It’s been hard for even the ultra-liberals to find anything bad to say about John Roberts, for whom hearings will begin Monday on his confirmation as chief justice of the Supreme Court, replacing his deceased mentor, William Rehnquist. Roberts has it all: a sterling academic and professional record, an affable temperament, a talented wife and beautiful children, and an endearing sense of humor. The worst his enemies have been able to say about him is that he once made a joke about homemakers becoming lawyers (the joke was at lawyers’, not homemakers’ expense), and he wasn’t sufficiently respectful of the arroyo toad. Horrors! So now we have the very newest liberal meme: John Roberts is too goody-goody to sit on the Supreme Court.
Starting the meme rolling was Slate legal affairs writer Dahlia Lithwick a couple of weeks ago, noting that Roberts wasn’t one of the fun guys when he was in law school. To satisfy Dahlia, he should have been smoking marijuana and chasing skirts instead of hitting the torts books:
“One fun game that Supreme Court reporters like to play when they’re out on maternity leave is called ‘Who Smoked Pot,’ in which one speculates about which, if any, of the current Supreme Court justices at some point in the very distant past availed themselves of the opportunity to take a little toke out behind the barn….
“I am enormously confident, however, that John Roberts has never smoked pot. And I know this because I knew guys like him in college and at law school; we all knew guys like him. These were the guys who were certain, by age 19, that they couldn’t smoke pot, or date trampy girls, or throw up off the top of the school clock tower because it would impair their confirmation chances. They would have done all these things, but for the possibility of being carved out of the history books for it.”
Now we have Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wishing that Roberts had flunked out of college the way Richard did:
“He was raised in affluence, educated in private schools, dispatched to Harvard and then to Harvard Law School. He clerked for a U.S. appellate judge (the storied Henry J. Friendly) and later for William H. Rehnquist, then an associate justice. Roberts worked in the Justice Department and then in the White House until moving on to Hogan & Hartson, one of Washington’s most prestigious law firms; then he was principal deputy solicitor general, before moving to the bench, where he has served for only two years. His record is appallingly free of failure.”
Cohen’s theory is that Roberts lacks the “life experience” that would enable him to relate to most Americans and their legal problems (the fact that Roberts worked summers as a student at the family steel mill and even held a union membership card doesn’t count).
Does this mean that the new requirements for chief justice are now dropping out of college, failing the bar exam, fathering a couple of kids out of wedlock, and going many, many tokes over the line?
So I’m confused: First we heard that George W. Bush was too dumb and got a drunk-driving ticket way back–which disqualified him to hold high office. Now we hear that John Roberts is too smart and never got a drunk-driving ticket or any other kind of mark on his record–which disqualifies him to hold high office. Which is it, liberals? Make up your minds.