Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Reid Says No to Roberts

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Minority leader, has announced that he will vote No on confirming Judge John Roberts as the next Chief Justice.

Explaining his decision on Judge Roberts, Mr. Reid said in his Senate speech that he simply had “too many unanswered questions” about the nominee, who he complained had refused to distance himself from seemingly callous writings while a lawyer for the Reagan administration, including a memorandum in which he used the term “illegal amigos” to refer to illegal immigrants.

“I’m not too sure,” Mr. Reid later told reporters, “if his heart is as big as his head.”

How much influence Mr. Reid will have over his fellow Democrats is unclear; he has said repeatedly that each senator is free to vote his conscience on the nomination, and several Democrats, including those on the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that they were still torn.

Despite the whirring fax machines of the RNC and the bullshit from Rush Limbaugh, Harry Reid is not a loony liberal. He’s pro-life and pro-gun, and while he comes across in his soundbites like a softy, he’s a pretty shrewd politician (if that’s a compliment…) His decision not to support the Roberts nomination, even though there’s no doubt that he will be confirmed, tells me that Senator Reid is letting the White House know that the next nominee — the one to fill the O’Connor vacancy — had better not be a right-winger unless they want a nasty fight, and even the righties are grumbling about Bush now; he hugged a Negro in New Orleans! Given Bush’s soft poll numbers, odds are that he will be pushed into choosing either a woman or someone from a minority group. Hmm, the blacks and women are taken and Bill Maher is sure that Roberts is gay, so that leaves the Hispanics; the only one Bush knows is Alberto Gonzalez, and he’s not conservative enough for some.

Reid’s announcement also gives cover to any Democrat who is thinking of higher office to vote against Roberts. If their leader is coming out against him, then, hey, who are they to defy their leader? (Teddy Kennedy is “thinking” about voting against Roberts, but so far not a peep out of Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

I’d say Reid’s announcement is less about how he’ll vote on John Roberts and more about who he wants to see as the next associate justice and about how tough that choice is going to be for the administration.