During his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday, Barack Obama came across as he did in the early part of this campaign: thoughtful, reasonable, and likeable. But as we have come to expect with Obama, there is a need to unpack his answers carefully. For example, we got a glimpse into what Obama considers to be his capacity to transcend partisanship:
During the . . . John Roberts nomination, although I voted against him, I strongly defended some of my colleagues who had voted for him on the Daily Kos, and was fiercely attacked as somebody who is, you know, caving in to Republicans on these fights.
It’s worth bearing in mind that John Roberts is one of the most distinguished people ever appointed to the Supreme Court. He is not only intellectually brilliant, but widely respected by virtually everyone he has ever worked with for his judicious temperament and his integrity. And, during the confirmation hearings, Roberts’ mastery of the law allowed him to match and overmatch even his most indefatigable critics. There were, in short, no real grounds on which to oppose the Roberts nomination.
Nevertheless, Obama voted against Roberts. (It’s worth recalling that when President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3–and Roberts was, if anything, more qualified than Ginsburg to sit on the high court.) For Obama to vote against Judge Roberts was an irresponsible, partisan decision, the kind of “old politics” that Obama has promised to rescue us from. And his citation of that vote as an example of post-partisan credentials shows just how desperate Obama is to present himself as a unifying figure. His record demonstrates nothing of the sort–and yesterday’s interview is one more example of why the portrait Obama is presenting is in many respects deeply at odds with his record.