Coulter on Roberts:
Ann Coulter has decided to try to help the confirmation of John Roberts by criticizing Bush's decision to nominate him: "[Bush] has given us a Supreme Court nomination that will placate no liberals and should please no conservatives." Thanks to a slew of VC readers for the tip.
Felix (mail):
7.20.2005 3:50pm
42USC1983 (mail):
Coulter's column was very funny. Thanks for sharing it.
7.20.2005 4:03pm
John Jenkins (mail):
You're all missing the point. Coulter's opposition is part of a Rovian plot to keep liberals from being too incensed about the whole deal. Incidentally, anyone heard any Plame stories today? Bwahahahahaha.
7.20.2005 4:18pm
OpinionPro (www):
42USC1983, you're right. Coulter's column is funny. However, it's not to be taken seriously.

Like much of Coulter's work, it mixes throwaway sarcastic rhetoric with harsh intended rhetoric . As a consequence, it's not entirely clear what she's seriously saying, and what is meant to be a joke.

Outside of her not-so-appropriate racism (what's with the Jay-Z and dancing reference?), Coulter demeans Roberts' nomination just enough to give both Democrats and Republicans reasons to reject him. Coulter disparagingly compares a man who has been described as the top appellate lawyer in the US to Larry Flynt's lawyer. And this is one of the top conservative pundits?

Unless Coulter thinks that the Senate would confirm a nominee who has flagrantly stated his or her extremely conservative political views, she should pull back her rhetoric. And a little bit of honesty wouldn't hurt, either (contrary to Coulter's statement, a vast majority of Americans are in favor of abortion rights- see the CBS News website at the extension: /stories/2003/01/22/opinion/polls/main537570.shtml).
7.20.2005 4:32pm
alkali (mail):
Per John Jenkins, I doubt that Coulter's column is a plant, but it's such a limp exercise in willful contrarianism that I do wonder about her motives in writing it.
7.20.2005 4:41pm
Felix (mail):

While this is off topic, you brought it it up, so I'll respond -- as a matter of fact, it is not all clear that "a vast majority of Americans are in favor of abortion rights" -- for starters, see the following polls here, here, and here
7.20.2005 4:45pm
Felix - good point. the poll at is definitely more reliable than that posted by the partisans over at Count me persuaded.
7.20.2005 4:50pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
As in all public opinion polls, it's all in how you ask the question.

Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of "abortion rights" if you ask them whether they are "in favor of outlawing abortion in all circumstances including cases of rape or incest."

Americans are nearly as overwhelmingly in favor of restricting abortion when asked about late term abortions for no medical reason or abortions on demand for girls as young as 12 or 13.

The only question that should really matter is whether the Court thinks abortion should be dealt with by state legislatures so we can put all these public opinion polls to use :)
7.20.2005 4:53pm
OpinionPro (www):
Felix, do you have any newer statistics? The stats from the first link are all over 10 years old and the stats from the second link are either ambiguous when considered together or are discountable due to the questions being leading (leading with "abortion destroys a human life" is a poor way to word a question, and that's not the only example I can give). The third link, which is to an article, is also fairly weak, mainly because the article's analysis doesn't suit the statistics. Nearly twice as many people supported abortion in limited circumstances compared to the number of people who opposed all abortions; how can that be construed to support the abolitionist theory?
7.20.2005 4:53pm
Felix (mail):

Contrary to your (at best) very misleading statement, the polls I was referring to were conducted by such rabid anti-abortion outfits as CBS/New York Times, ABC News/ Washington Post, USA Today/CNN, Gallup, etc., NOT the nrlc itself
7.20.2005 4:54pm
Felix (mail):

So are you saying that most Americans have shifted in the last 10 years or so from being anti-abortion to being pro?

I can send you many more polls if you like, but the point is that your unqualified statement that "a vast majority of Americans are in favor of abortion rights" is at best very misleading
7.20.2005 4:57pm
Dale Gribble (mail) (www):
Roberts is no Souter or Kennedy thank god. On the other hand he was not "out front" for the right causes as Brown, Jones. Conservative frustration ala Ann Coulter reflects giving the left 3 more swing SCOTUS votes after having 5 shots to turn back the FDR/Warren era regime, during the time nominal conservatives held power. For the Right and Libertarians keep your fingers crossed.
7.20.2005 5:15pm
OpinionPro (www):

I'll concede that my original statement was overly broad, and that it should have been qualified. However, even your statistics do not support the complete abolition of abortion, but simply the addition of restrictions to modern abortion law (for the most part).

As to your second point, I don't contend that I have any inside information on the shifting attitudes of Americans on abortion in the past 10 years. I do know, though, that newer statistics are more reliable than older statistics, and that the political climate in the country has significantly shifted since 1995.

