Center for American Progress

Talking Points: Roberts and Alito

Justices Have Signed On to Bush Political Agenda

June 27, 2007

Bush Supreme Court appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito have joined with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to form a solid bloc of votes for the Bush political agenda. At the time of their confirmation hearings President Bush argued that Roberts and Alito deserved bipartisan support because they would “interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans” and they would not “impose their preferences or priorities on the people.” The nominees themselves promised to be “umpires” without “any agenda.”

These statements are hard to reconcile with the facts as the Supreme Court wraps up its term. In fact, just as the scandals at the Department of Justice show the politicization of the DOJ, the nation’s highest court is turning into a political arm of the administration, too. Cases in point:

Clearly, the Senate confirmation process failed to elicit the two Bush appointees’ commitment to a rigid political agenda. Here’s what President Bush, Roberts, and Alito told senators and the American public at the time of their confirmation:

On the campaign trail, President Bush rallied his base with promises to nominate “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. Roberts and Alito matched that description. Roberts had been part of what his former colleague Bruce Fein called a “band of ideological brothers” who argued for dramatic changes in the law during the Reagan administration. And Alito submitted a 1985 job application detailing his “disagreement with Warren Court opinions” and his desire to “help advance legal positions [of the Reagan administration] in which I personally believe very strongly.”

Indeed, both Roberts and Alito spent their early careers serving the executive branch of ideologically-driven administrations rather than gaining the kind of real world experience brought to the Court by justices such as the one Alito replaced, Sandra Day O’Connor.

The future of the Supreme Court, and President Bush’s ability to project his legacy into the next generation by molding the Court in his image, now hangs in the balance. Consider the following facts if the president gets another chance to name a new appointee to the Court: