Democracy Now! has a terrific interview about John Roberts Jr. with Alfred Ross, head of the Institute for Democratic Studies. It was Ross who publicized the document showing the Supreme Court nominee’s deep involvement with the Federalist Society as a member of its Steering Committee. Watch the video. Ross cuts to the heart of the issue about a guy with a steel-trap mind who suddenly can’t recall whether he was, in fact, a dues-paying member of the society.
The important question is not whether he paid dues as a member or not. The question really at stake here is where does Roberts and his Federalist Society cronies plan to steer our ship of state. If one looks at the history of the Federalist Society, which was established at the inspiration of Robert Bork in the early 1980s, their entire trajectory has been to move our judicial system in an extremely radically right-wing direction.
And about that peculiar memory lapse:
Well, we can’t yet do an MRI scan of his brain to see whether there is a memory cell there or not. But it would be very difficult, indeed, for him to deny his association with the organization. How does he get to be listed as a member of the Steering Committee? I suppose the Senate Judiciary Committee could inquire and ask for whatever correspondence existed. But again the important point here is not this memory lapse, which is strange given his reputation as having one of the more spectacular memories in the legal community in Washington, D.C., but again the growth of this organization within the Bush Administration and the implementation of its views.
Ross’s alarm at the nominee’s rightward ho! mindset is borne out in this morning’s Washington Post. In a report headlined “Documents Show Roberts Influence In Reagan Era,” it says he was “a significant backstage player in the legal policy debates” at the time, when he was a special assistant to Atty. Gen. William French Smith, and “presented a defense of bills in Congress that would have stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over abortion, busing and school prayer cases.”
According to the documents, the Post reports, Roberts also “argued for a narrow interpretation of Title IX, the landmark law that bars sex discrimination in intercollegiate athletic programs; and he even counseled his boss on how to tell the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow that the administration was cutting off federal funding for the Atlanta center that bears his name,” by conning her with false diplomatic sweet-talk.
Now for the kicker: “In the rare instances revealed in the documents in which Roberts disagreed with his superiors on the proper legal course to take on major social issues of the day, [Roberts] advocated a more conservative tack.”