Before becoming a judge, Thomas had spent 10 years on the editorial advisery board of the Lincoln Review, a black conservative publication that ran articles comparing abortion to murder. He had given a speech praising an article by Lewis Lehrman calling abortion a "holocaust" that should be outlawed without exception. (There were even rumors, never proven, that during his law studies Thomas had actually read the Constitution.)
That's the sort of nominee we were hoping for! This wasn't a paper trail; it was more like a paper superhighway.
Compare that to the principal evidence cited to prove Roberts' conservative bona fides: As a judge, he upheld the arrest of a girl for eating French fries on a subway even though he disagreed with the policy. Well, there's a hot-button issue! (And if he's so conservative, why didn't he call them "freedom fries"?)
Oh yes, and I quote: "He loves his children."
I gather that last boast is supposed to be some sort of signal about his position on abortion. (If he were pro-choice, they would have said, "He loves all of his children who survived gestation.") I don't give a rat's behind whether the guy is pro-life, whether his wife is pro-life, whether he used to be pro-life, whether he will become pro-life, etc. That tells us how he would vote as a state legislator. He isn't being nominated for state legislator.
The relevant question for a prospective justice, and it can be asked properly either by a president or a senator, is: "What, in your view, is the legal force of a Supreme Court opinion?" If Roberts believes that Supreme Court opinions are law of some kind, all is lost.
Now comes the news that Roberts says he respects "precedent" – which is another way of saying: We can count on Roberts to uphold the court's previous unconstitutional findings.
It doesn't help to have someone who thinks that, as an original matter, the Constitution says nothing about state abortion laws if he is then going to "balance" the law against "the integrity of the institution," "public confidence in our system of justice," "the need for stability and predictability," "the sweet mystery of life," blah blah blah. The problem with establishment types is precisely that they worry about everything except the law. Just get the law right and shut up.
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Greg Orman: Talking About Abortion "Prevents Us From Talking About Other Important Issues" | Kevin Glass