This is not an isolated episode. The White House is banking on a strategy of hiding Roberts' right-wing views and focusing on his non-confrontational personality.2 And so far, most newspapers and networks have bought in, spending a lot more time speculating about how easily Roberts will be confirmed than doing the investigative reporting that the country deserves.3 To get more of the real journalism this issue demands we're going to have to ask for it.
Please take a minute to call or write the outlets where you have gotten your coverage of the Roberts nomination, and ask them to focus on the facts of Roberts' record—not on the administration's spin. You can find contact information for your news outlets here:
Roberts' record as a right-wing partisan and corporate advocate poses many concerns about how his confirmation would threaten core rights. Here are some direct questions that we could use some better reporting on:
1) Corporate Power
How would his years advocating, lobbying and then ruling in favor of corporate power affect his defense of the public interest?
Here's what we know:
As a corporate lawyer Roberts fought to gut the Americans with Disabilities Act, denying basic accommodation for workers injured over time as part of their job.4
He helped a major car manufacturer avoid a recall when their seatbelts were found to violate federal safety standards.5
Argued for the National Mining Association to overturn a ruling that restricted mountain top removal practices devastating to Appalachian communities.6
In his brief tenure as a judge, he argued for a very limited view of congressional authority to regulate corporate excess that could threaten broad swaths of environmental protections, workers rights, and anti-discrimination laws.7
How would Roberts affect privacy rights currently protected by the constitution?
Here's what we know:
Roberts argued to the Supreme Court that Roe v Wade should be "overruled".8
He won a case blocking doctors in many cases from even discussing reproductive options with their patients.9
He has ruled in favor of sweeping powers for the commander-in-chief in this state of perpetual war—with frightening implications for our civil liberties.10
How would Robert's partisan allegiance affect his judgment? (For example in cases like Bush v. Gore)
Here's what we know:
He advised Jeb Bush during the Florida recount debacle.11
As a lawyer for the Reagan and Bush Sr. White House, he advocated for right wing ideology over free speech,12 religious liberty13 and voting rights for minorities.14
Roberts has been a life long partisan Republican, a claim the New York Times calls "indisputable,"15 and has donated thousands of dollars to exclusively Republican candidates.16
Roberts' stealth candidacy for the Supreme Court is particularly dangerous because his personal qualities can be used to conceal a very hard line judicial philosophy. Here's how commentator E.J. Dionne put it:
"Judge John G Roberts Jr.. could turn out to be Antonin Scalia with a Washington Establishment smile... And he is David Souter turned on his head—a stealth candidate whose winning personality disguises intense conservatism, not moderation. Roberts could move the court well to the right yet grin his way through the confirmation process....All of which means that the next two weeks will be crucial in determining how the Roberts confirmation battle goes." 17
It's also important to remember that facts of Roberts' record that are already clear were more than sufficient to earn him immediate endorsements on the far-right—even from many of the same people who said Alberto Gonzales was far too liberal:
The violent anti-choice group Operation Rescue said, "We pray that Judge Roberts will be swiftly confirmed."18
James Dobson of Focus on the Family called Roberts "unquestionably qualified"19
Pat Robertson said Roberts was "at the top" of his own list of candidates for the court vacancy.20
Tony Perkins of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council said "The President ... promised to nominate someone along the lines of a Scalia or a Thomas and that is exactly what he has done."21
The more facts that come out about Roberts' record, the clearer the danger he poses to our rights and freedoms. It's vital that the news media get back to the hard work of collecting and reporting on the facts of his record. We are facing the prospect of 30 or 40 years of Roberts on the Supreme Court, and we must apply the highest standard of scrutiny.
Together, we can help shift the coverage from the bottom up by contacting our news sources and simply asking them to focus on Roberts' record.
You'll find everything you need to contact local media below. It just takes a minute, but it could make a big difference. Please reach out today:
Thanks for everything you do,
- Ben, Micayla, Justin, Matt and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Monday, July 25, 2005
1 The Washington Post, "Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97-98 Directory," July 25th 2005http://www.moveon.org/r?r=812
2 The White House has already said it intends to deny Senate requests for information about Roberts work for the Reagan and Bush administration that would clarify his role in undermining the Voting Rights Act, among other key issues. See:
The Associated Press, "White House Won't Show All Roberts Papers," July 24th 2005
3 The day after Roberts was nominated the President's spin appeared as news headlines across the country, like "Roberts is Well Liked"[3a] "Not a Battle"[3b] "Nominee Known for his Modesty."[3c] That day over 40 separate articles mentioned his son's televised antics during the nomination, while less than 10 cited what was probably the most significant opinion he wrote as a judge—one that seriously threatens vast swaths of environmental protections, workers rights, and civil rights.[3d]
[3a] Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "Roberts is well liked, but his judicial record isn't clear," July 20th, 2005
[3b] The Los Angeles Times, "A Fight, Maybe, but Not a Battle; Roberts should appeal to staunch conservatives yet be insulated from fierce opposition," July 20th 2005
[3c] Ventura County Star, "Highly Regarded Nominee Known for his Modesty," July 20th 2004
[3d] Lexis-Nexis search for articles posted on July 20th, 2005 with the terms "John Roberts and Viejo" and "John Roberts and Jack".
4 The Associated Press, "Atty. Roberts Often Worked for Industry," July 21st 2005
5 The Los Angeles Times, "A Resume Strong on Business," July 22nd 2005
6 The New York Times, "As a Lawyer, Court Nominee Was Considered a Skillful Advocate for Corporate Clients," July 21st 2005
7 New Orleans Times Picayune, "Hapless toad' case fuels fears of Roberts' foes," July 22nd 2005
8 The Associated Press, "Roberts, on the issues," July 24th 2005
Roberts actual argument can be found in: "Brief for the Respondent at 13, Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991)
9 The New York Times, "In Pursuit of Conservative Stamp, President Nominates Roberts," July 20th, 2005
10 Data from Federal Election Commission
11 The Miami Herald, "Roberts Gave GOP Advice in 2000 Recount," July 21st 2005
12 Roberts, serving as Deputy Solicitor General under President Bush Sr. argued to the Supreme Court for the unconstitutional criminalization of flag burning as political speech. See:
The Los Angeles Times, "Bush Leans Right in Court Pick," July 20th 2005.
13 Also as deputy solicitor general in the first Bush White House, Roberts drafted a key legal brief urging the Supreme Court to scrap decades of settled church-state law and uphold school-sponsored prayer at public school graduation ceremonies and other forms of government-endorsed religion. See: Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "Senate Should Reject Confirmation Of John G. Roberts To Supreme Court,"
14 The Boston Globe, "Civil Rights Groups Cite Concerns Over Roberts," July 22nd 2005
15 The Capital Times, "Bush Picks and Activist," July 20th 2005
16 The Nation, "The Stakes in Roberts' Nomination," July 20th 2005
17 The Washington Post, "Beware the Charm of Judges", July 21st 2005
18 The Los Angeles Times, "Supreme Court nominee's wife an anti-abortion voice," July 23rd 2005
19 Newsmax.com "Dobson: 'Roberts Unquestionably Qualified," July 20th 2005
20 The Free Lance-Star, "Virginians rate Roberts' record," July 21st 2005http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/072005/07212005/116430
21 The New York Times, "The Strategy for a Successful Nomination: Disarm Opposition," July 20th 2005