Joel Mowbray

It was around this time of year—during the dog days of the August recess—that a conservative Supreme Court nominee who had appeared destined for a relatively smooth confirmation suddenly found himself firmly in the Left’s crosshairs.  Democratic Congressmen and Senators, once back home with their constituents, went from relative neutrality on the President’s pick to outright hostility.

It was 14 years ago, and the nominee, of course, was Clarence Thomas.

White House aides and the network built for ensuring John Roberts’ confirmation to the high court are well aware of the sudden sucker-punch—and they know that the Left has a lot more money this time around to help history repeat itself. 

With tens of millions already raised long before Bush’s pick was announced, leftist organizations are almost certainly not going to let Roberts join the Supreme Court without at least a serious dose of partisan hazing.

After being caught flat-footed and then desperately searching for grounds on which to attack the nominee—including initiating a whisper campaign about Robert’s pro-life wife—the crowd now seems to be digging in for a bloody battle.  They most likely aren’t expecting a victory, nor should they.  The goal, however, would be to damage the President and lay the groundwork for an even more vicious fight on the next nomination.

Not to mention that the leftist groups have more than $20 million burning a hole in their pockets.

When the White House last week released papers related to Roberts’ work in the Reagan Justice Department, it didn’t take the left-wing attack machinery long to start grinding.  Theodore Shaw of the NAACP, speaking at a National Urban League convention, said that a mere two days’ worth of reviewing Roberts' Reagan-era tenure made him “deeply disturbed.”

Mainstream media outlets have coalesced around the conventional wisdom that the nominee will not encounter much resistance on his path to the Supreme Court.  That Roberts is coming under attack now, however, should not come as much of a surprise.

It’s not difficult to see why the Roberts’ nomination appeared headed for comfortable confirmation.  His first week in the public spotlight was almost universally positive, with most pointing to his low-key style and undeniable brilliance.

Roberts’ first week is even more amazing when compared to that of Robert Bork after Ronald Reagan announced his nomination in 1987.  Within an hour, Teddy Kennedy declared that Bork would help re-make America into a place where “women would be forced into back-alley abortions [and] blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.”  The rap stuck, and Bork was soundly defeated, 58-42.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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