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Mr. Roberts & Mr. Jackson:

An interesting tidbit about the late Michael Jackson and Chief Justice John Roberts.

rosetta's stones:
You'd think a reptilian lawyer would love MJ.

"Show 'em how funky-strong is your fight... it doesn't matter... who's wrong or right... just Beat It."
6.26.2009 9:16pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Note to Kurt Vonnegut: They are both Hoosiers!
6.26.2009 9:25pm
martinned (mail) (www):
Ouch, that does not make Roberts look good. Even though I might be inclined to agree with him, given how much fluff your average president already does, it seems excessive to object in this way.

Not to mention that the reference to "constantly repeating the same refrain" (which kinda seems to be the point of a refrain, but never mind), makes him sound like some snob who despises all music written after 1900.
6.26.2009 9:27pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
I recognize that I am something of a vox clamans in terris in this area, but enough is enough.

The use of "vox clamans in terris" in a piece of correspondence should have been enough to torpedo Roberts' nomication.
6.26.2009 9:30pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
Gah! "Nomination" not "nomication."
6.26.2009 9:30pm
devoman:
From these anecdotes, I'd say if you look up pompous in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Chief Justice Roberts.
6.26.2009 9:37pm
interruptus:
He sure doesn't sound enamored with this "newcomer who goes by the name 'Prince'", either.
6.26.2009 9:40pm
Oren:

Ouch, that does not make Roberts look good.

It increased my respect for him considerably, for whatever that's worth. Every word of those memos was spot on, save perhaps for the unnecessary latin phrase. Even that, I'm willing to forgive because he laid the righteous smack down pretty hard on the oh-so-deserving.
6.26.2009 9:43pm
mls (www):
Well, Roberts might have taken the issue a little more seriously than warranted, but I have to agree with the thrust of his comments. Also, I have personally seen him dance to YMCA (making the letters and everything) at a bar mitzvah, so he may not be the music snob suggested in this article.
6.26.2009 9:44pm
Oren:

Well, Roberts might have taken the issue a little more seriously than warranted

I think his objection was that the rest of the White House was taking the Presidency much less seriously than warranted.
6.26.2009 9:46pm
Sean M.:
This was internal White House correspondence, not meant for public consumption. It's sort of like, say, a cert pool memo that contains an ASCII drawing of a fly swatter. This was an attempt to lighten up the doldroms of the White House, not some grand statement.
6.26.2009 9:54pm
Bonze Saunders (mail):
Well, I will refer to the "killjoy" comments in the NYT blog, and go on to note that Roberts' memos are... tone deaf.


mls:

I have personally seen him dance to YMCA (making the letters and everything)



So he's not a "killjoy," he is tres gay? Touché!
6.26.2009 9:58pm
devoman:
Also, I have personally seen him dance to YMCA (making the letters and everything) at a bar mitzvah...

I take back my comments about him being pompous. He sounds like a real maniac.
6.26.2009 10:11pm
Dave3L (mail) (www):
What I fail to understand is: where is the legal analysis here? It strikes me an associate WH counsel is not supposed to be opining on the non-legal propriety of presidential communications. Even if one could muster a legal objection to the correspondence, Roberts does not make such an argument, but rather relies on pompous bloviation to strike down a policy choice by a staffer charged with making such calls.

So much for just being an umpire...
6.26.2009 10:44pm
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
I agree with Dave3L. Why are my tax dollars paying a lawyer to criticize the Reagan's pr strategy?
6.26.2009 10:54pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
What a weirdo!

And what Dave3L said: no legal analysis at all. Some umpire.
6.26.2009 11:16pm
Jay:
Wouldn't there need to be a legal question before there could be any legal analysis of it?
6.26.2009 11:28pm
Kazinski:
I can see Michael Jackson proffering his Presidential correspondence at his child molestation trials as character attestations.

Good call JR.
6.26.2009 11:38pm
neurodoc:
Dave3L:It strikes me an associate WH counsel is not supposed to be opining on the non-legal propriety of presidential communications.
Do you think that the WH counsel, that is the associate counsel's boss, "is not supposed to be opining on the non-legal propriety of presidential communications? Why are the "not supposed to be" doing such? Is your concern that that may not be the highest and best use of their talents? When you become an attorney, will you refrain from offering clients your opinion on the "non-legal propriety" of
communications and other conduct because in your view it is not within an attorney's province to do so?

