I have been watching CNN, FOX, et al, since about 8:45 and I have a few quick thoughts on the Roberts pick. First, the President surprised everyone, especially his politically enemies, because he nominated a good conservative with great credentials. This is visible by their first reactions: They are not quite sure whether or not they should attack; they cannot re-define Roberts the way Bork’s opponents were able to. Now it is true that Durbin, Schumer and a few others went ballistic immediately, but aside from some fireworks on the Judiciary Committee, it will have no effect. The surprise is directly connected to the fact that W chose an excellent person, ignoring the ethnic and gender winds that have been howling around him. So W’s reason for appointing Roberts is better than Reagan’s was for nominating O’Connor in 1982. Not a small point, this.
Second, this puts the Democrats in a bind. It is as clear as things get that Roberts will be confirmed. His reputation for intelligence, wit, and character are significant. It will be very difficult to vote against him; the vast majority of Democrats will end up voting for him. The party will be split on an issue that the Liberal leadership has been claiming to be unified on.
Third, Bush will benefit from this nomination in very clear ways. He kept his promise, appointed a solid conservative, a guy who was--so to speak--first in his class , an affable smart guy. And, it will be seen as a courageous decision by Bush because what cannot be argued is that he did it for low political reasons (which could have been argued if he had nominated a person who is black or Hispanic or a woman). It is simpler to argue that since there is no side benefit to Roberts, he is nominated for his excellence only. And he has a reputation for excellence.
Fourth, Roberts is not only a very young guy (born in ’55) and will be around--God willing, as they say--for maybe thirty plus years, but also has, as everyone says, a very pleasant disposition; he is easy to like. This will be important in the confirmation hearings; he will need his agreeable nature when he refuses to answer questions that shouldn’t be asked; combine this with his intelligence and wit, and he will sail through, and his few opponents will look like
As far as I can tell the Demos will push on his views on abortion (especially the brief he wrote when he was at Justice) and the very recent decision the DC Circuit Court made upholding Bush’s stance on enemy combatants. To work both of these publicly, especially the latter, will be very dangerous for Democrats. His oppponents will not be able to make Roberts out to be an extremist. And Bush has satisfied his party and his base and has pushed his political opponents off balance. Political advantage to Bush without a doubt.