Monday, August 1, 2005

Roberts Rules of Order

The Washington Post has been digging through the files of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts and it turns out that he’s a conservative. Gee, ya think?

He wrote vigorous defenses, for example, of the [Reagan] administration’s version of a voting rights bill, opposed by Congress, that would have narrowed the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He challenged arguments by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in favor of busing and affirmative action. He described a Supreme Court decision broadening the rights of individuals to sue states for civil rights violations as causing “damage” to administration policies, and he urged that legislation be drafted to reverse it. And he wrote a memo arguing that it was constitutionally acceptable for Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its ability to hear broad classes of civil rights cases.


Colleagues say Roberts, then a recent Harvard Law School graduate and clerk to Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist, was an ideologically close fit with the other special assistants to [Attorny General William French] Smith and his top appointees. The special assistants were mostly white males in their twenties who ate lunch almost daily with Smith in his private dining room and then worked late into the night to advance the administration’s views.

“We were there to reverse course from the policies of the Carter administration, certainly,” said Charles J. Cooper, who worked closely with Roberts while serving as a special assistant and later as deputy to the assistant attorney general for civil rights. “Everybody was there with similar goals and intentions.”

What comes to mind in reading this article is that old brickbat “limousine liberals.” The right wing used to throw that label at people like Teddy Kennedy — the rich liberals who made such a big deal about poor people, yet sent their kids to private schools, summered in Nantucket, and only cared about minorities when they couldn’t find a good housekeeper. They had no real contact with them, and the only reason they passed things like the Voting Rights Act was so that they could get them to vote for them. Ironically, it appears that the young conservative lawyers of the class that John Roberts comes from are of the same ilk: they have no real connection with the world outside of their own circle and they see nothing wrong with molding the world to their vision of Brooks Brothers and Charles Emerson Winchester III. After all, it is the rich who make the rules. Unfortunately, it’s that kind of thinking that kept unequal treatment of minorities and women a part of our society for too long a time.