On a different note, Mr. Chapman is absolutely right in both of his points. First, he's correct in stating that all opinion polls are affected by the wording of their questions. Second, Mr. Chapman points to the currently relevant issue of judicial philosophy. I think his direction is useful, and absolutely critical in keeping this discussion productive (since we can throw opinion polls back and forth and debate the veracity of studies nearly endlessly).

Although none of the comments following my original post have dealt with my primary claim (that Coulter has serious flaws as a pundit and representative of conservative interests), I'd like to see a more thorough discussion of judicial philosophy, since that's what's at stake with the nomination of Judge Roberts.
7.20.2005 5:19pm
I agree with Prof. Barnett that we don't know a whole lot about Judge Roberts' judicial philosophy. From what I've read, though, he appears to be more like Rehnquist than Scalia or Thomas. I can most certainly live with an extremely intelligent, highly regarded Rehnquist clone to replace O'Connor. Concerning the abortion question and Ann Coulter's column today (is Ann upset that she wasn't considered for the job???), here are some facts, in no particular order, for the pro-lifers amongst us:

1. His wife is a former VP of Feminists for Life.

2. He worked in the AG office for Reagan and Dep Sol Gen for GHWB, where he co-authored a brief advocating the government's position that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

3. He is reputed to be a strong Catholic, and has been endorsed by Priest for Life and the Knights of Columbus.

4. He clerked for pro-life, then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist.

5. His children are adopted.

6. He is a member of the Federalist Society (Note: I do realize that not all members are pro-life, but one must admit that a good majority of us are).

7. While he did testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Roe v. Wade is settled law for his lower court spot, HE'S RIGHT, GET OVER IT! Even Ashcroft had to say that kind of malarkey just to placate moderate Democrats and Republicans for his AG nomination.

8. Even with a long paper trail, no one knows AT ALL how a Supreme Court justice will rule on any given issue.

Also, read Beldar: Roberts is no Souter
7.20.2005 5:25pm
Renaissance Nerd (mail) (www):
While Anne's latest is really funny, it's one of few I don't agree with. She firing from the hip, and that's always dangerous. She's done it before, and personally it's one of the things I like about her. She gets carried away and tends to be a bit hot-headed. I'm the same way so I can't throw stones on this one. There are several of her columns over the past years that she might regret, but she sure won't admit it.

This is a reason for trust rather than distrust, however. The one you don't want to trust is the one who never puts a foot wrong. It's no surprise that Anne doesn't warm to Roberts as he does seem to be the sort of calm fellow that she would likely automatically distrust. Her feelings are worn outwardly and proudly, and anyone who plays cards close to the vest she has to view with suspicion.

The funny thing is she's a victim of feminism in this regard, like so many of us. A WOMAN who plays her cards that close to the vest ought to be mistrusted, but men MUST learn to control themselves to a far greater degree if they're not going to be, in Brigham Young's memorable phrase, a threat to civilization. Since feminists have preached so successfully that there is no difference between men and women it causes an awful lot of confusion. For myself it is my default position; I have to force myself to remember that women are not the same as men (emotionally).

Even rabid conservative firebrands have been influenced by the baleful misanthropic bigotry of (post-suffrage/socialist fellow-traveler/gender/abortionist/eugenic) feminism. Anne is no exception.
7.20.2005 6:28pm
jgshapiro (mail):

I fail to see how any of your points support your conclusion. You could be right, but you are reading a lot into a few facts that could just as easily be explained away.

Your first point suggests that his wife is pro-life, but says nothing about him, let alone whether he would overturn a high-profile 30+ year old precedent. Not all husbands and wives agree on abortion and many people who oppose abortion nonetheless support the right of others to decide for themselves.

Your second point suggests he was representing the views of his client zealously and it countered by his statement elsewhere that it does not reflect his personal views, Roe is settled law, and he would have no difficulty applying Roe as precedent.

Your third point is irrelevant. Brennan was a devout Catholic too; Kennedy is also Catholic. That did not stop either of them from voting in favor of constitutionalizing abortion rights. From what I have read of Brennan, you would be hard-pressed to find someone more devoutly Catholic than him. (Conversely, White, who dissented in Roe, was reputed to be essentially agnostic, or at least not overtly religious.)

Your fourth point may or may not be true -- is there any indication Rehnquist is pro-life personally? Maybe there is, but I don't think you can get that from his Roe dissent. More importantly, clerking for the man doesn't mean you share his views, either his legal views or moral views. It just suggests that you are smart enough not to turn down an amazing career opportunity -- and smart enough for him to think you would be more valuable than the next applicant in helping him perform his job.

Your fifth point is also irrelevant. Lots of pro-choice people adopt children. I think this just suggests that either he or his wife was incapable of having naturally-born children.

