Democrats Hit Roberts' Ambiguity; Senators Frustrated That Nominee Would Not Discuss Specific Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Hurt, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Democrats laid the groundwork yesterday to oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., accusing him of withholding his personal views on political and judicial matters.

"You did speak at length on many issues and sounded like you were conveying your views to us," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, told Judge Roberts yesterday. "But when one went back and read the transcript each evening, there was less than met the ear that afternoon."

As he had throughout his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Roberts calmly explained that - as with previous nominees such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - it would be improper for him to discuss his personal views on certain issues, especially those that might come before the court.

In addition, the chief justice nominee said, those views are irrelevant, because his goal is to merely apply the law within the confines of the Constitution.

Still, it was the overriding concern of Democrats on the panel, which will vote on the Roberts nomination next week. Senate Republicans say they don't expect to pick up a single vote from the eight committee Democrats, but several - including Mr. Schumer - insist that they haven't made up their minds.

Outside the Senate, a coalition of liberal interest groups released a new television commercial showing snippet after snippet of Judge Roberts explaining during his testimony that he couldn't answer certain questions, many of which had been asked repeatedly.

Yesterday marked the fourth and final day of hearings on Judge Roberts' nomination to become the nation's 17th Supreme Court chief justice. It is widely expected that the full Senate will confirm Judge Roberts by the time the high court convenes Oct. 3.

Among those Democrats being closely watched is Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who has said she will not support a nominee who will undo federal abortion rights.

"I don't really know what I'm going to do with respect to voting for you or against you," she told Judge Roberts yesterday.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican who is pro-life, dismissed such interest in Judge Roberts' stance on abortion. He spent two hours with the nominee and said he tried mightily to pin him down. He couldn't, but plans to vote for him based on his overall judicial philosophy and intellect.

Although no Democrats expressed support for Judge Roberts' nomination, they heaped more praise on him yesterday for his intellect and coolness under intense questioning. …