Was Robert's judgment vindicated when later Jackson was accused of giving children not old enough to drive "Jesus juice"? It would have been good for Reagan, and more importantly, the office of the presidency, to lavish praise on a performer whose public service contributions were so unimpressive?
6.27.2009 12:11am
neurodoc:
My first paragraph was a bit mangled, but I trust my meaning was clear enough. I think it is part of an attorney's responsibilities to advise clients against not only conduct which my be illegal, tortious, or otherwise legally imprudent, but also against that which the lawyer see as simply not in their client's best interests. It appears that the WH correspondence office could not be counted on to so advise the president.
6.27.2009 12:19am
Psalm91 (mail):
I suppose he would have preferred Toby Keith, Charlie Daniels or Lee Greenwood. Imagine Roberts' opinion of mixed marriages; Nixonian?
6.27.2009 12:19am
neurodoc:
Psalm91: Imagine Roberts' opinion of mixed marriages...
???
6.27.2009 12:21am
Cato The Elder (mail):
Eminently sensible. And I'm glad even then that he used his latitude to enforce a very reasonable "bright-line rule".
6.27.2009 12:36am
smooth criminal:
MJ fan here. I have to agree with Roberts: he was defending the institutional dignity of the office, and apparently was a lone voice in doing so, which makes it all the more admirable. Nothing "excessive" about using forceful language in an internal memo either, especially when one is swimming against the tide. martinned is just wrong, as usual.
6.27.2009 3:18am
smooth criminal:
devoman:

I take back my comments about him being pompous. He sounds like a real maniac.

And you listen to devo, who's the maniac now? That alone disqualifies you from commenting.
6.27.2009 3:23am
devoman:
Sorry, not a fan of Devo, the rock group. That would be Devoman, I suppose.
6.27.2009 4:37am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Imagine Roberts' opinion of mixed marriages

The key word there is "imagine."

Even if you don't say anything hateful, liberals will imagine you saying it, and then hate you just the same.
6.27.2009 4:55am
devoman:
Yup, all liberals think exactly alike. Why not take a comment you don't agree with and extrapolate it to an entire class you don't agree with. Makes sense to me.
6.27.2009 5:32am
rosetta's stones:

It was to be published in a special issue of Billboard magazine devoted to Mr. Jackson, alongside photos from the White House event, in a section about his “volunteer activities and the national recognition of his achievements.”


The article seems to imply that Jackson's people solicited the letter, which was to be published immediately in Billboard.

I'd agree that anybody around Reagan with any sense of history and protocol shouldn't have offered to let the WH become part of an entertainer's brand and marketing effort. And I can see a tight ass attorney being somewhat stunned upon coming across the draft letter, and slapping it down viciously, then once more when similar came across his desk again shortly after.

Times change though. Every bowling league champion in the land parades through the WH now. And I'm expecting Obama to do a rap video before long. Or drive in NASCAR.

Even friqqin Dole, selling out and selling woody medicine. Come on, folks.
6.27.2009 7:28am
neurodoc:
rosetta's stones: Even friqqin Dole, selling out and selling woody medicine. Come on, folks.
If memory serves me, Bob Dole aspired to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but never made it. So, no question of demeaning the presidency. Also, I think Dole's record of public service, including increasing awareness of prostate cancer, which he did before ever pitching "woody medicine," something that can itself be seen as part public service, was much, much greater than Michael Jackson's. (How impressed are others by the public service of so many athletes and entertainers that are so well publicized?)
6.27.2009 8:22am
neurodoc:
BTW, while we are in this period of mourning for an entertainment phenom, would it be unseemly to bring up Michael Jackson's record of antisemitic expression ["Jew me/Sue me/Everybody do me/Kick me/Kike me;" Jews = leeches]?
6.27.2009 8:28am
Ex parte McCardle:
I admire JGR and had no use for Michael Jackson but this makes Roberts look like a real jackass.
6.27.2009 9:58am
Sarah (mail) (www):
I didn't think it was possible for me to like our Chief Justice more than I already did, and now I see this.

