Bench Memos

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Media Distortions of Roberts’s Executive-Branch Record—Part III


The same three Washington Post reporters—R. Jeffrey Smith, Amy Goldstein and Jo Becker—who combined to produce last week’s sloppy and biased account of documents from John Roberts’s stint as a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith (which I criticized here) have done it again. Their hit job today is replete with distortions, which I hope to address more comprehensively soon. But here’s one stark example from the Trashing Trio: Roberts, they assert, defended “the administration’s version of a voting rights bill, opposed by Congress, that would have narrowed the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” (Emphasis added.)

In fact, as the documents reviewed by the Post reporters make crystal-clear, the Reagan administration supported extension of the Voting Rights Act without any changes, and Roberts defended that position. The Reagan administration did not seek any narrowing of the Voting Rights Act. It did oppose—unsuccessfully—Congress’s effort to change section 2 of the Act to establish a so-called “effects” test that has required racial gerrymandering and has produced a sort of racial quota system for electoral politics.

Quotas, quotas, quotas. Roberts’s opposition to racial quotas (and other racial preferences) and his steadfast support for the “bedrock principle of treating people on the basis of merit without regard to race”—a quote from his DOJ documents that the Post hasn’t seen fit to share with its readers—are the core American values that the so-called civil-rights groups of today pretend are extremist. That’s a debate Republicans should welcome.


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