September 1, 2005, The Washington Post, The Cordial Nominee Once Had Choice Words for Lawmakers, by Jo Becker and Brian Faler, 700+ words
John G. Roberts Jr. has been very courteous while making the rounds on Capitol Hill in anticipation of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings next week. But he was far less respectful of lawmakers two decades ago, when he was a young lawyer in the Reagan White House.
In one case, Roberts bemoaned a proposal to ease the Supreme Court's workload that had the support of then-Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and was gaining steam in Congress. "Our only hope," Roberts wrote in an October 1983 memo, "is that Congress will continue to do what it does best -- nothing."
He also criticized the Democratic majority for voting to posthumously award Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) a Congressional Gold Medal after he was killed near Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978 while investigating whether cult leader Jim Jones was holding people against their will. In a Nov. 18, 1983, memo to then-White House counsel Fred Fielding, Roberts wrote: "The distinction of his service in the House is certainly subject to debate, and his actions leading to his murder can be viewed as those of a publicity hound."
The two memos were among of 420 pages of documents released yesterday by the National Archives. More than 1,700 pages of documents had been withheld on the grounds that they were exempt from public disclosure. After Democrats and news organizations protested, a small portion was released.
Roberts heads into his confirmation hearings with Republicans in control of the Senate and mounting opposition from liberal groups. Yesterday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund announced its opposition to Roberts. The group was joined by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and several women's groups that say Roberts's record on minority and women's rights would set the nation back decades.
White House spokesman Steve Schmidt, noting that conservative groups representing women and minorities have announced support for Roberts, said that the move was "predictable."
How much is a lunch with Rep. John D. Dingell worth? The Michigan Democrat is auctioning off a lunch, along with a tour of the Capitol, on the Web site eBay to benefit a Detroit-area public radio station. "One lucky winning bidder will have the opportunity of a lifetime with a gift certificate for lunch and a U.S. Capitol tour in Washington D.C. for four with Congressman Dingell and his staff," the site said. After a day and a half, 21 bids had pushed the price to $222.50. Sale ends Sept. 8.
Democrats snickered last week when Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) insisted that he had questioned the Bush administration's Iraq policies even if his aides could not find those statements. Santorum is in a tough battle for reelection against Democrat Bob Casey Jr. who had accused him of not asking "the tough questions" about Bush's Iraq policies.
Well, let the record show that the comments in question have turned up -- in print. Santorum's office said it found a transcript of a Sept. 21, 2004, news conference in which he questioned "our tactics in Fallujah."
"I have concerns -- about tactics and decisions that were made," he said, according to a transcript produced by the Federal News Service. "I think you'd find a lot of Republicans who are very willing to second-guess our tactics in Fallujah, for example."
Not good enough for Casey's camp. "It took Santorum more than a week to dig up some year-old obscure quote that blames our military rather than challenging the administration's conduct of this war," Casey aide Jay Reiff told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
September 1, 2005, The Washington Times, Roberts Criticized Award to Lawmaker in '83; Memo Questioned Actions of Official Killed in Jonestown Massacre, by Stephen Dinan,700+ words,
Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. in 1983 criticized a bill that awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to Rep. Leo J. Ryan, who was killed in what has come to be called the 1978 Jonestown massacre.
Judge Roberts, in a Nov. 18, 1983, memo to his boss in the White House counsel's office, said that although there was no legal objection to President Reagan signing a bill awarding the medal, "I am not certain I would have voted to give" it.
"The distinction of his service in the House is certainly subject to debate, and his actions leading to his murder can be viewed as those of a publicity hound," Judge Roberts wrote of the California Democrat.
Mr. Ryan had traveled to investigate a sect called "the People's Temple," led by Jim Jones, whose members were living in the South American nation of Guyana in a community known as Jonestown. Some sect members tried to leave with Mr. Ryan, and he and four persons in his group were killed while trying to board a plane to fly back. Then, at Jonestown, 913 persons died, many from drinking cyanide-laced Kool-aid and the others from being shot by guards loyal to Jones.
Mr. Reagan apparently disagreed with Judge Roberts' opinion, because he signed the bill and said, "It was typical of Leo Ryan's concern for his constituents that he would investigate personally the rumors of mistreatment in Jonestown that reportedly affected so many from his district."
The memo about Mr. Ryan was part of 420 pages of documents from Judge Roberts' days in the White House office, which the National Archives released yesterday.
Meanwhile, a new set of women's and minority-rights advocacy groups announced their opposition to Judge Roberts yesterday: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women's Law Center.
"The issue here is not whether the nominee is conservative. It's the degree that concerns us," said Bruce S. Gordon, president of the NAACP. He said the groups hoped to pressure senators from both parties to press Judge Roberts during the confirmation hearings, and so announced their opposition before hearing publicly from the nominee.
"To wait would have, by chance, possibly caused the process not to be as thorough, not to be as examining as it should be," he said.
Also yesterday, Democrats stepped up criticism of the administration over the release of documents, with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders calling for President Bush to open up more files.
In particular, they want to see what Judge Roberts wrote when in the solicitor general's office in the administration of the first President Bush.
"The decision to withhold these documents continues a troubling pattern of secrecy by your administration, and a failure to respect the role of Congress in our constitutional system," the senators said. "If these documents are not made available, Judge Roberts bears a heavier burden to answer questions fully and forthrightly in the upcoming hearings."
Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. objected in 1983 to posthumously awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to a California lawmaker. [Photo by AP]