Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
August 5, 2005
When George Bush nominated John Roberts to the High Court, Pat Robertson and other leaders of the counterrevolution said God had heard their prayers.
But there is a remote possibility that God is hard of hearing and that if confirmed, Roberts will not turn out to be God’s gift to the right.
One glimmer of hope is the role Roberts played, while at Hogan & Hartson, in the 1996 Romer v. Evans case. Roberts joined other members of the firm in giving pro bono legal advice to the plaintiffs, who ultimately succeeded in overturning a homophobic provision of the Colorado constitution that had denied civil rights protections to gays. Roberts was brought in specifically to prep the plaintiffs’ team in how to respond to the moderate and conservative justices.
This has gotten the right all apoplectic.
It’s “not welcome news to those of us who advocate for traditional values,” said James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who had initially praised the Roberts pick.
Actually, just about every voice on the right except the fire-breather Ann Coulter had hailed Roberts as a gift from on high.
But now Bush finds himself having to placate the right for Roberts’s lawyerly duties in this one case.
On our side of the fence, Roberts’s role in Romer is bolstering those who have been secretly sighing, “He could be worse.”
That’s kind of like saying you prefer Orrin Hatch to Jesse Helms, but the fingers-crossed crowd says this case shows Roberts can at least perceive the legal merits of gay rights.
I suppose that’s a plus.
Of course, some on our side held out hopes for Clarence Thomas, too, and look where that got us.
All in all, it’s hard for me to believe that Bush would pick someone who would not reliably advance his rightwing agenda.
Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, the three musketeers of ideological purity in the White House, personally vetted Roberts as far back as May 3, long before O’Connor’s resignation.
I imagine they made him walk on the hot coals, and they liked the way he danced.
This is a guy who was bounced on the knees of Ken Starr and Ted Olson.
He is hardly an unknown quantity.