The selection of John G. Roberts as nominee for the Supreme Court is no surprise; he was on the short list informally vetted by the press. In an odd sort of way it is reassuring. The president has not picked an over-the-top ideologue.
But who has he picked?
Roberts' resume sparkles. Harvard law; Harvard Law Review. Supreme Court clerk. Then years of eager-beaver wannabeing to the attorney general and in the White House. A brief stint as associate in a mega-firm, then deputy Solicitor General. But here's the dark side: For the first ten years of his career, Roberts was mere smoke from someone else's fire.
When he returned to the very vanilla firm of Hogan & Harston in Washington, D.C. after his stint in the Solicitor General's office, he handled appeals for the well-heeled, and earned accolades as a great writer and oral advocate. Yet despite this, people are scratching their heads about what he believes. When The New York Times this morning sought to portray a sample of his decisions, it came up with garden variety cases discussing no great legal principles.
His legal career isolated him from the cares and concerns of ordinary people: Roberts knows money and power. What else does he know?
Call him a Trojan horse, and a very shrewd choice. Roberts has the look and feel of a Beltway insider; someone who knew early what he wanted, and planned carefully to get it. He is a good politician.
The confirmation process in this case will be more important than usual. Senators should not settle for an evasion in the form of a refusal to answer a question about how Roberts might rule on a case or controversy. Let's find out what he thinks about enumerated powers; the right to privacy; sovereign immunity and all the other pivot points on which great cases and controversies turn.
I don't think the Senate should buy this package until it is unwrapped.