Thursday, August 11, 2005


Not that anything is likely to derail the Supreme Court nomination of John G. Roberts Jr., but an endorsement of him by the National Association of Manufacturers comes across as a “you can help by not helping” situation. It’s the first time in its 110 years that the association has made such an endorsement, which makes the action overwhelmingly suggestive: For anyone unclear on what Roberts stands for, well, here’s a great big clue.

Certainly this isn’t the only factor to consider on this nomination, but alarms go off when the association declares it “will reach out to its nationwide membership and call on other business organizations to exercise their First Amendment right to participate in this decision that is vital to business interests.” The association’s endorsement didn’t just come after the fact; CNN, in describing Roberts’ pro-business stance over the years, notes that:

In fact, the Bush administration reportedly did go over its potential nominees with business groups in an effort to build support for what is likely to be a bruising confirmation battle over social issues such as abortion and right to die. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, headed by former Michigan governor and Bush friend John Engler, were both involved in the selection process.

Well, the business of America is business, so it must somehow make sense that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and NAM weigh in on Supreme Court nominees sure to be facing “social issues such as abortion and [the] right to die.” Engler sees something “vital to business interests,” though, so one can’t help but wonder what key topics of concern to business are being steered to land in front of the bench in the next couple of years.

Not that the endorsement is likely to change many minds or votes, laying an oppressively dull and thick veneer of uselessness atop an otherwise intriguing kernel of suspiciousness. Naral Pro-Choice America has an ad linking legal arguments made by Roberts with antiabortion violence that is just as useless in changing minds but at least lacks a hidden agenda. (The ad is arguably unfair, but Democrats and liberals condemning it fall into a trap laid by Republicans and conservatives: The last election proved that concern about the fairness of political ads and techniques is all on the left.)

At least on the surface, the more pressing concern is that the Bush administration will delay the release of Roberts’ papers until it’s too late to give them thorough study. Standards should be set on what kind of documents must be released during a court nomination process and a proportional formula written to determine how much time is needed to give them a proper read. Votes should be held a proper, codified and consistent number of weeks or months after delivery of those papers for Congressional review.

That would put an end to any question of White House delay; if they want their candidate confirmed, they’ll deliver the documents. There would also be no question of delay on the part of Congress, and no whining about not having enough time.


eric said...

He also worked pro bono for gay rights. Which has the right-wing urked as well.


Scape7 said...

Roberts has just enough complexity peeking through to suggest he could be another justice who, when faced with truly immense decisions to make, winds up doing the right thing. This would bother the hell out of the right and certainly confuse Bush. But it's nothing upon which I want to rely, no matter how delicious the results might be.

eric said...

All agreed, Marc. I just like watching them on their heels a little bit.

Brian Wanamaker said...

An intriguing and well-written piece as usual, Marc. However one note, since you harp on style so much, shouldn't it be "NARAL" as an acronym, rather than "naral" as a word? I thought it was an adjective when I first read it.

Scape7 said...

Me hate capitals. So I look for any excuse not to use them.

In this case, the excuse comes via The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, which says that when “an acronym serves as a proper name and exceeds four letters, capitalize only the first letter: Unesco; Unicef.” This follows The Associated Press’ injunction to “avoid alphabet soup” in the same way Roe vs. Wade relies on the U.S. Constitution’s implied right to privacy.

If the Times didn’t have the five-or-more rule, though, I would have done something along the same lines. I may yet decide to make it four-or-more for my own use.