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FIRST-PERSON: Approving Judge Roberts

DALLAS (BP)–Predictions are risky, especially when it comes to the recent judicial confirmation wars. But it’s pretty safe to say that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts will not be successfully “borked.”

In confirming him the United States Senate will move the court a step away from the judiciary’s activist tendencies that have damaged the culture over the past 40-plus years. John Roberts’ philosophy — that a judge’s rulings should be characterized by judicial restraint and that a judge should interpret the Constitution rather than make law — will improve the court overall.

His rulings won’t always please conservatives. Judge Roberts will not be a vocal advocate for right-wing causes. But he’ll do what a judge is supposed to do; He’ll make decisions that line up with what his bright and educated mind discerns to be the original meaning of the Constitution.

Pro-family conservative groups are, for the most part, cautiously positive on Roberts. They’ll wait for a vocal, Scalia-like conservative to be nominated when the next Supreme Court slot opens up. Meanwhile, all but the pickiest are supporting President Bush’s nominee. After all, he has distinguished himself as a stellar lawyer. He’s been confirmed to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And he is President Bush’s nominee.

Fairness demands he receive a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Admittedly, fairness is not the adjective that comes to mind when you think of the way certain senate Democrats have treated other judicial nominees. But because of Judge Roberts’ undeniable qualifications and his limited paper trail on hot-button issues, it’s difficult to argue against his confirmation. Senators who oppose him are being particularly circumspect. With a few strategic exceptions, they’re letting the “coalition groups,” who believe that a Roberts confirmation will limit abortion “rights,” do the dirty work.

Most of the attacks on Roberts have fallen flat. A television ad, produced and funded by NARAL Pro-Choice America, had only a brief shelf life. The ad portrayed Roberts as an apologist for abortion clinic bombings and was found to be so factually incorrect, NARAL announced its cancellation after airing it for just a couple of days.

Attempts to divide conservative support for Roberts are not working, either. Pro-family stomachs churn at the reports of even a few pro-bono hours given to homosexual rights activists in Romer vs. Evans, a landmark Supreme Court ruling advancing homosexuality as a “special right.” And conservative Christians are not at all thrilled to hear that Roberts also spent about a dozen hours helping prepare Playboy’s lead counsel to challenge a federal law limiting cable porn. They are marginally reassured by explanations like, “This is standard practice,” or, “That’s what lawyers do — they represent their firm’s clients whether they agree with what those clients stand for are not.” But even if a few more of these cases emerge, most conservatives will hold firm in their support of Roberts. They do not and should not expect him to judge as an ideologue.

The idea here is not to elect a political candidate; it’s to change the court.

The Reagan White House recognized the growing activism of the court as the judiciary robbed the culture of the influence of religion and inserted rights to activities like abortion. John Roberts was seen as part of the solution. As top deputy to Solicitor General Ken Starr, he clearly articulated the administration’s position on controversial issues like abortion and affirmative action. And, earlier, as a White House lawyer, Counselor Roberts advised support for allowing voluntary prayer in public schools and made clear to his client that, even under Roe vs. Wade, restrictions to abortion are allowed and even advisable.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to explain away parts of this nominee’s history. It would be nice if judge Roberts had not done pro-bono work on the wrong side of the Romer and Playboy cases. But, in the interest of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, reasonable conservatives will support him.
Dexter is a conservative activist and a former co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s Point of View syndicated radio program. She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a producer for Washington Watch Weekly, a broadcast of the Family Research Council.

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  • Penna Dexter