Thursday, July 21, 2005
Civility, and Silence 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Pres. George W. Bush and Supreme Court nominee John RobertsThis morning, the Trib's screechy headline read "Nomination Vexes Women, Liberals": an irritating, if succinct way to describe the predicted frustration felt by many at John Roberts' SCOTUS nomination. Frankly, I'm less vexed by Roberts' nomination - I'm entirely un-surprised - than by President Bush's unctuous call for "civility" (read: silencing of dissenting opinion) during the confirmation process. When a speaker uses a keyword like "civility" two or three (or was it four, counting "civil"?) times in a short speech, you know there's some serious spinning underway.

Of course, all these calls for a smooth, unruffled "pass" for John Roberts' confirmation hearken back to the failed 1987 nomination of Robert Bork - one of the few SCOTUS nominee rejections in decades. I wasn't observing the details of political news quite so closely back in my teens, but I remember feeling a profound sense of relief at his non-confirmation.

Ed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has an excellent, timely post today, at first glance a point-for-point response to another blogger's reaction to Ed's "Robert Bork and the Martyr Myth" posting from July 11th. However, it's crucial to reexamine the two-decades old Bork affair today, as Roberts faces his own Supreme Court confirmation. Why? Because Judge Robert Bork's views, unpleasant and antithetical as they were to fundamental American civil liberties, were in plain view. Roberts', for better or worse, are generally not.

Ed writes:
They [Supreme Court nominees] are asking to be given a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court where their decisions will have more of an impact on our lives and our liberty than virtually any other body in the world. Our liberty is in their hands and they have an obligation to tell us what they intend to do with it before we give that power to them. I don't want to hear that the nominee is kind, decent, trustworthy, thrifty and brave. I want to hear what they would do with their almost unbridled power to interpret the Constitution because that document is the backbone of American liberty. [keep reading]
Bork wrote openly and widely about his beliefs, and did not veil his intentions behind a polished veneer of "civility" and the All-American success story. Unlike Bork, Roberts is a relatively young jurist, and one with little precedent history with which the Senate may judge his future actions. Roberts is, in essence, a "black box" Supreme.

If anything, the Senate needs to probe, prod, question and grill this nominee even more than Robert Bork - because this judge of relatively unknown public quantity stands to influence all American's lives - all our lives - for potentially two full generations.

Bork was not a martyr on the liberal altar; the Senate did what they were supposed to do in 1987. I agree with Ed: the Senators did not reject Bork on a whim, but rather, after a long and contentious partisan ideological scuffle, had the cautious forethought to vet (and wisely reject) a pernicious Supreme Court candidate before giving him or her a lifetime key to the ultimate check in our "checks and balances," the final bulwark of the Constitutional rule of law.

It's about informed consent: confirming a Supreme Court justice is akin to our nation getting a tattoo. They can be removed, but only at great pain and expense - so usually you're stuck with them until death do you part.

We, the People, only know Roberts by the company he keeps and the organizations that support him. That said, I honestly can't say I feel even moderately comfortable with a Supreme Court nominee that has Operation Rescue's enthusiastic support:
President George W. Bush has chosen John G. Roberts to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor to the US Supreme Court. Operation Rescue supports this selection. Roberts has shown strong conservative credentials with indications that he will not uphold Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that decriminalized abortion. Roberts coauthored a 1990 legal brief that stated, “The court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion … finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution.” “A culture of life can never be built as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the land,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
I don't believe for a moment that Roberts will be "Borked" in 2005 America. But we should look closely, very closely, at the direction of the Supreme Court's new "swing vote." If what is meant by "civility" is in actuality "silence," then to Hades with "civility." Senators on both sides of the aisle, please look closely under the hood and kick the tires - then check the exhaust emissions. After all, whoever's in that garage is in for life.

[MORE: Slightly off topic, but if you're looking to read some thoroughly odd stuff have a peek at http://www.tldm.org/news6/homosexuality13.htm, a website where a self-proclaimed prophet/Robert Bork fan club member from Bayside, New York quotes the (mainly anti-gay) revelations Jesus and Mary (and the Saints, oh my!) personally gave her between 1968 to 1995. For emphasis, these "new teachings of Jesus and Mary" are interspersed with Robert Bork quotes and photos.]