BROOKS ON ROBERTS….It’s safe to say that Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks is a considerably more reliable liberal than I am. Tactical compromise is not her usual cup of tea. I was thus surprised to see today that she and I largely agree about how liberals ought to view the John Roberts hearings:

John G. Roberts Jr. emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as practically the only person who did not look like an ideologue or a blithering idiot.

….Still, the official liberal response appears to be that we shouldn’t believe anything Roberts says because he’ll say anything to get confirmed.

The cynics have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Think about it: Unless Roberts is captured on television kicking a wheelchair-bound hurricane victim, he’s going to be confirmed, and we knew this well before the hearings began. He had no particular incentive to make nice to the Democrats on the committee ? and he could have made far more stridently conservative statements, with little consequence.

Yet he chose, on the whole, to be conciliatory and nonconfrontational, making a surprising number of statements that even appeared to confound some on the far right.

….It’s a question of picking one’s battles. By waxing hysterical about Bush’s surprisingly non-horrendous court choice, liberal interest groups are only playing into the hands of the GOP right, which is always eager for opportunities to paint liberals as shrill, negative and out of touch with mainstream America.

Brooks is a law professor, and perhaps this gives her more respect for Roberts’s legal acumen and high ABA rating than it should. Still, she has a point. Roberts was rather clearly a shoo-in for confirmation, but despite that ? and despite setting a whole new standard in nonresponsiveness under questioning ? he did make at least a few brief comments that should be unnerving to social conservatives and economic conservatives alike. I don’t share Brooks’s hope that Roberts may turn out to be another David Souter, but I suspect she may have a point when she says he is “probably less extreme than any of the alternatives waiting in the wings.”

Which is scary all by itself. Still, the fact remains that Roberts was a done deal almost as soon as he was nominated. If Antonin Scalia can get confirmed 99-0, what chance is there of making a dent in a guy like Roberts?

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