I would like to point out that it looks more than a little bit like the communications aide (Conye, I think it was) was the primary target of Mr. Roberts' ire in those letters - and it seems likely that the Latin-intensive tone was a direct rebuke to the stuff the aide wrote, which really was fawning and beneath the dignity of a late-20th century White House.

It's probably also worth noting that, given that the Chief Justice was born in 1955, he was not yet thirty years old when these things were written, and had just come from working for not-yet-Chief Justice Rehnquist and the US Attorney General before this. How many 29-year-old, high-flying, socially conservative attorneys from Harvard wouldn't write something like this? Especially in response to the draft letters he was commenting on?
6.27.2009 10:03am
A. Zarkov (mail):
martinned:

"... makes him sound like some snob who despises all music written after 1900."


I might put the date at something like 1940, but what's snobbish about lamenting devolution of your culture?
6.27.2009 10:05am
DiverDan (mail):
Hey I LIKE Michael Jackson music, but I just respect the hell out of Roberts for taking a principled stand on not letting the White House be some Pop Star's publicity shill. For those of you who think he was pompous (oh, all right, the "vox clamans in terris" was more than a little over the top), I'll take a heaping dose of pomposity in preference to a President who fawns over every pop idol just because some of that popularity among the rabble might rub off - it cheapens the President and the Office.
6.27.2009 11:01am
BT:
"The visit of the tour to Washington was not an eleemosynary gesture"

Gotta admit, that one drove me to the dictionary.

Robert's comes across as a tight ass. The irony of cource being that RR made his name in Hollywood and was above all an entertainer for most of his career. Jackson, at the time this took place, was about a big as you could get in the entertainment business, so it may have made some sense for some of RR's people to try and tie in with him and there may have been similar sentiments on Jackson's side to get noticed by President Reagan. All pretty harmless if you ask me.
6.27.2009 11:27am
Jason F:
Another fascinating intersection of the lives of John Roberts and Michael Jackson is that Mr. Jackson dropped dead of a heart attack mere hours after Chief Justice Roberts's Court issued an opinion outlawing strip-searches of children.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.
6.27.2009 11:38am
AJK:
What the hell is vox clamans in terris? (I know what it literally means, but what's the allusion?) Is it the same as vox clamantis in deserto? All the google results are references to this memo.
6.27.2009 11:50am
zippypinhead:
Another fascinating intersection of the lives of John Roberts and Michael Jackson is that Mr. Jackson dropped dead of a heart attack mere hours after Chief Justice Roberts's Court issued an opinion outlawing strip-searches of children.
LOL - JasonF wins the thread!!!

Gotta say, I agree with Roberts' views of the propriety of those proposed fawning letters to MJ. Although am I the only one bothered by his description of Springsteen's Born in the USA tour as "patriotic?" I have a hunch John Roberts hadn't actually listened to the lyrics or BITUSA, and certainly wasn't at any of The Boss' concerts on that tour where he covered the Vietnam protest song "War," prefaced by his admonition to military-age fans that blindly trusting the government could get you killed (see also Disc 3 of Springsteen's Live/1975-85 compilation). In fact, one almost wonders if Roberts was the one who put the rather unwise bug into Reagan's ear to cite Springsteen's song a couple of months later as an upbeat, patriotic message of hope?
6.27.2009 12:58pm
Dave N (mail):
Also from the NYT:
In addition, it is worth noting that Mr. Roberts and Mr. Jackson had some things in common. Mr. Roberts was born in 1955 and grew up in Long Beach, Indiana. Mr. Jackson was born in 1958 less than an hour’s drive away, in Gary.
Yes, because people in Long Beach and Gary hang out together all the time.
6.27.2009 2:28pm
Dave N (mail):
I guess I am a true legal nerd though. When I saw the headline, my first thought was Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Robert Jackson.
6.27.2009 2:36pm
The Unbeliever:
Another fascinating intersection of the lives of John Roberts and Michael Jackson is that Mr. Jackson dropped dead of a heart attack mere hours after Chief Justice Roberts's Court issued an opinion outlawing strip-searches of children.

LOL - JasonF wins the thread!!!

I second that. And Roberts wins the weekend for providing the best news story in the middle of 24/7 MJ coverage, media speculation about the circumstances, and general fawning.

