Recent news that Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. once worked with gay activists on a landmark anti-discrimination case has all sides scurrying, with amusing results.
Let's just say everyone's petard is getting a workout.
Conservatives hoping for someone who would rule in their favor on social issues find out that Roberts has helped the opposing team. Liberals hoping to unearth something contrary with which to oppose Roberts discover that his worst sin to date is his failure to mention on his pre-confirmation questionnaire that he's worked pro bono for gays.
Bad Roberts! No. Good Roberts! Finally, we have a quagmire. This time those looking for a fight may have to surrender to irony.
It is, after all, awkward for the left when the worst thing liberals can say about a conservative nominee is that he did something they like. It is likewise awkward for the right when its dream nominee - the one who is supposed to help reweave Western civilization's fraying tapestry - has been tugging on one of the threads.
What's a culture warrior to do?
In the middle, of course, is the truth of the matter, which is that Roberts may be just what the country needs and what President George W. Bush has said he seeks in a Supreme Court nominee - a purist. Someone who will engage issues on their legal merits and interpret them according to the Constitution's original intent.
In the gay-rights case, Roberts was advising on strategy and reportedly spent only a few hours on the case. Thus, there's probably not enough from which to draw conclusions about how Roberts personally views gay rights or how he might rule on gay issues.
Likewise, there's no predicting how he'd vote on abortion or affirmative action. What we do know is that he respects precedent, because he has said so. And we now also know that he's nimble enough to consider without bias issues he might find personally objectionable.
But that's not good enough in Looking Glass America, where right is seen as wrong, and good is viewed as bad. Some on the right apparently can't absorb the thought that their chosen one would entertain legal options that benefit homosexuals, as Rush Limbaugh asserted on his radio show.
"There's no question this is going to upset people on the right," he said. "There's no question the people on the right are going to say: 'Wait a minute . the guy is doing pro bono work and helping gay activists?'"