Leahy, Roberts, and Irony
Today Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) announced he would vote to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, dashing expectations that Judiciary Committee Democrats would oppose the confirmation en masse, and lowering expectations of a big vote against Roberts in the full Senate.
While I was disappointed by Leahy's announcement (especially given its timing, which neutralized Harry Reid's decision to vote otherwise), I didn't find it terribly surprising. Leahy is Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. As such, he will be the particular object of a massive Republican propaganda campaign about "Democratic obstruction" when the next, crucial Bush Court nominee is sent up in a couple of weeks. I would guess that Leahy calculated he would be more effective in opposing a Justice Brown or Owens or Jones or Garza if he takes a dive on Roberts. But it's certainly ironic that Leahy, given his history and voting record, and even his home state, has wound up taking a position "to the right" not only of Harry Reid, but of people like, well, me, not to mention DLC president Bruce Reed, who came out against Roberts in his blog on Slate.
Maybe all those bloggers who keep saying the argument among Democrats is not about ideology, but about strategy, tactics and attitude, have a point, though when it comes to John Roberts, maybe not the point they expected. I suspect we will have much more unanimity when Bush makes his next Court appointment, under extreme pressure from the cultural conservatives he's asked to show faith in John Roberts.
On this last point, I was really struck by a recent National Review piece that supplies a devious, jesuitical interpretation of Roberts' testimony on the constitutional law of abortion. If the author is right, Roberts didn't simply evade his Senate inquisitors; he threw sand in their eyes. That is certainly what his advocates believe, and need to believe. Given Roberts' almost certain confirmation, I hope they are wrong, and that their support will someday be viewed as ironic.
But it ain't likely. --