Republicans Brace for Battle to Confirm Roberts

Republicans spearheading the effort to win confirmation of Judge John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court are bracing for a vicious battle when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on the nomination on September 6.

Edwin Meese, who served as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, said he hopes for a civilized and dignified hearing process, but said he is “concerned with cases of vicious and untrue partisan attacks.”

“We would like to conduct the hearing without some of the sideshow aspects that have unfortunately dominated hearings in the past,” Meese said.

But liberal groups are gearing for a fight, and Republicans now expect one.

The anti-Roberts forces are led by People For the American Way (PFAW) and the Alliance for Justice, which represents 76 special-interest groups, ranging from homosexual-rights organizations to feminist causes.

PFAW’s 50-page report against Roberts calls him a “conservative ideologue” who would “turn back the clock” on women’s rights, affirmative action, religious freedom and the efforts of liberals to persuade federal judges to create a right to same-sex marriage. The group claims Roberts “uses terms like ‘federalism’ to mask the radical nature of his goals.”

The Alliance for Justice uses similar rhetoric in its 105-page anti-Roberts report.

Interestingly, both groups concede that Roberts is qualified for the job.

“Alliance for Justice does not question the fact Judge Roberts has sterling credentials as a lawyer, along with a widespread reputation as a nice, affable man,” said an Alliance for Justice mailing.

Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, said: “Democrats will not, and have not, found any significant ammunition. Nonetheless, they will be driven by their left-wing groups to oppose Roberts in substantial numbers. No one should be surprised the fund-raising base of the Democratic Party will be calling the shots here and will be driving Senate Democrats to walk the same tightrope Tom Daschle tried to walk and fell off.”

Back in 2001, Senators Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) both said that the American Bar Association’s evaluation was the “gold standard” for judicial nominees. Roberts unanimously received the ABA’s highest possible rating. But neither Leahy nor Schumer, both of whom sit on the Judiciary Committee, is expected to vote for Roberts.

“These outside lobbying groups, whether on the right or the left, have become, for me anyway, basically irrelevant,” Leahy has said. But his actions say otherwise. Last month, the Washington Post published a story titled, “Roberts Unlikely to Face Fight.” The next day the paper ran another story, “Democrats Feel Heat From Left on Roberts; Groups Say Fight Should Be Stronger.” In it, Leahy and Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) vowed to make the fight against Roberts for which the special interests were clamoring.

Meese joined Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, in a memo predicting Democratic senators will parrot the anti-Roberts arguments of liberal special-interest groups during the hearings. In particular, they point to Kennedy and Schumer as probable mouthpieces for special interests. They also predicted the false NARAL ad suggesting that Roberts defended abortion clinic bombers was only a “preview” of events to come.

“The left understands they are fighting a losing battle,” said Marshall Manson, vice president of the Center for Individual Freedom. “I think they are scared to death, desperate and will resort to whatever they think they can do to smear, delay, obstruct or confuse the situation. I expect to see personal attacks and the worst kind of smears by innuendo. Nothing will surprise me.”