John Roberts: Brash and Opinionated

It seems that John Roberts is one brash and opinionated sort of guy, especially when it comes to sexual discrimination…

As a brash young lawyer in the Reagan White House, Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. scoffed at state efforts to pass gender-discrimination laws, advised caution in aiding private support for Contra rebels in Nicaragua and called an expansive crime bill backed by Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter “the epitome of the ‘throw money at the problem’ approach.”

Of all the new documents, Roberts expresses his strongest – and most potentially controversial – opinion in a Jan. 17, 1983, memo to his boss, White House Counsel Fred Fielding, about efforts by states to pass gender-equity laws.

— Roberts wrote that several of the efforts were “highly objectionable.” He also said a California law that required layoff programs to reflect affirmative-action priorities was at odds with the administration’s stance. He described another California law as “staggeringly pernicious” because it codified the “anti-capitalist notion of ‘comparable worth’ pay scales.”

— Roberts didn’t weigh in directly on South Africa sanctions, but he did use the debate over U.S. policy on that nation’s system of racial segregation, or “apartheid,” to reinforce his dislike for quotas.

— On a copy of a proposed executive order banning certain types of economic support for the white-minority South African government, Roberts wrote “minority set-aside?” next to a passage that encouraged U.S. government agencies to pursue business with South African companies that had at least 50 percent black ownership. The passage survived without change.

— In the mid-1980s, as the Reagan administration grappled with a civil war in Nicaragua and congressional resistance to direct U.S. intervention, Roberts urged caution in administration efforts to encourage private support for the “Contra” rebels seeking to topple the leftist regime.

— In 1985 he initially tried to end White House involvement in an event designed to encourage donations to the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund because it would suggest a White House affiliation with private fund raising. He relented after the fund-raising portion of the event was moved out of the White House.

— In 1986, he tempered commendation letters for Contra support groups that he thought linked Reagan too closely to the groups.

— He also warned White House speechwriters that Reagan mustn’t urge private citizens to send money to “freedom fighters” in Nicaragua because that would break the law. More gung-ho attitudes among aides on Reagan’s National Security Council later led to such lawbreaking and the ” Iran-Contra” scandal that almost got Reagan impeached in 1987.

— Roberts thought little of a 1983 crime package proposed by Specter, who will preside over Roberts’ confirmation hearings next month as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure would have cost $8 billion over nearly a decade to build prisons and beef up federal agencies and give another $6 billion to states.

— Roberts scorned it as “the epitome of the `throw money at the problem’ approach” and predicted that Congress would dismiss it. In fact, Congress passed a major crime bill in 1984.

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One Response to John Roberts: Brash and Opinionated

  1. Marjorie G says:

    More intelligent than Clarence Thomas, some are breathing a sigh of relief. I say Roberts’ smarts will do a better job of making the unfair seem convincing.

    Groomed for this, paying his dues, getting help along the way in a delivery system far superior to ours, because we have no system with people in place. More than determined, disciplined to hold the message, I see this Conservative web as a mob, who have committed crimes, or small offenses, certainly enough so that changing course could be made intolerable or impossible. The Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society are delivery organizations.

    Lest we forget their grating spokesmen on the TV blathering about Clinton’s impeachment. We know what happened to Ben Ginsberg; White House lawyer who rolled out the Swifties. But what happened to Mark Levin? I still get mad remembering that face. I digress.

    So when we wonder how malleable or independent he could become if they lose power, I say they won’t lose power and he’s no David Souter.