Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Confirm John Roberts

I'm sitting here watching today's confirmation hearing for John Roberts to be the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. My conclusion, after watching several hours of the testimony over the last couple of days, is that John Roberts is the best nominee we can hope for from our current Commander-in-Chimp. Barring some major unforeseen catastrophe in his remaining testimony, it is my view that he should be confirmed by the Senate.

We don't know whether or not John Roberts would have voted with or against the majority had he been on the Court in 1973 to decide Roe v. Wade. However, I am satisfied that John Roberts has appropriate respect for the value of precent (stare decisis) in our judicial system. In a few cases — Plessy v. Ferguson, Bowers v. Hardwick, and, soon, I would hope, Kelo v. New London — it is necessary and proper for the Supreme Court to reverse a standing precedent. However, those cases are the exception, even if the judges now sitting on the Court might have voted differently on the previous case. When the Supreme Court decides a case, that decision should be firm and solid unless that decision is so flawed as to be completely unworkable. That principle is — as Judge Roberts affirmed in his confirmation hearing — allows the people to rely on the settled understanding. The Court must always tread carefully in reconsidering any decision on which people rely in making substantive decisions about their lives.

George W. Bush on his best day is a far worse, stupider, crazier, more psychotic President than Ronald Reagan on his worst, but John Roberts is no Robert Bork. I opposed Robert Bork, and I remain glad to this day that he is not on the Court. He is undoubtedly not the person I would nominate, but I do believe that the Senate should vote to confirm John Roberts. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one on TV, but I know enough about the law to follow the questions in the Roberts hearing. Even without pubic hairs on Coke cans, this hearing was riveting television. No, I'm not kidding. I would like to add, though, that while there were some annoying moments, I felt that the Senators conducted themselves quite professionally, with intellectual rigorousness and sincere devotion to their patriotic duty. In that assessment, I include Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, but also Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch and Lindsay Graham. The only exception, to my knowledge, is Tom Coburn, whose performance in the hearing was a disgrace to the Senate, to the Republican Party, to the Constitution, and to the State of Oklahoma.

John Roberts is not a deranged ideologue inhabiting a completely different reality from the rest of us — in other words, he is neither a Robert Bork nor a George W. Bush — he is a thoughtful, careful jurist. In fact, my view of both George W. Bush and the people who actually run the government is moderated by watching John Roberts in action.

Of course, all that C–SPAN (tape-delayed replay of the part I missed live this afternoon) means that I now have both a Daily Show and a Nightline to go back to. (Is it any wonder that I love Sarah Vowell?) In the mean time, sign me up as the charter member of Genderqueer Gay San Francisco Progressive Democrats for John Roberts.