Friday, March 27, 2009

Reid Says Chief Justice Roberts “Misled” Senate During Confirmation Hearings

Politico reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has accused Chief Justice John Roberts of misleading the Senate during his conformation hearings in 2005 by acting like a moderate and says the country is now “stuck” with him.

“Roberts didn’t tell us the truth. At least Alito told us who he was,” Reid said, referring to Samuel Alito, the second Supreme Court justice appointed by President George W. Bush. “But we’re stuck with those two young men, and we’ll try to change by having some moderates in the federal courts system as time goes on — I think that will happen.”

”Reid’s comments, which came during a wide-ranging discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, reflect Democratic concerns that Roberts presented himself as a neutral arbiter of the law but has wielded a relentlessly conservative agenda,” writes Raju. “Republicans reject the attacks, saying Roberts has been a fair judge and has been consistent in his opinions.”

Reid says he and his fellow Democrats will seek out moderates to put on the bench, but he also said he will not attempt to keep Republicans from filibustering nominees they feel are too extreme. Four years ago, former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who was the Majority Leader at the time, threatened to use the “nuclear option” and do away with the filibuster. This triggered a harsh response from Reid and members of his party, who argued that such a move would eliminate the rights of the minority.

Ironically, if First had carried out his threat three years ago, Republicans today would not be able to filibuster President Obama’s judicial nominees.

“As I said at the time, the nuclear option was the most important issue I’ve ever worked on in my entire career, because if that had gone forward it would have destroyed the Senate as we know it,” Reid said.

“If the Republicans want to filibuster a judge, that is directly contrary to what their political philosophy was, but I guess it’s all subject to change,” he added.

Reid also recalled Senate Republicans’ campaign to block President Bill Clinton’s court appointees, calling it “a dark point in the history of our country. I would hope we don’t have to go through that again.”

I’m afraid I don’t know jack about the Supreme Court. In fact, I don’t even know the names of all of the justices. Can someone help me out here? Is Chief Justice Roberts really an extremist or a moderate?


  1. He's a constitutional constructionist judge who actually legislates according to the constitution. There never should be a "moderate" "liberal" or "conservative" supreme court justice. They all should be following the constitution as it is written. The Liberals hate it when there is actually a judge like Robertson in there who judges accordingly because it is against their liberal principles of trying to run roughshod over the constitution.

  2. I wouldn't call him an extremist, but he is most definitely a conservative.

    That isn't a new phenomenon, either. Many are the Presidents that have thought they were getting a SCJ of one philosophical bent, only to find out in the long run that they got duped.

    I am sure that has held true for past congresses, as well.

    When a judge is on a lower court, they are often mindful of the philosophy of the court above them, as too many reversals are embarrassing. This can have the affect of softening the extreme positions of some of the more politically aware judges.

    When one gets to the SC, you are the final word, judicially, and one's true legal philosophy can be finally expressed. That is the intent of the Founders, which has the laudable consequence of insulating the SC from national politics, since they don't need to worry about getting re-elected or re-appointed. They'll also never get overturned on appeal!

  3. Pauly, that is patently untrue.

    There are four basic positions. One is the strict Constructionist, which are mostly Conservatives. They want to go back to the basics, because their views are often based in the past, and those views were supported by the original interpretations of the Constitution.

    The other position is one of a more progressive bent, where judges feel that social mores of society are in a continual state of flux, and the Constitution is a pact between the government and the people that is constantly being renewed. Thus, new interpretations can be introduced, based upon new readings of the intent of the Founders, not the strict words themselves. It is often known as judicial activism.

    The third is Originalism, which is more conservative still, and Textualism, which is what many MEAN by Constructionist.

    There IS no neutral position which merely "legislates" according to the Constitution! If Roberts is a Constructionist, he IS conservative, no doubt about it!

