John Roberts: The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wrote the opinion in Shelby County that badly weakened the Voting Rights Act, relying on a principle—“the equality of the states”—that even conservative constitutional scholars struggled to locate. The ruling appeared to cap off a decades-long effort by Roberts to undermine the most effective civil-rights law in history.
Photo by Win McNamee/Pool/Reuters

When even conservative justices aren’t conservative enough

Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) added a new line of attack to his offensive against his party’s Beltway establishment: the Republican presidential hopeful insisted that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just isn’t far enough to the right.
 
In fact, the GOP senator, who was an enthusiastic Roberts booster in 2005, even criticized former President George W. Bush for his reluctance to “spend some political capital” in support of a genuinely right-wing nominee.
 
Jeb Bush was asked in last night’s debate whether Cruz was right, and though the former governor’s answer meandered a bit, Bush suggested he’d nominate different kinds of justices than his brother: “Roberts has made some really good decisions, for sure, but he did not have a proven, extensive record that would have made the clarity the important thing, and that’s what we need to do. And I’m willing to fight for those nominees to make sure that they get passed. You can’t do it the politically expedient way anymore.”
 
Cruz added in response:
“I’ve known John Roberts for 20 years, he’s amazingly talented lawyer, but, yes, it was a mistake when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. […]
 
“It is true that after George W. Bush nominated John Roberts, I supported his confirmation. That was a mistake and I regret that. I wouldn’t have nominated John Roberts.”
Watching this unfold last night, some viewers might have been left with the impression that Chief Justice Roberts is, well, retired Justice David Souter. One President Bush nominated a jurist who seemed conservative enough, but who turned out to approach the law from a center-left perspective, and then another President Bush did the same thing.
 
Except, that’s not even close to being true.
 
When Cruz and others on the right complain bitterly about Roberts, they’re generally referring to the justice’s rulings on the Affordable Care Act. But the fact remains that both of the major “Obamacare” rulings were genuinely ridiculous cases – and it’s not Roberts’ fault that he took the law, court precedent, and common sense seriously.
 
Health care cases notwithstanding, though, Roberts is not a moderate by any fair measurement. We are, after all, talking about a court that handed down the Citizens United ruling. And then later gutted the Voting Rights Act. Roberts didn’t even support marriage equality.
 
Souter he isn’t.
 
If Roberts isn’t radical enough for Cruz, who exactly would the Texas Republican like to see on the court? Three times last night he mentioned Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Given Jones’ jaw-dropping record, that tells us an awful lot about Cruz.
 
 

Debates, Jeb Bush, John Roberts, Supreme Court and Ted Cruz

When even conservative justices aren't conservative enough