September 15, 2005

Dean on Roberts

The Verdict on John Roberts
Governor Dean wrote the following op-ed for national distribution:
John Roberts is a decent family man and a bright, articulate, thoughtful judge. He has a quality absent in previous right wing candidates like Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork, namely a judicial temperament that makes litigants feel that they have been respectfully heard whether they are on the winning or losing side of a verdict.
But John Roberts is the wrong man for the job. Despite the fact that the White House has withheld key documents either out of incompetence or a fear that those documents might prove embarrassing, we have learned enough from the files on Roberts at the Reagan Library to make it clear that he should be rejected. This conclusion has only been solidified by Roberts' testimony during this week's hearings. He has been a polished performer, but in failing to present clear answers to straightforward questions, Roberts missed a crucial opportunity to answer legitimate concerns about his record and show compassion for those who have been excluded from the American Dream. The consistent mark of Roberts' career is a lack of commitment to making the Constitution's promise of equal protection a reality for all Americans, particularly the most vulnerable in our society.
He has opposed laws protecting the rights of girls and young women to have the same opportunities in sports as boys and young men. He has argued that politicians, not individual women themselves, ought to control women's reproductive health care. He has opposed various remedies for the racial injustices which have occurred in America since slavery and which persist today. He has consistently joined the radical right in seeking to weaken voting rights protections, in essence attacking the rights of black and Hispanic voters to cast their ballot without paying poll taxes or being subjected to intimidation or gerrymandering. He fought against protecting all Americans from workplace discrimination. Most worrisome, he refused to answer questions on his limited view of the right to personal privacy that most Americans take for granted.
Over the last half century, we have made great progress in promoting equal opportunity for all Americans, but there is still much work to be done. Hurricane Katrina was more than the most catastrophic natural disaster in American history. Those who have in so many ways been denied the opportunity for full participation in our society once again suffered disproportionately in this tragedy—seniors, African-Americans and those burdened by poverty. Now is not the time for a Chief Justice who is bent on turning back the progress we have made in moving America forward.
Judge Roberts is said to love the law, but loving the law without loving the American people enough to protect their individual rights and freedoms will make our American community weaker. And the exercise of the law without compassion—something that Judge Roberts and so many on the far right have consistently been guilty of—undermines the grace and wisdom of the founders whose sense of balance and fairness made this country great.
In the past few weeks we have seen what happens when politics and indifference supercede compassion and organization. The enduring lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that there still are too many Americans who are disproportionately vulnerable. Despite the fact that they worked hard and played by the rules, their luck ran out. Americans are a compassionate, fair-minded people. Our nation is great and strong because of that compassion, not just because we have a strong military. We also have strong moral values which include an innate sense of justice often absent in many other parts of the world.
Our Government today shrinks from compassion. In doing so they have first diminished America in the eyes of the rest of the world, and now they have diminished America in the eyes of our own people. This is a time for justice tempered with mercy and understanding. There is no evidence of either in Judge Roberts’s career. The President should be denied this nomination.

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