  4. Robert - I won't disagree with your assessment. It's just that the way the courts and the constitution were set up - the SCJ's are to remain neutral arbiters of the law as it is written. The intent is not to reshape the laws through judicial activism as liberal judges would like to do.

    If Robertson is a Conservative, then its because he stands by the constitution.

    The Constitution is only a living document in that it can be amended as and when needed. Judges are not supposed to legislate outside of the original contract and its amendments or give comparison of our laws to international laws.

  5. Well, you see, that's where we disagree. Judges do NOT "legislate". They don't come up with new crap out of thin air, there has to be some justification for their rulings. that justification comes from various places - precedence from previous court cases, an examination of the Congressional Record for debate positions to determine Congressional intent, and so forth.

    The problem is that language is a living thing. Words that mean one thing two hundred years ago don't mean the same thing today. Public perceptions change too. In the late 19th century, the Dred Scott decision, which we lament today as being so terrible, wasn't to a LOT of Americans.

    Times change, society changes, and so does public opinion and morals. When the issue of slavery was taken up and changed by amending the Constitution, nothing had changed but that opinion.

    Brown Vs. the Board of Education changed the landscape of education in this country, but that decision about school integration has been revisited, and it no longer means the same thing today - but the Constitution didn't change, the times did. So the SC ruled differently the second time around.

    Even if it is never amended, the Constitution changes through the mechanism of the changes in language, customs and public opinion.

    It IS a living document, and the Supreme Court is the Supreme Arbiter of that meaning. It is a pact between the American people and their government, and it should change with the times and the customs of the people.

    The Supreme Court is a buffer between the majority and the minorities of this country. It enforces the provisions that prevent that majority from becoming an oppressive dictatorship, therefor, its power to determine that meaning is and should be sacrosanct. There are times when that majority is wrong as regards the rights and privileges afforded by that document, and it needs that power to enforce the rules.

  6. The Constitution doesn't direct its readers as to its own interpretation. It could have. All it would have taken was a few lines about what principles should guide disputes in interpretation. If the Founders wanted to direct future generations as to how the Constitution should be read, they could have done that. They didn't.

    Which means that there is no one way to do it, and more importantly, there is no wrong way. The various approaches to the Constitution that the various justices draw on in their decisions are all equally valid, and anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't understand what they're saying. That having been said, there are all sorts of arguments for and against any particular approach, and we're all entitled to our own preferences. But that's all it is... a matter of preference.

    As far as Roberts is concerned, he's definitely a hard-line conservative jurist, and he did absolutely misrepresent his judicial philosophy when he appeared before the Senate. And he's not alone. William Rehnquist almost certainly lied to the Senate in each of his confirmation hearings (when he was first nominated by Nixon, and when he was later elevated to the Chief Justice position by, I think, Reagan).

    But I certainly wouldn't call Roberts an "extremist", but because there are all sorts of connotations to that word that aren't appropriate in this context. He's definitely at the far right extreme of mainstream judicial philosophy, but "extremist" suggests outside the mainstream.

  7. This is kind of stupid for Reid to argue about. We're "stuck" with him? Well yeah, it's the way our courts are set up and without it the Supreme Court would not have equal power with the executive and legislative branches. Besides, Roberts had a fairly hard right track record before becoming a supreme court justice. It's kind of pointless bitching.

    The "nuclear option" would have been a terrible thing, I do agree with Reid on that.

  8. Great discussion guys. YOu all make good points. I agree with what someone said above about Roberts not being the first SC nominee to turn out to be a different judge than was originally thought. And Guitarman, you're right: Instead of bitching about Roberts, Reid should suck it up. And of course, Reid is right about not going the nuclear option. I don't know what the Republicans were thinking.

  9. Being a "strict constructionist" is very similar to being a religious fundamentalist. It means that you believe a literal interpretation of the Constitution (or Bible) exists and that you are one of the ones with the correct interpretation. And everyone else is wrong.

    Roberts is a Conservative and, as such, lives maninly in the past. Like Alito.