Your sixth point means he is not a living constitutionalist, but that's about all. So, if he was on the court in 1973, it is likely he would have dissented. It does not address his views of stare decisis or when he would be willing to abandon that to overrule a high profile precedent.

Your seventh and eighth points contradict your conclusion.

Based on what we know so far, there is no more reason to assume he will vote to keep Roe than he will vote to overrule it (or that he will vote to chip away at it piece by piece). I think that is the point of the nomination, and why he will ultimately be confirmed. Everyone will bet (as they did with Souter and Kennedy) that he is secretly in their camp and hope for the best.
7.20.2005 9:47pm
DaMav (www):
I thought Ann Coulter was providing some nice coverage on the right flank. It provides an easy response to the expected "extreme right wing" charges that are sure to be coming.
7.20.2005 9:58pm
Dale Gribble: I had no problem reading your post in your own voice. And that was really, really funny.

DaMav: So, you accept that absurd falsehoods are just part of "balancing", or something? I need to tell the Democrats to start spreading, say, that he's a pedophile or a lesbian or something, if that's how we want politics to work.
7.20.2005 10:36pm
Tom Hanna (www):
Interesting. She makes the same point, in her admittedly more abrasive (and amusing) style, that Randy Barnett makes in his post on this very blog. "John Roberts has been able somehow to avoid this ordeal throughout a long and distinguished career. This degree of avoidance would seem to have taken effort and discipline."
7.20.2005 10:55pm
Baronger (mail) (www):
So he is to be known as the "Dread Justice Roberts" by both sides? Seems like a plausable theory, since this way Bush can point to the dismay among conservatives. Is it just me or has politics gotten more like Judo and the other martial arts. Instead of mindless bashing we have skilled and tricky psycological tactics.
7.21.2005 10:04am

While you pointed out all of the flaws in my bulletpoints (which you're right on some, though I must admit, a little long winded given the brevity of my quick points), I'm getting sick and tired of telling my pro-life friends that Roberts is one of the best pick for pro-lifers given just the little bit of information we already know about him. We can speculate all day long on what side he'll come down on Roe, but some of my friends have been of the mindset that "unless the nominee is as firebreathing as Ann Coulter," he's unacceptable. To me, that's just plain silly.

Here's my rebuttal:

1. His wife's work with pro-life organizations matters a lot. Most couples I know, the woman is more liberal than the guy. You know the old adage, "Behind every strong man is a strong woman." Sometimes I wonder if Laura Bush moves Dubya to the left on some issues because she's more liberal than him. Same with the Clintons. To think that the Supreme Court is some sort of bubble and outside pressure doesn't matter is nonsense. Double that is you make your wife mad with a decision on an issue as important as abortion. Remember, "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn."

2. How do you know that he'll have no problem applying Roe as precedent? The fact that he worked so aggresively for his "client," i.e., the government, in trying to overturn Roe v. Wade indicates to me that he's very passionate about the issue. Representing your client's best interests is one thing, but when it comes to hot button issues such as abortion, how many lawyers do you know would work so hard on such a case if they disagreed with their client? What's the worse that could happen for Roberts back then? Just tell the administration he disagrees, resign from his government post, and make more money in the private sector as he did during the mid to late '90s.

3. Since Brennan was pro-Roe, he wasn't a "devout Catholic." I also question Kennedy's adherence to Catholicism too. If Roberts turns out to be pro-Roe, ditto. That being said, someone's religious beliefs do play a very important role in one's opinions. Again, the Court is not some sort of bubble. There are many elements that come into play when making a decision on a case, and in my opinion, one's religious and personal beliefs do play an important role in that process, perhaps sometimes more so than the facts and issues at hand in a particular case.

4. The simple fact that Rehnquist is anti-Roe is good enough for me to label him "pro-life." I mean, how many people do you know who say, "I'm personally pro-life, but don't want Roe overturned." I know a lot of people who say that. I rarely (if ever) hear, "I'm personally pro-choice, but want Roe overturned."

5. I think adopting his kids also shows the kind of family man he is, which again, is important (though not the most relevant tidbit at all) in this discussion.

6. I was mistaken about his Federalist Society "membership." According to the WP, he's technically not a dues paying member, but does participate in a lot of Federalist Society panels. Actually, I think it's smart for him not to be a member on paper for the confirmation process (Leahy grilled Clement on her Federalist Society membership), but still be active in the group.

