"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Roberts: unBorkable but unreliable?

For pro-lifers, especially us Catholic ones, the key question about President Bush's nomination of Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court is simply this: will we be fooled again? Is Roberts really one of us, who has merely been cagey enough to leave too limited a paper trail to get Borked by the Senate Democrats? If so, then Bush's choice is nothing short of brilliant. Or will Roberts turn out to be as disappointing on Roe v Wade, if confirmed, as his promise to "respect settled law" suggests? Is such a promise merely a clever, tactical way to maintain plausible deniability of any intent to overturn Roe, or does it indicate that he is really disinclined to overturn Roe? If the former, then he's being deceptive if not downright dishonest; if the latter, then he's part of the larger problem, not part of the solution.

I suppose politics inevitably generates such dilemmas, which is one reason I've never been inclined to make a career of it. But I pray that, once on the Court as now seems likely, Roberts is duly influenced on Roe by his fellow Catholic justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. He has a very heavy responsibility that his knowledge and practice of Catholicism leave no room for evading. I hope the Pope privately reminds him of that. The only other ground for optimism I can find lies in the loophole that Roberts has left for himself.

His express concern with "maintaining the stability of the legal system" is logically compatible with, among other things, regarding Roe as a decision which upset said stability. That decision has been broadly criticized in the legal profession in the same way as Justice Byron White did in his 1973 dissent from Roe, where he excoriated the decision as "an exercise of raw judicial power" without any clear basis in the Constitution. It is plausible to me that Roberts would agree and vote accordingly while thus keeping his promise.

I keep my fingers crossed and my rosary in hand.
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