    Strict Constructionists tend to be right wing conservatives first and Constitutionalists second - for instance, they may actually believe that Freedom of Religion means the Freedom to impose Religion in places where it does not belong. Like in schools and public buildings.

    And, as far as I am concerned, every member of the court who was responsible for appointing Bush the Whitehouse resident in 2000 should have been impeached. As a state matter, it was none of their business. And out of their jurisdiction.

  10. Reid also said the surge in Iraq would fail and he voted to build a mag-lev train, at taxpayer expense, from Disneyland to Las Vegas so consider the source.

  11. There you go again Oldfart - just like a liberal - gotta stereotype everybody in to one neat little category don't ya.

    For your information - I happen to be one of those individual that believe the constitution should be interpreted as written - and - surprise - while I am a conservative - I am not a "right winger." I believe that our government should actually follow the laws as written in the constitution.

    Those justices that decided in favor of Bush did so in accordance with the constitution and in accordance with the electoral college and the actual votes counted in favor of Bush. Not to beat a dead horse - but since you libs are the ones who actually DO live in the past - The three most liberal papers in the U.S. (NY Times, St. Pete Times, and USA Today) conducted an independent investigation of their own and found that no matter how you counted those votes - Bush won every single time. You guys lost 8 years ago - get over it already.

    Regarding Freedom of Religion - The Supreme Court in 1967 overstepped their jurisdiction in ruling that public schools can't have God in them anywhere. The Constitution specifically states that Congress shall pass no laws regarding the Freedom of Religion and that all other powers not given to the Federal government go to the states. It is the state's rights to determine whether religion is acceptable in public schools.

    The SCOTUS had not authority to dictate to the states of PA and TX at that time to remove prayer from the classrooms. As a result of that decision - SCOTUS decided it was applicable to the entire nation.

    I think its time you actually pulled out the constitution and read it for yourself. You will find that our government has encroached upon our rights beginning in the early 1900's and we have slowly lost our individual freedoms one piece at a time.

  12. Pauly, read the 14th Amendment:

    "...No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws..."

    THAT means that the restrictions in the US Constitution limiting the Powers of the Federal Government also apply to the States.

    THAT means that the Supreme Court did NOT overstep the bounds in applying the restrictions on State support of religion to the cases you refer to.

    It IS unconstitutional for ANY level of government in the US to support religion. Those decisions do not remove prayer from schools, students are able to pray as individuals whenever they feel the need to pray for a miracle to pass a test! BUT the school, as an agent of the State cannot compel prayer and cannot compel student participation in it at official functions.

    So perhaps YOU should pull out that Constitution and actually read it. Maybe you'll learn something that way instead of just accepting Republican talking points.

  13. Pauly - you can say what you are but your actions betray you. You believe that YOU have the ONLY TRUE interpretation of the Constitution, a document that has been evolving over 300 plus years. And you believe that that Constitution should be interpreted the way men who lived in the 1700's wrote it. Of course, the only way we know that is by reading what they had to say about it. And what they had to say about it is NOT how you interpret it. Right wing fanatics can cherry pick quotations from the various founding fathers all they want, but the CLEAR intention of the founding fathers was to build a wall between religion and state. And that's just one area where the right wing gets it wrong, again.

    But, beyond that, where were you when Bush was violating the Constitution and the laws of the land? Did you speak up then? I have already spoken against Obama's plans to keep the "state secrets" defense that Bush used to hide his crimes. Did YOU ever speak out against Bush and his cronies? No? I didn't think so. Your so-called "strict" interpretation of the Constitution only goes so far as your messiah says it does.

    It's pretty easy to pidgeon-hole you. You walk, talk and act like a duck. So, while you might have some individuality, you are still a duck. A duck that has done it's homework, however.

    I am not a lawyer. I am more of a scientist. I have read the Constitution and just recently in fact. But I do not have the mind of a lawyer and do not see all the implications they see. So, I prefer to sit back and watch you and R have it out. From which argument I learn much.

