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The Roberts Nomination - All The News That's Good

Reported by Ellen - July 22, 2005

Once again, there was a parade of guests on Hannity & Colmes to discuss the Roberts nomination for The Supreme Court. Once again, the range of views ran the gamut from "very smart" to "just a stellar candidate." There was absolutely no airing of any real criticism of or concern about Roberts. The only way a viewer might know that such a thing existed was from Hannity's repeated attacks on the left-wing for "demonizing" the nominee. Obviously, "Real Journalism Fair and Balanced FOX News" dismissed all the views of the left as cavalierly and with the same disregard as Hannity.

The first guest was Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Graham said Roberts is a judge of "great quality" and that the president "did a good job" in consulting.

Next was attorney David Boies, who argued the 2000 Florida recount case on behalf of Al Gore. I have always admired Boies but he also offered nothing but plaudits. In response to Alan Colmes' question about whether or not Roberts' role in the 2000 recount mattered in regard to his nomination, Boies said, "No, of course not." He went on to characterize Roberts as "very smart, judicious... follows the law... not an idealogue... very smart (again)."

He was followed by two former colleagues of the judge from 25 years ago. George Soule attended law school with Roberts (who graduated in 1979) and Robert Knauss clerked with Roberts in 1980. Their input was "an outstanding lawyer, an outstanding judge." "highly principled," able to separate his personal views from his job as justice, "just a remarkable talent... just a stellar candidate."

Alan Colmes made a number of good points including the fact that, even before running for Senate, Hillary Clinton was always considered relevant to any judgement about her husband, so why is Mrs. Roberts' politics off-limits? Colmes also asked Boies how the Senate would know whether or not Roberts would leave his partisan politics behind (as Boies said he was likely to do). Boies had to admit there was no way to know. And my favorite question was for the colleague who clerked with Roberts in 1980 and claims to still know him well. But when asked what the judge does in his spare time, Mr. Knauss fumbled over his answer.

But there are some troubling aspects of Roberts' record that deserve to be aired and considered. One of the most troubling is his recent ruling that allowed Bush to hold military tribunals instead of trials to prosecute enemy combatants. As reported in Counterpunch:

In a chilling decision, the judges ruled that the Commander's arbitrarily designated "enemies" are non-persons: neither the Geneva Conventions nor American military and domestic law apply to such garbage. Bush is now free to subject anyone he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted - a brutal sham that some top retired military officials have denounced as a "kangaroo court" that will be used by tyrants around the world to "hide their oppression under U.S. precedent."

Another concern is that the so-called strict constructionist characterization of Roberts doesn't necessarily mean he won't be a judicial activist. As mediamatters.org points out, "originalist" Clarence Thomas was the most likely judge to vote to strike down federal laws while Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer were the least likely to do so.

Such relentless cheerleading of the nominee was striking, even by FOX standards, and it made me suspicious that the Republicans have some qualms of their own about Roberts. My suspicions were confirmed by a report in The Raw Story which published a memo prepared by the staff of the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee. Raw Story reported that "while the tone remains muted, they also suggest the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee may be unimpressed by Roberts' position on abortion and on the environment, seeing his position as undefined in both areas." You'll probably never see that reported on FOX News, either.

Unfortunately, on Hannity & Colmes, it was all about the political drama and most of the discussion on "the issues" was reserved for DNA evidence in Aruba.

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