Richard Cohen finds that “the spectacle of conservative groups and the White House rushing to assure their constituencies that Roberts is not. . .a tolerant man is both repulsive and absurd.” I find it appalling, but not surprising, that Cohen is ignorant or disingenuous enough to have posited the existence of this “spectacle.”
The alleged spectacle pertains to John Roberts’ role in helping to prepare attorneys for a Supreme Court argument in which they argued that, as a matter of constitutional law, a state cannot specifically exempt gays from the protections of their anti-discrimination laws. The Supreme Court agreed with this purely legal position by a 6-3 vote. Some conservatives would be unhappy if (as is possible) Roberts agreed with the majority position as a matter of constitutional interpretation. I know of few if any conservatives who would be unhappy if (as is likely) Roberts believes that discrimination against homosexuals with respect to matters like employment and housing is a bad thing. Cohen certainly does not identify any such conservatives, much less any who have assured “constituencies” that Roberts is not a tolerant man.
Does Cohen really fail to grasp the distinction between the question of whether it’s wise or morally proper to permit certain forms of discrimination, and the question of whether the Constitution bars state governments from doing so? Or is he merely pretending to miss this basic point in order to support his vicious and unsupported claim that conservatism is “tethered to the lost cause of homophobia.”?
And, since we’re talking about Richard Cohen, does anyone care?
UPDATE: A small conservative group called Public Advocate of the United States has withdrawn its support for Roberts because his pro bono work in the case described above has caused it to conclude that Roberts is not a “strict constructionist.” Byron York, who knows everything, has the details on the over-the-top leader of this group, Eugene Delgaudio.
CORRECTION: Thanks to the many readers who pointed out the typo (and recognized it as such) in the original version of this post that suggested, contrary to what I was trying to communicate, that conservatives would be happy if Roberts favored discrimination against homosexuals. These readers made it clear that, as conservatives, they would not be happy in the very unlikely event that this were the case, and neither would I.
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