  14. Oh yes. The SCOTUS decision which placed Bush in the Whitehouse WAS NOT BASED ON ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES. SCOTUS stepped into a state matter having to do with whether there should be a complete recount in Florida and decided there should not be, thus overriding the Supreme Court of the State of Florida and placing the idiot in the Whitehouse. To quote YOU, "all other powers not given to the Federal government go to the states" and making that decision for Florida is the right of the State - SCOTUS was, in fact, so frightened by their own decision that they made it a point that it would not stand as a precedent for any other SCOTUS decision. They knew they had intervened in the election of the President of the United States illegally.

    As for religion in schools, if you want religion for your kids in school, SEND THEM TO A CHURCH SCHOOL. Don't screw up MY kids with YOUR religion in a public school paid for with OUR taxes.

    And I'm not done yelling at Obama about his support of the faith-based initiative which, as I understand it, he has made worse than Bush and Clinton's version. I don't believe in sucking up to the Evangelicals for any reason. It's like sucking up to the Taliban.

    Also, Harrison, continuing to spread the same old right wing lies here will not work. We know better. There was no mag-lev train from Disneyland to Las Vegas, ever. And we still don't know whether the "surge" worked but we do know that a combination of paying Iraqis to fight Al-Qaeda and convincing them that Al-Qaeda in Iraq was not their friend, worked.

  15. Actually Robert - the 14th Amendment - as you can clearly see - states that a person's rights cannot be infringed upon by the state or Federal government. Again, the 10th Amendment states

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    and with the First Amendment regarding the Freedom of Religion - it specifically states "Congress" ergo - the Federal government. It does not transfer to the States themselves.

    The Federal government and SCOTUS had no authority to usurp the state's rights on this decision.

    Oldfart - sure - you know me. You've been to my blog this past year. Mark can back me up on this - I am no Republican. I hit Bush then just as much as I hit Obama now. While I support the war in Iraq and I think we need to crush terrorism everywhere - I do agree that in some cases he did step on the Constitution and I called it out.

  16. Pauly. Good for you. You are one of the few. And, btw, I'm not a progressive liberal either. Nor have I ever joined the Democratic Party. And I was unalterably against the war in Iraq. You say you are not right wing but you swallow whole the neo-con lie that there were terrorists in Iraq that threatened us. So, you have some symptoms of being a well-educated thinking fiscal conservative and other symptoms that mark you as a right wing follower. I should visit your blog.

  17. "Mark can back me up on this - I am no Republican."

    That is true. Pauly has not backed away from criticizing Bush in the past.
    btw, Pauly, i have to take umbrage with your attacks on my beloved RINOs. You may want them to leave the GOP, but when that happens, all you will have is a bunch of fundamentalist rightwingers. Sure you'll still have a few good paleocons and libertarians like Ron Paul and JImmy Duncan, but the majority will be a bunch of Monarchical Tories. And as a great conservative thinker (I think it was Russell Kirk) once said, conformity blows.

  18. One more thing....(it is tiresome being OLD)....
    The states do NOT have the right to violate the Federal Constitution under any conditions. The states run the schools, true enough, and have the right to dumb down their school system. However, they cannot violate the Constitution which requires that government not support ANY religion whatsoever. Now, since the actual amendment states that "Congress shall make no laws...." you strict constitutionalists will argue that that only applies to the Congress of the United States and not to the various state congresses. However, the intention of the Founding Fathers indicates exactly the opposite and that the FFs thought that separating the church and the state was very important. It's too bad they didn't choose to be more specific about it in the Constitution but their writings are clear about their intent. (Not 100% clear, but clear enough).

    More on state's rights vs federal rights later.

  19. Actually, Pauly, you are wrong. the 14th Amendment is widely accepted, especially by the SCOTUS, as being THE amendment that extends the Federal Constitution to the States, pretty much in its entirety. Meaning that the States cannot violate the First amendment either, and that includes Local governments because they are merely extensions of State authority under state law.

