Attack On Sotomayor's Political Ties Ignores Roberts' Link To Bush

A new line of attack against Judge Sonia Sotomayor holds that the Supreme Court nominee lacks impartiality because she has been a public supporter of President Barack Obama.

But Sotomayor is not the only nominee to the court who has publicly supported a sitting president. The conservatives criticizing Sotomayor seem to have forgotten Chief Justice John Roberts' close association with President George W. Bush.

Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center and one of Sotomayor's fiercest critics, declared in a post on The National Review last week that the Supreme Court nominee lacked the judicial objectivity for the job.

"In a speech that she delivered to the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Assocation on April 17, 2009 -- two weeks before news of the Souter vacancy broke -- Judge Sotomayor made a number of references to President Obama that seem surprisingly and disturbingly partisan coming from a sitting federal judge," wrote Whelan. "Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges provides that a judge 'should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.' Sotomayor's public cheerleading for Obama seems clearly to violate that ethical obligation."

Among the series of hits on Sotomayor, this one seems likely to fall in the category of throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks. After all, if impartiality and ethics obligations on the court are Whelan's chief concern, he would have howled in protest to Roberts' pre-Supreme Court resume.

The current chief justice and pride of the conservative judicial movement was a member of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney, DC Lawyers for Bush-Quayle '88, and the Republican Lawyers Association -- an organization affiliated with the RNC. Roberts also donated $1,000 to the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign and started his career in a Republican administration, as special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General William French Smith during the Reagan years. The most serious charge of overt partisanship, though one never established, was that Roberts informally advised then Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in his handling of the Florida recount effort during the 2000 election.

Reviewing this record for a host of publications during Roberts' confirmation battle in 2005, Whelan focused not on the political ties, but on the history of "judicial constraint." At one point he joked about his own gushing over Roberts' record, posting a joking article on the National Review titled "John Roberts Is A Saint" - a reference to the actual, Welshman St. John Roberts.

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