Back when Bill Clinton was being assailed by what his wenchy wife termed a "Right Wing Conspiracy" for lying to a grand jury in connection with his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, it occurred to me that Clinton was a good president but an awful human being. Despite being a Republican, I can, in unbiased fashion, recognize that Clinton was able to decrease the deficit and bring the country together on a more rational, sane level.
Clinton, as President, made some mistakes: he had the chance to destroy Osama bin Laden (after the USS Cole incident) but opted not to; he reduced the size of the military despite the US's increasing, world-wide committments around the world; and he extended the entire Monica Lewinsky disaster by invoking Consititutional principles and attempting to hide under the Presidential Privilege umbrella (the same one that, also unsuccessfully, Richard Nixon once attempted to use).
But I digress.
The point of today's exercise in Boogiedom is not to assail President Clinton, but rather to discuss his successor's nomination of Judge John Roberts Jr. to succeed retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. On the surface, Judge Roberts, unlike the former President Clinton, is a good man. He's Harvard educated (both BA and JD) and has argued many cases before the Supreme Court, and his nomination as a judge to the U.S. Appeals Court, nominated by George W. Bush, was finally confirmed after the third go-round.
He's a strong conservative, which means that he has ruled against Geneva Conventions protection of the Gitmo detainees, has written briefs supprting integrating prayer in school graduation functions, and helped prepare a brief for Rust v. Sullivan (1991) which claimed "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled." The brief was prepared by Roberts as an attorney who represented his client. Prior to his confirmation as a judge on the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, he was pressed on the aforementioned brief, and his answer was, apparently, sufficient in allaying fears that his bias against abortion was his overriding belief. In response to questions regarding his consideration of Roe v. Wade (1973), he answered, "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."
The problem is if he intrinsically believes it was wrongly decided -- whether on legal or moral grounds, if not both -- his confirmation to the Court will likely be sufficient in having Roe v. Wade overturned.
Politically, I am mostly conservative: the one glaring disparity that divides the Republican party from my vision of conservative thought is that of abortion. Republicans, apparently, believe that life is more significant than a pregnant woman's right to decide whether she wants to undergo an abortion. This is an issue which is faith-driven, so it's purely personal choice; some people believe a pregnant woman should have the right to choose whether to abort the pregnancy, while others think abortion is murder and should be outlawed. The current status of abortion rights in this country, without getting too specific, is that under the decision laid out and implemented by Roe v. Wade, a woman can legally have an abortion. If this decision is countermanded by a newly-heard case, that right -- and the legality of abortion -- could very well be rescinded.
Based on two recent events -- the "right to die" case centering around the 'life' of Terri Schindler Schiavo and the capture and sentencing of Eric Rudolph, the man responsible for the bombing in the Olympic Campus in Atlanta several years ago -- it's clear that there is much difference between people who support and rally against a woman's right to have an abortion legally. Those people who fervently sought any and all recourse to keep a woman -- whose brain was partially disintegrated -- breathing, a vegetable trapped in a human body, are -- for the most part -- the same people who rally against abortion as murder. Rudolph, ironically, attempted to commit murder on a mass scale to demonstrate that second point.
It always amazes me that the extremists who use the bible as their inspiration rarely learn compassion and respect for his/her fellow man along with the fire and brimstone they often espouse as the teaching therein.
With regard to Judge Roberts, I doubt he will be confirmed. My comparison between him and President Clinton in the opening of this post was not to suggest Judge Roberts is a liar, a cheater and, generally speaking, a shitty human being. I believe he is a good man and an intelligent, more-than-capable lawyer. However, if his brief in Rust v. Sullivan expressed his own personal views against abortion, his confirmation will never succeed simply because his views will be polarized in such a way that the public will oppose his confirmation strictly on the basis of his anti-abortion beliefs. There is nothing wrong with someone ascribing to a "right to life" position; however, when that position comprises one ninth of the legality of something so sacred that people kill in its honor (or to eliminate it altogether) than I can't see how his views will survive a confirmation hearing.
The problem, in a nutshell, is this: people who oppose abortion on all levels as murder are doing so as a result of faith or belief. Their opinion stems from their way of life and the core of their religious beliefs. It is their right to oppose abortion, just as the Amish do not use electricity, orthodox jews do not eat certain, non-kosher foods and Muslims fast during the period of Ramadan. However, unlike people who fervently and religiously oppose abortion, the aforementioned groups -- the Amish, orthodox jews, muslims, etc. -- do not otherwise call for the things which they oppose to be deemed illegal. Electricity, non-kosher food and consumption of food during daylight hours during Ramadan are parts of our world, and so is abortion. Abortion isn't an especially pleasant undertaking, but to limit a woman's choice to make her own decision regarding same is extreme, and, in many ways, more repulsive than the concept of abortion in and of itself. Unless Judge Roberts is able to honestly convince the Senate his personal beliefs are not ant-abortion on principle, he'll be remaining in the DC Court of Appeals, and this process will repeat itself.
That's certainly a big if; but considering the stakes surrounding his upcoming confirmation, this upcoming confirmation has far-reaching consequences for this and all future generations.