John Roberts is No Longer Appearing on Conservative Merit Badges

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 9 2012 1:57 PM

John Roberts is No Longer Appearing on Conservative Merit Badges

Seven years ago, during the confirmation hearings for John Roberts, Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz penned a gushing op-ed for National Review. The young Cruz had once asked William Rehnquist to name the best Supreme Court lawyer in America. "The chief replied," wrote Cruz, "with a twinkle in his eye, that he thought he could probably get a majority of his colleagues to agree that John Roberts was the best Supreme Court advocate in the nation."

As a jurist, Judge Roberts's approach will be that of his entire career: carefully, faithfully applying the Constitution and legal precedent.
He is a mainstream judge, respected across the ideological spectrum. Thus, he's earned praise from liberal icons such as Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, and Chicago Law Professor Cass Sunstein, as well as from Clinton Solicitors General Walter Dellinger and Seth Waxman, and Carter and Clinton Counsel Lloyd Cutler, the latter two of whom both described Roberts as a man of "unquestioned integrity and fair-mindedness."
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Since then, I've seen Cruz, a U.S. Senate candidate in Texas, speak at conservative events in a couple of different time zones. Roberts, his old foxhole partner from the Florida recount, made regular rhetorical cameos.

Not anymore. When Roberts helped save "Obamacare," Cruz immediately blasted the Court for having "abdicated its responsibility to safeguard the Constitution." He didn't mention Roberts by name, but he insisted that the decision was more proof that Republicans needed to reject Cruz's opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. "My opponent is, by nature and by over a decade of political office, a conciliator. Now is not a time for conciliation." Take that, Larry Tribe. Stuff it, Walter Dellinger.

Over to Dewhurst. Cruz has campaigned against him as a liberal sellout -- on blogs, he's become known as "Dewcrist." Was he going to blow the chance to point out that Cruz's ally had saved Obamacare? No. "Supreme Court Justice John Roberts," said Dewhurst, "sold constitutional conservatives down the river."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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