I'd ask Judge John G. Roberts Jr. this:
What is your opinion of the Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore, Dec. 12, 2000?
What is your opinion of the Supreme Court ruling in Clinton vs. Jones, May 27, 1997?
Democrats questioning Roberts in the U.S. Senate are either too polite or too cowardly to go there, but before confirming him as Chief Justice for the next two generations, they should press Roberts, a partisan Republican, on his opinion of those two rulings, which may be among the most catastrophic in history.
To understand why, ask yourself the following. Why are American soldiers and advisers still hunkering down in Iraq with no end in sight? Why are we yet counting bodies on the Gulf Coast? How did we end up with the federal government gushing record levels of red ink? Why is the gap between rich and poor growing larger? Why has the gas mileage of our cars not notably improved? Why are we building new nukes? Why are our civil liberties under assault? Why are our borders—and our homeland--not secure four years after 9/11? Why is Osama bin Laden still on the loose?
Unfortunately, the tracks leading to our present problems run straight through the heart of a Supreme Court that made law in a blatantly partisan and illogical way.
Take the December 2000 Supreme Court ruling that bestowed the presidency on George W. Bush. As you'll recall, the Supremes ruled in a strictly party line 5-4 vote that Florida must stop recounting votes cast in the 2000 presidential election. In effect, five Republican Supreme Court justices made George W. Bush president, even though a majority of Americans—and most likely a majority of Floridians--voted for Gore. A range of studies show that a recount of the entire state of Florida--as opposed to several counties--would've made Al Gore president in 2000. Say what you will, the Supremes had the discretion to arrange for that broader recount. It's tragic that they failed to do so.
Ignore for now that several of the justices had obvious conflicts of interest when it came to the case. Ignore for now that it flew in the face of states rights—which the court appeared to adore--and applied the notion of “equal protection”—for which the Supreme Court had shown disdain--in an absurdly one-sided manner.
Rather, take this bit of logic: In stopping the count on Dec. 9, the court held that such counts would be likely to produce election results showing Gore might've won and that this would cause "public acceptance" that would end up "casting a cloud" over Bush's "legitimacy" that would harm "democratic stability." In other words, if Americans are given reason to believe that Gore won, they won't accept the ruling that Bush won. It was blatantly circular reasoning, and some go so far as to characterize it as a political coup. In failing to insist upon an honest reassessment of the will of Florida voters, the Supreme Court under the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist dealt a major blow against American democracy, in the opinion of many who still feel disenfranchised and are understandably cynical about Bush's so-called quest to “spread democracy.”
The second case I'd ask Roberts about —Clinton v. Jones--was less dramatic at the time, but its results might've been just as dire. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled, in part, that no “unacceptable burdens” would be placed on Clinton by forcing him to testify in a sexual harassment civil suit brought by Paula Jones for events alleged to have happened in Arkansas--prior to his election as president--in a case that had been summarily dismissed as having no merit, then dredged back up on appeal by a cabal of political opponents. That case made it possible for Ken Starr to hound a sitting president into utter distraction. Who can say that distraction wasn't a contributing factor to the horrors of 9/11 and all that's come since?
I say this as no big fan of Clinton. It was when he began bombing Afghanistan and Iraq on the eve of his impeachment that I called for his resignation. Bin Laden has been quoted as saying those bombings contributed to his decision to attack the World Trade Center.
A growing number of Americans believe that our "experiment in democracy" is undergoing its greatest crisis in this, the first decade of the 21st century—with civil rights, national security, international credibility, environmental integrity, governmental competency, the security of our borders, our national treasury, the electoral process and our very sense of what it means to be Americans, all under siege. It portends no good that even while one Alberto Gonzalez was assessing Roberts as a Supreme Court nominee, that Roberts took part in ruling the Geneva Accords just don't apply to suspected terrorists. Conflict of interest anyone? Is this who we want as our most high judge?