Are you now or have you ever been?

It is striking how little of John Roberts’s thoughts on issues of concern to conservatives can fairly be deduced from his public commitments or comments. When President Bush named him on Tuesday night, the first thing I did was look at the news reports to ascertain whether he was a member of the Federalist Society or actively involved with it in any way. It was important to me as a kind of benchmark, and I knew it would be important to the McCarthyite left of the “are you now or have you ever been?” persuasion.
Several reports said that he was, but yesterday the Washington Post ran a correction quoting Judge Roberts saying he “doesn’t recall” ever having been a member of the Federalist Society. Yesterday the Post followed up with a separate story on the subject reporting that Judge Roberts acknowledges having spoken at Federalist Society forums. The “don’t recall” formulation seems odd, as does the lack of an affiliation with the organization. Today Charles Krauthammer characterizes Judge Roberts as a “tabula rasa.”
I think the estimable Dr. Krauthammer goes too far. Reader Heather Thomas has kindly sent us this link to a PBS News Hour 1997 interview with Judge Roberts, Laurence Tribe and others on the Supreme Court’s 1996-97 term. Read the interview for the full context, but here is a juicy tidbit. Margaret Warner asks Roberts if the Court’s assisted-suicide decision reflected the Court’s awareness of the limitations of the judicial branch:



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