    Yes, SCOTUS had the authority you decry. And still do.

  20. You're right, the Mag-Lev train was never built... that's because Reid put it into the stimulus package which passed recently and yes, it will connect Disneyland with Las Vegas (Reid represents Nevada). Go ahead and look it up:,0,5344215.story

    $12-$14 BILLION for that one!

    And if the surge wasn't a "success" then I don't know how President Obama could talk about moving on to Afganistan now that Iraq is calmer and more peaceful. And, ironically, Obama is in the middle of doing a "surge" for Afganistan (probably because the one for Iraq worked so well).

  21. Harrison - the "surge" was supposed to "help" in Iraq by providing more soldiers to fight the insurgents and Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Instead, local commanders used their intelligence to engage insurgents and get them to join the occupation army in destroying Al-Qaeda in Iraq. That could have been done with or without the "surge". With insurgents concentrating on the Al-Qaeda cells that WE brought to Iraq, the attacks against Americans went down. So, no, the "surge" did not work as originally intended.

    As for Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan, it is not a surge at all - it is putting our soldiers where they should have been in the first place, against the enemy that actually attacked us and which Bush ignored for 6 years. And it is only necessary because of the idiot Bush's attack on Iraq in the first place.

    A quote from the article you linked to says it all:

    "In reality, not a word about the train appears in the 1,000-plus page, $787-billion bill that Congress passed Friday night.

    However, the bill does provide $8 billion for unspecified high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects, more than three times as much as allocated in earlier versions of the legislation."

    Imaginary trains from Disneyland to Las Vegas: not surprising given what's left of the Repugnants.

    BTW, Animal, it is not clear in this blog what html will work and what won't.

  22. Heh. From the same article:

    Republicans also criticized the allocation of $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts to fund art projects and activities that "preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn."

    Defending the spending, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said: "There are 5 million people who work in the arts industry. And right now they have 12.5% unemployment -- or are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn't real when you lose your job, your mortgage or your health insurance?"

    Republicans - against funds for education and against funds for the arts. Nothing has changed for them in 50 years.

  23. I did some further research on the train and money is allocated but not for any specific line. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

    I do love your explanation of the surge. Unfortunately, violence began dropping as soon as the extra troops showed up and nobody with any credibility says what you do so, on that one, I guess you are either wrong or ahead of your time.

    I'm not quite sure why government is needed to "fund" the arts. You can worry about the $50 million I'm worried about bigger things:

    According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, "using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases will be very costly, even given the most generous assumptions." Clean Air Act regulation of greenhouse gases "could spur additional investment," Heritage acknowledges, but "this investment was completely undermined by the higher energy prices."

    So much so, says Heritage, that "cumulative GDP losses for 2010 to 2029 approach $7 trillion with single-year losses of nearly $650 billion." Annual job losses would exceed 800,000 for several years, with some industries experiencing job losses exceeding 50%.

  24. Harrison
    Uh - no - I'm not the only person who thinks that way about the "surge". And, if you rely on places such as the Heritage Foundation (which has nothing at all to do with Heritage) for credible information then you are sorely misguided. That hotbed of anti-American neocon propaganda wouldn't know credible information if rose up and smacked it in the head. The HF, funded by oil companies and other large corporations, has always resisted the idea of CO2 and other global warming gases being put under the Clean Air act. During the Bush mis-administration, the Clean Air act was ignored and the EPA was downsized. Naturally, with Obama in office, the HF is gonna whine. The HF and other corporate shills are gonna whine and keep whining until the last person on earth dies of heat exhaustion. They are sort of reverse luddites. They want technology but they also want to abuse it to the point of destroying mankind. Don't ask me why they want to destroy their only market.

    Anyway, I don't have time for all this or I would research it a little better. I have to go rescue my EverQuest account.



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