Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cirque de Roberts

Tuning in and out of the Roberts confirmation hearings offered powerful insights into the state of American political discourse. Republicans offered bombastic, gushing congratulations for Roberts' nomination as chief justice and Democrats asked meaningless hypothetical questions, neither pursuing a course that offered much substance to the American people. Ted Kennedy was by far the most annoying or entertaining part of the circus (depending on your perspective), generously sacrificing his dignity, manners and limited intelligence for the sake of appearing tough on Roberts. From it all, I walked away with the opinion that Roberts is incredibly articulate and patient in the face of redundant, stupid questions and, if that's what it takes to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court, he's in.

Seriously, though, I couldn't help but wonder what point the hearings actually serve. The vote is divided along partisan lines and there is little mystery about who will vote in which way. Many of the senators who were supposed to question Roberts spent their 20 minutes on a soapbox delivering a campaign speech instead of engaging in an honest discourse into the philosophies of a man who could have a profound effect on America's future as a republic. Are the hearings supposed to be a demonstration of the democratic process in action or a pro forma show the Congress puts on for the public?

Regardless of the answer, the hearings felt more like a circus. Just like going to Barnum & Bailey's as a child or even Cirque du Soleil as an adult -- it's always entertaining at first but, after a little while, the antics get redundant and the clowns all start to look the same. Even the most wondrous stunts seem trite by the end.


At 10:00 AM, September 14, 2005 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

I think you're being overly cynical. I've been listening to the hearings nearly nonstop, and while I agree that there is a lot of b.s. going on, some of the exchanges have been illuminating. Roberts has answered more questions than I thought he would.

Still, I know that Roberts is a wolf in sheeps clothing. He's a clean-cut white boy whose kids wear knickers, but belief the friendly demeanor lies a heart of darkness. Some of the comments and memos he's made in the past are nothing short of 'poisonous.'

At 10:10 AM, September 14, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Do you have a link to or any examples of the "poisonous" stuff he has said? I know very little about him although he is the poster child of a partner in a big law firm.

My only thought about him is that when (not if) he gets confirmed for the court, he's going to be in over his head with only 2 years of experience as a judge.

At 12:09 PM, September 14, 2005 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

John Roberts Supports White South Africa:

John Roberts Against Women's Rights

Roberts is a typical white boy conservative. Not to be pejorative, he just is. They say he "worked in a factory" as a kid...his Dad owned it. From there on, he had family connections (and intellect, can't take that away) that got him up the ladder very quickly. He doesn't believe in anything out of the whitebread, cookie-cutter mold. That said, he at least seems to LISTEN to the other side, which Scalia and Thomas won't do. So it could've been worse.

At 3:07 PM, September 16, 2005 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I love everything you wrote in this post.

I love Roberts nomination.

The first article that bombsoverbaghdad gave was to the point that we should not support a marxist group. Had nothing to do with race, except for those that feel that everything is about race.

I think Roberts answered the charges in the other article with great clarity and wisdom.

Often in the Regan years he did a lot of "Devils Advocate" memos to provoke thought and he would represent others points of view.

He is the best person that anyone could have appointed. He will "call the balls and strikes" and not write new rules.

I love the fact that he believes in Strict Interpretation of the Constitution and not to read anything more into it that isn't there.


At 10:06 AM, September 19, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...


The definition of "strict interpretation" is subject to a milion interpretations. Roberts said during the hearings that he believes that the "liberty" reference in the Constitution implicitly includes the right of privacy. That doesn't seem like a very strict interpretation.

Also, the Constitution is a living document and, often, those who advocate a "strict" interpretation are unwittingly demanding a 1600's frame of reference for problems of the new millenium.

All that said, so many questions fall outside of what can be called "strict interpretation" that it is impossible to stay to the documents. As we were debating about the pledge of allegiance on Schooler's blog, it's how you frame the issue. The Constitution says nothing about marriage, so how to decide whether gays can marry. It on these precise issues that judges must be "activists". Marbury v. Madison made clear that it is the province of the judiciary to interpret the law. That cannot be passively done.

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