WASHINGTON -- Having learned the lessons of the Bork fiasco, when Teddy Kennedy libeled Robert Bork on the floor of the Senate within minutes of Bork's nomination -- a speech that became the reference point for the entire nomination fight -- this White House put its new man out front first. The television tableau was perfect. President introduces attractive, boyish-looking, hornless judge to the nation, with wife in the wings and two adorable kids in tow. A John Edwards moment.
As impressive as the choreography are the president's ambitions. He remains committed to doing big things. The president who has set reforming Social Security as the centerpiece of his domestic policy and democratizing the entire Middle East as the centerpiece of his foreign policy was obviously interested in making history with his first Supreme Court appointment.
And there were two kinds of history available to him -- ethnic or ideological: nominating the first Hispanic, which is a history of sorts, or nominating a young judge who would move the court to the right for the next 25 years. Bush eschewed the more superficial option and went for the real thing.
Or so he thought. But did he?
John Roberts is obviously a brilliant lawyer with a history of attachment to conservative administrations. On constitutional matters, however, he is a tabula rasa. He's been an advocate advancing his clients' opinion and interests. That tells us little. And in just two years as a circuit court judge he's made no great, or even important, pronouncements. Nor does Roberts have significant speeches or law review articles to his name. If he has a judicial philosophy, we don't know it. Nor does he -- having told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003 ``I think I'd have to say that I don't have an overarching, uniform philosophy."
In the absence of a record, there has been a search for scraps, such as a five-paragraph dissent on the case of the arroyo toad. It's a federalism case in which Roberts dissented from the opinion that the Endangered Species Act allows the federal government to prohibit a developer from putting up a fence that would impede the movements of said toad.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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