No one is more qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court than John Roberts Jr., who once clerked for the late William Rehnquist, the chief justice Roberts has been nominated to succeed.
Everyone, even his critics, admits that the 50-year-old Roberts has a brilliant legal mind; has been highly effective as an advocate, both for the government and private clients; and has served with fairness and distinction as a federal appeals court judge.
There's no argument, either, that Roberts has the temperament and character to make a fine chief justice. So what is there not to like? Why would anyone on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to vote on Roberts' confirmation today, not vote for the man?
The answer: Partisan politics trumps qualifications. Many Democratic senators will vote against Roberts simply because he was nominated by George W. Bush, a president despised, if not by them, then by the far-left political activists who dominate the party's base.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said many complimentary things about Roberts, and was expected to vote for him. But shortly before he was to make his announcement, reports The New York Times, Reid met with representatives from 40 left-wing special interest groups, then announced his opposition.
"He got the message loud and clear," trumpeted Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. He sure did. And now America knows who really leads the Senate Democrats. It's not Reid.
Twelve years ago, then-President Bill Clinton nominated American Civil Liberties Union lawyer and feminist activist Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the high court. She had stood for many causes Republicans regarded as miles outside the mainstream. Yet she was confirmed 96-4 with most GOP senators voting for her because she had a fine judicial temperament and was clearly qualified.
Roberts, too, likely will be confirmed. At least some Democrats will follow the lead of the Senate's ranking Judiciary Committee member, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and support Roberts. But many, perhaps most, will oppose him and he will not get the overwhelming bipartisan endorsement Ginsburg did.
Bush's partisan critics bash him for being a "divider, not a uniter." But if Democrats can't unite behind John Roberts for the high court, then they can't unite behind anyone. We hope the president's next Supreme Court choice is as far to the right as Ruth Ginsburg was to the left. If he can't appease his critics, then why try?