After reading those memos, I went from thinking Roberts was generally OK, to being a fan of the guy.
6.27.2009 2:45pm
luxurytwist:
Pompous? Sure. IANAL, but isn't a legal memo maybe the No. 1 most appropriate venue for pomposity?

And I think anyone's "memo voice" is going to be more pompous and uptight than regular speech.
6.27.2009 2:50pm
PC:
Also, get off his lawn.
6.27.2009 3:41pm
rosetta's stones:
...and take your dagblasted white glove with you!
6.27.2009 3:47pm
neurodoc:
I suppose Phil Spector, another recording industry great, didn't have the record of public service that Michael Jackson had or he might have been invited to the WH for a photo op with a president.

(Is it really OT here to bring up MJ's "contributions" to antisemitism?)
6.27.2009 3:50pm
methodact:
Based on what? Mr. Jackson's FBI file?
6.27.2009 5:00pm
BT:
"Yes, because people in Long Beach and Gary hang out together all the time".

I happened to be born in Hammond,IN (where is Hoosier when you need him) which borders Gary, IN and I can assure you I have nothing in common with Mr. Jackson or Mr. Roberts, NYT be damned.

Also if there were a VC Commenters Hall of Fame Jason F would be in it.
6.27.2009 5:44pm
methodact:
I've read a multitude of variations on that joke, all around the Internet. I watched Real Time With Bill Maher, last night, expecting him to tell nothing but Michael Jackson jokes. He did not, and his show ended up being one of his best.

It is doubful that even Mr. Jackson's reliance on heavy pain-killers could dull the suffering of ignominy.

While searching on Greg Hartley, I came across this interesting link to Neurotypical.
6.27.2009 6:27pm
Oren:

I might put the date at something like 1940, but what's snobbish about lamenting devolution of your culture?

Or perhaps he just didn't like where pop was going at the time (but was a large fan of modern death metal) ...
6.28.2009 10:39am
ArthurKirkland:
Mr. Roberts seems likely to have been right about Jackson (Reagan's photo op with Jackson regarding the dopey War On Drugs seems just as clueless as Nixon's similar display with Elvis) and wrong about Springsteen (a patriot, but not in a way Roberts or Reagan could have recognized) for the same reason: his sheltered, privileged background and his consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature.

Would Roberts have been equally forceful in objecting to a prospective Presidential event featuring a religious figure, athlete or classical musician? I suspect he would have loved Pat Boone.
6.28.2009 12:56pm
neurodoc:
ArthurKirkland: his sheltered, privileged background and his consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature.
No one would argue that Robert's background was other than a solidly upper middle class one and that he obtained as good an education as anyone could aspire to. If that is what you mean by "privileged background," then a substantial number of Americans can be counted "privileged." But surely not all similarly "privileged" individuals can fairly be said to have been "sheltered" and be of "consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature."

If you allow, as you do, that Roberts was "likely to have been right about Jackson," then why imagine that he got it right for the wrong reasons? And what evidence would you cite that Roberts should be seen as the product of a "sheltered background" and that his is an "uptight, narrow-minded nature"?

I think many of the comments in this thread (including mine) may say more about the commenters than that which they are commenting on.
6.28.2009 1:21pm
ArthurKirkland:
Mr. Roberts appears to have gone out of his way (were lengthy, written comments such as his regarding Mr. Jackson part of the job description of a highly educated, taxpayer-paid lawyer in the Reagan White House?) to disparage Michael Jackson. In doing so, he let slip a telling tone-deafness with respect to Bruce Springsteen. This invites questions (why did he do this?) and inferences (he appears to have been similarly unable to overcome a temptation to comment about women with law degrees).

Are there similar writings from Mr. Roberts with respect to similar proposals involving public figures -- athletes, musicians, religious leaders, authors -- or was his outrage peculiarly sparked by Michael Jackson?

Mr. Roberts appears to have, throughout his life, favored authority, order, and the favored. He reliably sides with those in authority, prefers order to dissent, disfavors the underdog. This causes me to expect that we will not find any snide comments directed toward Pat Boone -- white, synthetic, "wholesome," flag-waving, overtly religious, the Wonder Bread of music -- in the pile in which he disparages Michael Jackson and misses the point entirely with Bruce Springsteen. This strikes me as a relatively small -- although very comfortable and well-appointed -- cocoon.

