I’ve been AWOL from the latest round of debate over senators’ questioning of Supreme Court nominees, but I will say that I am fundamentally sympathetic to the views expressed by Gerry Bradley here, and I doubt I can agree with any gloss on the laws and rules governing judicial ethics that would bar a nominee from answering questions about the reasoning in past decisions of the Court. Today Andy McCarthy weighs in with a thoughtful, helpful perspective derived from his years as a federal prosecutor.
Now, though, I want to direct my attention to the bargain offered by E.J. Dionne in his column in today’s Washington Post. Dionne rightly denounces the now-pulled NARAL ad, but then seems to want to use it as leverage. His proposed Civility Compact puts all the onus on Roberts and the Bush administration to be forthcoming, with answers and with documents respectively, and it appears that the only thing to be given up on the Left is . . that they stop telling outrageous lies about Roberts!
Dionne almost has me when he writes this, with which I agree if it stands alone:
Precisely because he has such a thin record of public writings, Roberts himself has an obligation to be forthcoming in answering questions about his views, especially on cases that have already been decided. The debate over Roberts should be civil. But you cannot have a civil debate on “the issues” if Roberts’s supporters insist that “the issues” cannot be discussed and that he is perfectly free to decline any exploration of his outlook on important matters that will face him as a justice.But this is after he’s already called for the Bush administration to disgorge itself of every scrap of paper related to Roberts’s career as deputy solicitor general during the Bush 41 years. For reasons given two weeks ago by NR’s editors, the administration has already handed over too much from Roberts’s earlier career at Justice and the Reagan White House. This makes it politically more difficult to resist further demands, but they should be resisted nonetheless.
As for Dionne, when he asks for “Any takers?” on his proposed bargain, I say no, thanks. Ask Roberts questions, and I hope he answers them as fully as reason and his conscience permit. But no more documents, Mr. Dionne, and they shouldn’t have to be forked over as the price for honesty from Roberts’s adversaries.