At Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans, wealthy white people would have their favorite black waiters who could cater to their every whim, who, for that couple of hours of interchange, made those white people feel as if every joke was hilarious, every story compelling. And the Rude Pundit knew young white people who could sit with musicians in the crappiest little dives and have intense conversations about what makes a jazz improv transcendant. Either way, though, at the end of the day, the white people headed off to one New Orleans, and the blacks headed to or remained in another. Either way, for all but a few whites, those in social services, those who chose to live where the rents were cheapest, the real black New Orleans was a hidden place of poverty, gangs, run-down housing projects, and the evidence of the neglect of a society as surely as the unfortified levees surrounding them. And, like the waters that have filled the streets, it is hidden no more.
I have written a piece for the One America website that reflects my hope that the American people will make a commitment to never forget the faces they saw on their TV screens this week and once the emergency has passed, to call firmly upon their government to make it our A-One priority to pull these - and other Americans - out of their poverty. No more charades and class-games. This is a great moral cause.
President Bush has nominated John Roberts to succeed William Rehnquist as the Supreme Court’s chief justice. To avoid the possibility of liberal justice John Paul Stevens making decisions about who to assign cases to and having influence over court deliberations, the President has acted swiftly. The temporary shuffling that may have to come with renominating Roberts for the top job was likely weighed against the political turmoil surrounding Hurricane Katrina and the long-term impact on the Supreme Court. I suspect that President Bush may be thinking of nominating a woman to take Sandra Day O’Connor’s place, and I believe that, since the timing is right, he would rather give the top job to a man who is still relatively young and could feasibly spend 30 or more years as Chief Justice.
Who is John Roberts? A biographical sketch of Roberts, which was recently written by Donna Cassata, is here: [Washington Post.]
Robert W. Gordon, who is Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale, has been studying Roberts, a man most of us had never heard of prior to his original nomination and who now stands to have the top job at the highest court in our land. Professor Gordon says that Roberts wrote a series of memos in the 1980s as a Reagan staffer in the Justice Department and the White House. In the memos, Roberts “pours smug contempt on virtually every liberal initiative to put effective enforcement mechanisms behind the rights of blacks and women to equal treatment with white males, in the workforce, voting booth, schools and housing. He opposes affirmative action orders, court-ordered busing to achieve racial balance in schools, and "comparable worth" remedies requiring government offices to pay similar wages for similar jobs performed by men and women.” His views are said to have been were more restrictive of civil rights even than those of hardline conservatives in Reagan's administration like William Bradford Reynolds and Theodore Olson. And most of his positions have not been ratified by time, even in our much more conservative political climate. [Gordon - Part One - Gordon - Part Two]
There is a great divide between liberals and conservatives on the appropriate role of federal remedies in federal courts and John Roberts has stood on one side of that divide. Where conservatives could not get the votes in Congress to dismantle American progress by legislation, they have tried to do it by executive action and appointing new cadres of conservative judges to interpret statutes and the Constitution so as to limit rights of redress in the courts. Roberts' memos have shown the varied ways in which the courts can whittle away at a system of liberal remedies.
His nomination as chief justice demands a national debate over where the rest of us want to stand.
What questions would you like the Senators to ask John Roberts when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee? What do you think can we expect if he is confirmed?