The issue of that cocoon's role in the performance of a Chief Justice seems worthy of public debate.
6.28.2009 2:19pm
cristina (mail):
Delightful bit of info about the White House inner workings and a very young and arrogant yet clever Roberts.
Love it.

Roberts’ Latin phrase is utterly correct.
He didn’t mean the Biblical/Latin Vulgate “vox clamantis…”, but exactly the opposite, an ironic statement, built on the more famous quote: someone who speaks from inside the realm of power–”terris”–and therefore likely not to be trusted as being too close to power.
Hey, folks, lighten up and brush up on both your Latin and the Church Fathers.

Besides, why would Roberts not try to knock out, with his intellect, those who have little or none?
You do it, all of you, all the time.
6.28.2009 6:42pm
neurodoc:
ArthurKirkland: The issue of that cocoon's role in the performance of a Chief Justice seems worthy of public debate.
You grant that Roberts got it right with respect to Jackson, but think he got it "wrong" with respect to Springsteen because Springsteen couldn't be counted as "patriotic" given the words of his songs? Or, Springsteen might be seen as patriotic, but Roberts surely wouldn't have thought Springsteen "patriotic" if he had ever listened to those words? Or, Roberts was too obtuse to get the plain meaning of those words? And you see the Jackson/Springsteen thing as clear, or at least suggestive, evidence of the effects of Roberts' "sheltered, privileged background" and his "consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature."? I don't think so.

What do you think of the personal pedigrees of the other Justices? Is Clarence Thomas's performance explained by his "unsheltered, unprivileged background and his consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature"? Is Stephen Breyer's very different perfomance explained by his "his sheltered, privileged background and his consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature." How about the performances of the other six Justices? IMO, your "psychological" insights are akin to ad hominem and not of much value.
6.28.2009 8:19pm
neurodoc:
Is Stephen Breyer's very different perfomance explained by his "his sheltered, privileged background and his consequently uptight, narrow-minded nature?
I should have written, "his consequently not uptight, broad-minded nature"? And so on with the other six Justices beyond Roberts, Thomas, and Breyer.
6.28.2009 8:24pm
cristina (mail):
Sorry for the error. It should be read "vox clamando" instead of "vox clamantis."
6.28.2009 9:07pm
ArthurKirkland:
Roberts got it right with respect to Jackson because presidents' attempts to partake of the "hip" crowd (Reagan-Jackson, Reagan-Springsteen, Nixon-Elvis) generally backfire, especially if the president is old, white, right-wing and painfully unhip. It becomes nearly surreal when the hipsters being enlisted in the War on Drugs turn out to be addicts with strange personal habits.

Roberts misjudged Springsteen. The likelihood that a rigid conservative such as Roberts would have admired Bruce Springsteen's patriotism, on any basis other than misapprehension based on a tin ear, is remote.

I think it is revealing that Roberts would stride so aggressively into the fray with respect to Jackson (and feminism), and that he would miss Springsteen's point entirely.

I also believe he nearly reflexively votes against the underdog and in favor of established interests, against dissent and in favor of established order and authority, for the social conservatives' preference despite his ostensible umpire's rigor.

The relatively narrow cocoon in which he appears to have resided his entire life (although given recent revelations one can never be too sure about even the most morally vocal public figure's private affairs) seems likely to explain, in part, his performance in many roles for several decades.

But I could be wrong. If so, to what should his narrow-minded, uptight nature be ascribed?
6.28.2009 9:50pm
[insert here] delenda est:
I don't know Arthur, perhaps first you can tell us why you beat your wife/husband so?
6.29.2009 1:43am
neurodoc:
ArthurKirkland: The relatively narrow cocoon in which he appears to have resided his entire life...If so, to what should his narrow-minded, uptight nature be ascribed?
First, it was Roberts' decidedly "sheltered, privileged background." Now, it's
"(t)he relatively narrow cocoon in which he appears to have resided his entire life"? And the Springsteen business is the sole evidence on which you rely for "narrow cocoon"?

