Bush Stonewalls, Demands Rubber Stamp on Roberts Nomination

7-29-05, 9:15 am

After revelations that Judge John Roberts misrepresented his membership and role in the extremely conservative, judicially activist Federalist Society, the White House continues to withhold key documents related to his ideological views on overturning key legal principles considered settled by most Americans. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has the legal responsibility for examining nominees to the federal courts, have asked the White House and Roberts to release documents authored by the nominee when he worked in the first Bush administration as deputy solicitor general. In that position Roberts worked under Kenneth Starr, who known primarily for his later role in spending hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars to bring President Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadillos before the American public.

Commenting on the failure of the White House to release the documents, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said earlier this week that the White House is releasing a handful of already publicly available documents written by Roberts in order to hide the fact that critical documents from his tenure in the Reagan and Bush I administrations are being withheld.

The purpose of withholding key documents is to not only hide Roberts’ views but also limit the time Senators have to examine the record. And contrary to claims by the White House and right-wing pundits that such requests are extraordinary, the Senate has followed this procedure many times before.

And while a limited number of Roberts’ papers are already available, the White House is slow-rolling release of the overwhelming majority of the documents so there will be insufficient time for Senators to assess the papers before Roberts’ confirmation hearings.

According to People for the American Way, Roberts was a key figure in the Bush campaign in 2000. His performance earned him a nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003. In an administration that openly punishes its enemies and critics (even when they are in the administration and the Republican Party), such rapid advancement would not have occurred without sharing the ideological agenda of those whom he worked with and for. Roberts, says a PFAW statement, was also a top political and legal strategist under Reagan and Bush I during contentious debates in the 1980s and 1990s over voting rights, affirmative action, reproductive choice, school desegregation the separation of church and state, environmental protection and discrimination in federally funded education programs against women, minorities, people with disabilities, and older Americans.

On the subject of women’s reproductive rights, Roberts’ views won him ringing endorsements from anti-choice organizations. 'Roberts has shown strong conservative credentials with indications he will not uphold Roe v. Wade.' said Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, which Roberts’ had defended in an amicus brief in a lawsuit that appeared before the Supreme Court.

Roberts argued, against the eventual position of the Court, that the anti-choice organization had the right to harass women entering women’s clinics known to provide abortions, among other medical procedures. Roberts is 'exactly the kind of judge I want to appear before when I bring my case to the Supreme Court,' says Joe Scheidler of Pro-Life Action League.

Memos and documents that have been released from Roberts’ work in the Reagan administration detail Roberts’ own thinking on these issues. It is well known that the Reagan administration fought to roll back individual privacy rights and freedoms, but Roberts’ own views were to the right of many conservatives in the administration.

According to a report in the New York Times, Roberts’ work in the Reagan administration argued for stripping courts of their Constitutional responsibility to oversee and decide on issues such as de-segregation of schools, sex discrimination law, and other matters related to civil rights, privacy rights, and so on.

Now, as some memos show, Roberts intends to use the full power of the Courts to dismantle decades of Constitutional law and precedent that mandate against discrimination, protect privacy rights, and other matters enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

But even these documents do not tell the whole story and other key papers have yet to be made available. 'What are they trying to hide? John Roberts was at the epicenter of debates on the most critical civil rights issues of our times. Those documents could tell the Senate and the American people whether John Roberts will be a Supreme Court justice who will protect our most fundamental rights, or roll them back,' said Neas. 'The White House should release all the documents to the Senate and to the public as appropriate as quickly as possible.'

While stonewalling to hide Roberts’ full record, the White House is simultaneously pressing for confirmation hearings in August to push the Roberts nomination through with unprecedented speed.

'What’s the rush? What questions do they want to avoid? John Roberts lacks a public record on key constitutional issues, yet the most ideological members of the radical right are wildly enthusiastic about this nomination. What do they know that we don’t?' Neas asked. 'This is the highest court in the land. The American people deserve a painstaking and thorough examination of this nominee.'

Just because Bush was elected in 2004, and one must use that term loosely to account for massive election irregularities in Ohio, does not mean that the Senate should rubber stamp his nominations. Most Americans, even a large portion of those who voted for Bush, did not vote for him on his positions on abortion, civil rights, privacy, and other federal protections. Bush held these cards close to his vest while campaigning exclusively on the issue of his 'war on terrorism' – a failed policy one might add.

In addition to this, most Americans support keeping Roe v. Wade as it is, do not want to eliminate the separation of church and state, and rely on federal protections of civil rights. Appointing a judge who will counter the will of the majority is a typical Bush maneuver, but it isn’t a reflection of the people’s opinions.

Further, right-wing pundits insist that because Bush was re-elected and because his party holds power in the Senate, it means he should be able to have any of his appointees confirmed.

The real point of this line of reasoning advanced by seriously such vitamin-deprived right-wing pundits as Tucker Carlson, is that the American public has to accept the agenda of the Party in power (only when its Republican, of course).

Taking this line of thinking to its conclusion, however, might look like this: every four years, the public chooses between two options, red or blue. If blue wins, Democrats get to make all the decisions. If red wins, Republicans makes all the decisions. No debate. The right-wing pundits might call it an elective dictatorship.

But that is not how the system works, or is supposed to work. The Constitution was designed to check the power of any one group or party and any on ebranch of government. This means that the Senate’s Constitutional role is 'advise and consent,' not rubber stamp. It has the legal responsibility to scrutinize John Roberts and block his confirmation if Roberts fails to reflect mainstream values, isn't qualified, has the intention of hurting the Constitution, or fails to be forthright and forthcoming about his opinions.

This requirement seems to be something the right doesn’t understand. But of course, as even the thin Roberts’ record suggests, the right has a dramatically different view of the Constitution than the rest of the American public.

--Contact Leo Walsh at pa-letters@politicalaffairs.net.