7. My last two points do not contradict my conclusion, which I should have been more blatant about. Conclusion: Pro-lifers shouldn't give Roberts such a bad rap knowing what we know, and from what we know, I'm 90% sure he's more of a Rehnquist than a Souter. However, I feel the same way with all the other conservatives on Bush's short-list. Who's to say they would definitely overturn Roe? It's all speculation in the end. But, I as a pro-lifer feel very comfortable with Roberts, and if Roberts turns out to be another Souter, I won't fault Bush on this one (I would have if he had chosen Clement since we have zero indication on what her views on Roe are). We'll just have to wait and see.
7.21.2005 12:59pm
jgshapiro (mail):

1. According to The Brethren, Brennan's wife was more conservative than him; that didn't seem to matter. Cheney's wife also appears to be more socially conservative than he. This sounds like wishful thinking.

2. It does not follow that because he worked zealously for his client on abortion he is pro-life or anti-Roe. Why would he have to resign if he disagreed with his client (Bush Sr) on this? Sounds like because *you* would resign if asked to represent the other side, you assume he would too.

3. Maybe you have a different view of devout than I do. If Scalia votes to uphold the death penalty against 8th amendment challenges and Vatican blessing, is he not also not devout? Is it all or nothing?

4. Lots of pro-choice people have questioned Roe. I'm not sure if the opposite is true, but It depends in part on how you define "pro-life." At any rate, a pro-life justice could conclude that he has to stick with precedent. Rehnquist was as anti-Miranda as you could get, but who wrote the opinion saving it from extinction?

5. You are assuming that if he is a family-man, he cannot be pro-choice? Or that it makes him more likely to be pro-life? Both are non-sequiturs.

6. I think there is no more chance he is pro-life than pro-choice, from what we know (or pro-Roe vs. anti-Roe). He is no better in this regard than Clement, which is why either would get by. If you had anything real to hang your hat on, he would get nuked.
7.22.2005 1:48am
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
While some of the coverage of Roberts may be fair, there will be stuff like this:

In the Sacramento Bee: "Analysis: Nominee has long written for GOP on issue of abortion" In this 19 paragraph article excerpted below, David Westphal -- Washington Bureau Chief, (202) 383-0002,, has an interesting take.

Paragraph 1: "WASHINGTON - In his 4 1/2-year presidency, George W. Bush has rarely gone against his conservative instincts and the fundamental interests of his political base. Tuesday night, he stayed true to form, nominating a conservative favorite, appellate court Judge John G. Roberts Jr., to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Paragraph 3: "Although he has been a judge for only two years, Roberts, 50, has an extensive written record on behalf of Republican administrations, notably on the volatile issue of abortion. "We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled," Roberts wrote in a 1991 Supreme Court brief as deputy solicitor general. The 1973 opinion established a constitutional right to abortion."

Paragraph 10: "As presidents have learned time and again, it's never safe to assume the judicial leanings of a Supreme Court justice newly armed with a lifetime appointment. But odds are strong that Roberts would align himself with Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist to form a rock-solid conservative core that would need only a single extra vote to make new law - a far different alignment from the one that's existed for the last decade."

Paragraph 11: "As a clerk for Rehnquist, then as a lawyer in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, Roberts repeatedly proved his conservative mettle. He also won political points during Bush's contested 2000 victory over Democrat Al Gore, working behind the scenes on Bush's successful legal challenge of Gore's push for a recount of votes in Florida."

Paragraph 15: "As deputy solicitor general in 1991, Roberts was co-author of an administration brief that said clinics receiving federal money should be prevented from discussing abortion with their patients. As part of that brief, which was ultimately endorsed by the court, Roberts wrote that the Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion "finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."

Paragraph 16: "Supporters will argue that Roberts' brief represented the position of his client, the first Bush administration, and not his own view."

Which planet does the Bee's Washington Bureau Chief live on, and, and which planet Ann Coulter lives on?
7.22.2005 2:02am
erp (mail):
Ann Coulter has been correct in every instance where she cites facts. Her conclusions and opinions are her own as are all the opinions on this string.

I know very little about Roberts and all I, and the rest of the American people can do, is hope he isn't another Souter, O'Connor or Kennedy. I know lot more about Coulter and can't say I've differed from her in any substantive way over the years she's been writing. I don't believe she's racist any more than I know I'm not a racist.

As for abortion, I really don't think that outside legal and feminist circles, it occupies the general public's attention very much. It's just another issue which like environmentalists, gay/lesbians, save the whale people, etc. make up the glorious rainbow that defines the Democratic party.

As for feminists speaking up for Mrs. Roberts. Surely, you jest. Feminists' goal is the furtherance of the liberal agenda, women's rights are just their schtick. If that weren't the case, NOW would be in forefront of condemning Islam and their treatment of women. They have been silent because the all the various leftist movements in this country like worldwide leftist movements have thrown in their lot with Islamic terrorism because they share the same goal which is the complete destruction of democracy and capitalism in general and American style freedom in particular.
7.22.2005 1:25pm