Which Justices other than Thomas came from disadvantaged backgrounds, ones that were clearly not "sheltered, privileged"?

Does "narrow-minded, uptight nature" apply equally to Scalia, Thomas and Alito, and all who would decide cases the same "conservative" way if they were on the Court, which is to say usually the wrong way in your view?
6.29.2009 1:56am
ArthurKirkland:
I see no discrepancy between the "sheltered, privileged background" and the "relatively narrow cocoon in which he appears to have resided his entire life."

I have not studied all of the justices' backgrounds. I don't know the entirety of Roberts'. But he appears to have benefitted from privilege (often unearned) every step of the way -- white; male; from a prosperous family of the type that arranges jobs and funds educations. I can't find a single point in his life in which he was the underdog, or did something substantial designed to accomplish anything other than to benefit John Roberts. (Stevens enlisted in the military, and I believe Alito also is an active-duty veteran, although I don't know whether he enlisted or was drafted. Ginsburg was a pioneering female law student and advocate of women's rights. Thomas experienced and overcame enormous hardship.)

Roberts' background is that of the person whose underage drinking or marijuana use does not become a crippling criminal problem; the person who doesn't have to worry about being stopped by police because of his clothes or skin color; the person whose point of view is rarely stifled. Did he ever worry about paying the rent or tuition, about obtaining medical care, about having a small misstep become a disaster because of the lack of a safety net? From that background developed a man who reliably sides with the police, the principal, the prosecutor, the person in authority, the established order.

If Scalia, Thomas or Alito demonstrates himself to be such a going-of-his-way smartass about females and Michael Jackson, and such a clueless dumbass about Bruce Springsteen, I will wonder about him as much as I wonder about Roberts. If evidence emerges that Robert went out of his way to take snide shots at a Jim Bakker or Pat Boone the way he went after women in classrooms, women in legal practice or Michael Jackson, I will wonder less about Roberts.

Perhaps Roberts' recent health problems could broaden his perspective . . . or perhaps even empathy. People change, so I have not lost hope for John Roberts.
6.29.2009 9:36am
neurodoc:
"white, male" - yeah, suspect ab initio

"prosperous family" - lucky he wasn't born in China with a pedigree like that

"person whose underage drinking or marijuana use does not become a crippling criminal problem" - do we know that Roberts ever engaged in underage drinking or marijuana use, so we might see that his "privileged background" spared him "a crippling criminal problem," or we don't need to see, yours is a charge he cannot escape?

"the person who doesn't have to worry about being stopped by police because of his clothes or skin color" - 8 out of 9 of the current Justices, and maybe all but 2 of the Justices in the history of the Court, at least on the "skin color" count.

"Stevens enlisted in the military" - yes, he did in 1942, when his chances of escaping the draft were effectively zero. "Alito also is an active-duty veteran" - yes, for four months, three months less than me, a privileged white male who joined the Army Reserves when no obligation or inducement to do so.

"Thomas experienced and overcame enormous hardship." - so you don't see Thomas as being "narrow-minded, uptight nature," deficient in "empathy"?

Do you see Alito and Scalia in a more favorable light than Roberts?
6.29.2009 10:30am
ArthurKirkland:
So far, I see Alito and Scalia in a more favorable light than Roberts. I believe Scalia to be an outstanding member of the Supreme Court -- although I would prefer his role to consist primarily of writing excellent dissents -- consequent to his insight, creativity and passion. I find Alito to be substantially more open-minded (perhaps because of a broader range of experience) than Roberts has been. Some of my impression of Alito derives from his work on the Third Circuit.

I do not see Thomas as being narrow-minded or uptight. I admire his climb up many of the rungs of life's ladder.

Roberts could begin to escape the charges (to the extent he cares) by demonstrating that he is something other than a reflexive vote for the established order. Or by a showing that he isn't clueless about Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, women's rights and many other elements of the real world. Or by showing a substantial decision or act in his life that was designed to benefit someone other than himself. Or by showing that he has the ability to overcome hardship (distinct from the ability to take advantage of momentum supplied by others).

He could escape suspicions regarding the dimensions of his coasting by stating whether he ever used marijuana or engaged in underage drinking, and whether his parents ever rescued him from legal trouble, points that would be relevant to evaluating the morality of his current positions with respect to the War On Drugs, harsh treatment of juvenile offenders, and intense deference to prosecutors.

