rehashing Election 2004, but the examples from it are the most ripe and most glaring. There was nary a peep from the Bush campaign about respecting the GLBT crowd, nor was their an apology for the shady links between the official campaign and the maliciously false rantings (and pathetic display of faux-patriotism) of the Swift Boaters.

What I can never really seem to grasp is how some Republicans can act so indignant at any perceived bias in the Democratic party and demand reparations, yet are rarely able to make apologies for despicable actions taken by people under their own umbrella.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

here is a link on some of the memos, they are from the committee staff to durbin:

Anonymous said...

Regarding using [blank] as a wedge and wedge issues: what is the meaning of "wedge" in each case? I'm confused.

PiedPiper said...

My own definition of a wedge (in politics, that is...the word has plenty of uses otherwise, such as wedge fries...mmm) is anything meant to splinter a particular constituency away from its party. For example, race and gender - or civil and equal rights, more particularly - are generally thought of as "Democrat" issues. Republicans often drive a wedge into those constiuencies by nominating or running candidates because they are women or minorities or women who are minorities. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are two very competent, intelligent, and highly regarded individuals. They are not, however, generally thought of as representative of their race (or in Condi's case, gender) because the racial and gender groups they "belong" to typically vote Democrat and side with Democrats on most issues.

Another example, is when the wedge used is not a person, but rather an issue. Take gay marriage. The Bush campaign used that issue to drive a wedge between Democrats and several of their regular constituencies.

The use of wedges - whether they are people or issues - is a common political tactic, and I'm not saying that they shouldn't be used, but they are all too often abused. Kerry's stance on gay marriage was not flip-flopped, nor was it unclear. It was misrepresented by the Bush campaign, often through the use of proxies at the local level. Bush/Cheney 2004 allowed others working with them to smear Kerry with that issue and conduct a fear-mongering campaign. But, again, I don't want to rehash the 2004 election.