Today is Roberts' first day on the job. (Even without the president's nomination of Harriet Miers, today would be historic.) I like this report from Dahlia Lithwick in Slate, via Ann Althouse.
Since you're dying to know: John Roberts is not wearing the gold stripes that William H. Rehnquist added to his black robe several years ago. If we wanted proof of the new chief justice's infamous humility, this would seem to serve. At Harriet Miers' press conference this morning, Bush's new nominee for associate justice, like Roberts, also claimed to be humble.
Unlike Roberts, she's truly earned that right. [Ouch!]
In a delicious double-Cheney, the woman assigned the task of selecting the next associate justice of the Supreme Court ultimately determined that there was no one so qualified as herself. [Ouch, again!]
This is great:
Justice John Paul Stevens opens this morning's oral argument with a tribute to William H. Rehnquist. He was, he says, truly "first among equals," and then he quotes from Thomas Gray: "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air." He concludes by welcoming Roberts, who, he notes, "argued 39 times before this court." He smiles and adds: "Which exceeds the combined experience of the rest of us." [Gracious comments do not get any better than that.]
So, how does Roberts look in the chief justice's chair? As though he were born to it, quite frankly. He is clearly prepared for argument. He listens intently to his colleagues' questions and watches them while they speak. His first exchange with Phillips shores up his credentials as a strict constructionist: "So, your approach introduces a third concept … and that's nowhere in the statute." He goes back and forth several times in this first colloquy and is quickly confident enough to retort: "That's my question." He juggles counsels' names, time limits, and a stack of briefs as though he's been doing it all his life. The fact that Roberts' umbilical cord was being cut when most of his colleagues were already practicing law is irrelevant. He is absolutely ready to lead them.
To his left sits Sandra Day O'Connor, who may vote and count, vote and not count, or not vote and not count in this case—depending on when Miers is confirmed. How she feels, knowing that her own résumé was more impressive 24 years ago than Miers' is today, is not evident from her questions. She must be wondering, as are the rest of us, whether young Jack Roberts might not have been a better pick to replace her.
My own prediction: She may not make it to the Supreme Court. Bush may not even intend for her to get there. She may be, rather than the “misdirection,” many expected, an out-and-out decoy, floated to allow both the liberals and the conservatives to blast her out of the water so that Bush can then put up another candidate that both left and right - after having behaved very badly over Miers - will not dare to behave badly over, again.
Or…she could make it to the court and be the “pit-bull in size 6 shoes” that Governor Bush described ten years or so, ago.