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 The Era of Bad Feelings, Cont’d. 

September 15, 2005 
Sinking to the occasion, California’s Dianne Feinstein explained to Judge John Roberts why she wasn’t happy with his answer Today's column is "The Era of Bad Feelings, Cont'd" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.to one of her questions: “I’m trying to see your feelings as a man. I’m not asking you for a legal view.”

Right on! Who cares about Roberts’s legal reasoning, for Pete’s sake? This is twenty-first century America! We want to know about his feelings!

Does he have the right feelings? How does he feel about abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, and stuff like that? Does he feel the way we do, or does he feel the way our enemies do? Does he appreciate how women and minorities feel? (The first article of the liberal creed is: “Women and minorities never have a nice day.”)

Much of the commentary on Roberts’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court has assumed that he may be cagily concealing his real feelings until he is confirmed, whereupon he will be free to implement those feelings in his judicial rulings, rolling back a century of liberal ... er, “progress.” Senator Ted Kennedy, another who unfailingly sinks to the occasion, has discerned those feelings in Roberts’s previous decisions as a Federal judge, and finds them “mean-spirited.”

To be sure, Roberts’s views on the law tend to lack the lyrical note. He has the trained lawyer’s habit of answering the question he is asked, without histrionic amplification. He can entertain different sides of a controversy without indignation at those who may hold them.

To emotional people who demand that the law cough up the results they want, this seems inhuman. They shout, and they wonder uneasily why he doesn’t shout back. Where are his feelings? He must be hiding them, and they must be shameful.

[Breaker quote for The Era of Bad Feelings, Cont'd: Is Roberts holding back?]Modern American politics is about feelings, but Roberts, as he says, isn’t a politician. In his own apt metaphor, he’s an umpire, not a player. He addresses the questions put to him — scrupulously, surgically, by the book. Nobody comes to the game to see the umpire, and nobody asks the umpire how he “feels” about calling a struggling hitter out on strikes. (“Have you no sense of the pathos of the situation, ump? The kid may be sent down to the minors!”)

Some of Roberts’s answers are open to criticism. I suspect he gives too much weight to precedent. But even this is at least a sign of prudence, not the judicial arrogance we’ve seen too much of lately.

I admire Roberts precisely because he has kept his poise under great pressure this week. He refuses to be rushed into giving the answers partisans want him to give. He makes everyone ask which side he’s on, when the correct answer seems to be that he has no “side.” He’s ready to see the legal merits of all sides.

At times he reminds me of a famous courtroom lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a charming, disarming equivocator. He opposed slavery, but he could represent a slaveowner seeking to recover a fugitive slave. On some occasions he was outspoken; on others, he kept his own counsel maddeningly. Maybe he was Honest Abe, but nobody ever called him Candid Abe. He stuck to the point at issue, and he usually won his cases. Anyone who took Lincoln for a simpleton, it was said, “would wake up on his back in a ditch.”

Nobody doubts that Roberts is a conservative. Presumably he has “feelings,” conservative ones. The record is pretty clear on that. But this doesn’t mean he’s playing possum and waiting for the chance to give these feelings the force of law. That’s the liberal racket.

Liberals celebrate precisely those justices who love women and minorities not wisely, but too well — the ones whose “feelings” impel them to overturn law and precedent and tradition in search of penumbras formed by emanations unsuspected by the authors of the Constitution. So when liberals ask you if you recognize the constitutional right to “privacy,” the last thing they want to hear is a politely skeptical, “Well, it depends what you mean.” Have you no feelings, man?

Hence liberals are forever complaining that conservatives “lack compassion” and are “mean-spirited.” The only feelings they can imagine conservatives having are nasty ones, primarily “hate.” Ignoring such childish spite, Roberts has taken a quiet and dignified stand for the sovereignty of reason.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2005 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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