Is the Federalist Society–the premier conservative legal association–going to be an issue in the upcoming SCOTUS battle?

Powerline rightly calls attention to the McCarthyite tone of the “are you now or have you ever been” article about Judge John Roberts? and the Federalist Society yesterday by Washington Post legal reporter Chuck Lane: 

“White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Roberts ’has no recollection of being a member of the Federalist Society, or its steering committee.’ Roberts has acknowledged taking part in some Federalist Society activities, Perino said.

“The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by conservatives who disagreed with what they saw as a leftist tilt in the nation?s law schools. The group sponsors legal symposia and similar activities and serves as a network for rising conservative lawyers.

“In conservative circles, membership in or association with the society has become a badge of ideological and political reliability. Roberts’s membership was routinely reported by news organizations in the context of his work in two GOP administrations and legal assistance to the party during the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida.

“But the society’s alignment with conservative GOP politics and public policy makes Roberts’s relationship with the organization a potentially sensitive point for his confirmation process because many Democrats regard the organization with suspicion.

“Yesterday, a liberal organization that has been skeptical of Roberts’s nomination said that the White House’s description of his relationship with the society showed the need to take a close look at his background.

“’As this episode makes clear, the Senate needs to go behind the glowing accounts of Roberts?s record to figure out what he really thinks and what he really did,’ said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal organization that has been critical of the Roberts nomination.

“’What matters is whether he hung out with them and not whether he signed the form or wrote the dues check,’ said David Garrow, a law professor at Emory University. ’What’s important is the intellectual immersion.’”

My first reaction was: Aw shucks. I was thrilled when I read that Roberts belonged to the Federalist Society.

My second: It is outrageous that membership in the respected Federalist Society would be considered a disqualifier for any nominee to the Supreme Court.

Powerline notes:

“Some liberals would like to exclude from consideration for the Supreme Court anyone who belongs to, or has ’hung out with,’ the main organization for conservative lawyers in the U.S. This is part of their ongoing effort, recent election results notwithstanding, to define the political mainstream as including liberals and moderates, but not conservatives. In this connection, I would note that two of the four founders of the Federalist Society are Spencer Abraham, who went on to become a Senator from Michigan, and David McIntosh, who became a Congressman from Indiana. In what sense is the Federalist Society outside the political mainstream?”