Friday, August 12, 2005

Attack or Defense? (The Roberts Nomination)

The battle to get Roberts onto SCOTUS is showing the dramatic effectiveness of the focused counter-attack.

I'm skeptical about Roberts, since the statistics show he's almost evens to turn into a lefty despot as soon as he's elected. Still better him than a guaranteed lefty. And so far the nomination battle has been going well.

The first action was a preemptive strike against the New York Times, which was investigating the Roberts' adoption of their two little kids. The NYT was breaking the first rule of business and political conflict, which is Never Attack Families. For some reason the US left doesn't observe this rule - last year Kerry "outed" Dick Cheney's gay daughter. It's a terrible tactic, since it provokes a universal Yuck! And so it proved with the NYT story: Drudge leaked their investigations, people got mad, and the NYT staged a miserable retreat.

The next attack was mounted by NARAL, the pro-abortion group.

On Monday, NARAL Pro-Choice America launched a major ad campaign that aims to scare a small portion of America, then raise more money to scare the rest.

The ad was a blatant lie (WSJ subscription).

The ad focuses on a friend-of-the-court brief then-deputy Solicitor General Roberts filed in 1991 in the Supreme Court case Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic. It accuses Judge Roberts of siding with "violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber," and urges viewers to call their Senators to oppose his confirmation. It concludes: "America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans."

It's true that the brief sided with the pro-life protest group, Operation Rescue -- but that's a deliberate distortion of what the legal case was actually about. At issue was whether federal courts could use an 1871 civil rights law enacted to protect blacks against the Ku Klux Klan to stop pro-life blockades of abortion clinics.

Mr. Roberts argued the case before the Supreme Court, saying that a pro-life protest did not constitute discrimination against women. In 1993, a 6-3 Supreme Court agreed.

The right counter-attacked with this Opinion Journal comment on abortion clinics.

In September 2002, when Democrats first blocked Justice Priscilla Owen from a circuit court nomination over a Texas Supreme Court ruling that upheld a parental notice law, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah put it this way:

"I fear the opposition to Justice Owen from the abortion lobby is not at all about abortion rights, because abortion rights are not affected by a mere notice statute. The opposition to Justice Owen is not really about abortion rights, it is about abortion profits. Simply put, the abortion industry is opposed to parental notice laws because parental notice laws place a hurdle between them and the profits from the abortion clients--not the girls who come to them but the adult men who pay for these abortions. These adult men, whose average age rises the younger the girl is, are eager not to be disclosed to parents, sometimes living down the street. . . . At nearly one million abortions per year, the abortion industry is as big as any corporate interest that lobbies in Washington. They not only ignore the rights of parents, they also protect sexual offenders and statutory rapists.You've never heard this? Surely that is no surprise."

Mr. Hatch's statement was reported in only one news story, by Newsday's Tom Brune. He noted that there was an audible gasp among the abortion lobbyists in the back of the Judiciary Committee room. I remember that gasp.

It must have struck a nerve - today NARAL said it was withdrawing its ad.

A pro-choice group yesterday said it would withdraw its television ad that accused federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. of supporting an abortion clinic bomber.

So far then, counter-attack rather than defense has proved the most successful response to democratic attacks on Roberts.