I do not expect Roberts to be an influential member of the Court, let alone a standout, unless he changes. He appears to lack the insight, passion, experience and perspective associated with outstanding work on the Supreme Court. I have no doubt he can be a workmanlike justice, perhaps the consummate workmanlike justice, but in his current form I see no reason to expect him to be a persuasive designer or advocate of insightful positions. I see no reason to expect him to be a Chief Justice by any measure other than appointment.

Let's hope he changes and surprises.
6.29.2009 11:26am
rosetta's stones:
Kirkland, if you're waiting for anybody, Roberts or otherwise, to make the long journey out to your worldview, you better not hold your breath. That would truly be a surprise, and for most, a voyage too far.
6.29.2009 1:03pm
zippypinhead:
Frankly, regardless what one thinks of Roberts and his political/sociological/class/gender/race/education/whatever orientation, it sounds like there's near-unanimity that on the merits his advice to Reagan to stop fawning over MJ was pretty good. Perhaps snarky, ultra vires, or based on a particular not-quite-dead-yet-white-male cultural mindset that some don't care for, but pretty good nonetheless.

As for misunderstanding Springsteen, it's interesting to see that in June 1984 Roberts made the same mistake in interpreting BITUSA that George Will later published, which if one can believe Wikipedia, was the proximate cause of Reagan's infamous Sept. 19, 1984 campaign trail reference to Springsteen's "message of hope." Must have been the flag motif on the album cover that confused those guys... dag nabit, there ought to be a law!
6.29.2009 1:34pm
Johnny 99 (www):
"I see Alito and Scalia in a more favorable light than Roberts"

Well, duh! The two Jersey natives on the Court OBVIOUSLY get it. It's in the Jersey DNA to know it's a death trap, it's a suicide rap...

IPOF, this thread has gotten waaaay more philosophically intense than the topic deserves.
6.29.2009 1:38pm
neurodoc:
ArthurKirkland, I'm not ready to concur in your opinion, but I do appreciate your further elaboration of your thinking about Roberts. I was mistaken to think that your negative views of Roberts would pertain to any who decided cases the same way he does, which is to say Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, with Kennedy occasionally in the mix. (If Sotomayor is confirmed, then I think we can expect less frequent "Catholic" unanimity on the Court.)
6.29.2009 3:07pm
ArthurKirkland:
I see a strong chance that the Court will be deciding cases somewhat more to my liking sometime in the next decade. That doesn't mean a Scalia should be cast aside just because I tend to disfavor his votes . . . if he leaves and Roberts stays, the loss of his reasoning and passion would constitute a strong net loss to the court. Justice Scalia, by helping his colleagues forge stronger reasoning and occasionally persuading them that his views should prevail, would be an asset on any Supreme Court.

Alito occasionally rules with the underdog -- the police officer abused by the police command for attempting to testify truthfully in court, the student newspaper afflicted by a silly and discriminatory advertising ban -- which inclines me to believe he apprehends and considers both sides of an argument, ruling by reason rather than reflex.

Thomas is an unusual man with unusual views. Again, I wish to see him dissenting most of the time, but I believe he plays a helpful role by causing others to think about points that might be overlooked otherwise.

I do not believe Roberts adds much to the Supreme Court. Of the four strongest conservatives, he strikes me as the readily dispensible one. Actuarial tables favor him, however, so I must hope he either improves or spends the rest of his term writing crabby dissents.
6.29.2009 6:43pm
ArthurKirkland:
Bruce Springsteen does impart a message of hope . . . hope that our nation will continue its trajectory of progress, overcoming the small-minded authoritarians, the petty prejudices, the unfair apportionment of opportunity, the unjust laws, etc.

He also pays his own way, and creates jobs and enormous economic activity, without tax-exempt status or government grants or government-sponsored performances (contrast: the symphony, the opera, the ballet, the theater, and other forms of entertainment that flatter the more "refined" tastes).

Finally, as his remarks in Pittsburgh in September 1984 indicated, I believe he understands the John Robertses far better than they understand him.
6.29.2009 6:57pm

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