But let's look at the article:
"John's conservatism was in fact a sign of intellectual courage, coming out of Harvard and being surrounded by law clerks from mainly liberal, East Coast, Ivy institutions," said John A. Siliciano, a law professor at Cornell who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the same time.
His was "a very solid, rigorous, coherent view of very important social questions," Professor Siliciano said, "about the relations between courts and legislatures, about the relationship between the federal government and the state, between the public sphere and the private."
Yes, and what was that view?
"John certainly was in sync with his justice," said Paul M. Smith, who clerked for Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. and is now a lawyer in Washington who frequently appears before the Supreme Court.
Got any details? Does that even mean anything more than that he dutifully did the assigned work or got along personally with Rehnquist?
[A]s far as Supreme Court terms go, Mr. Roberts served during a relatively routine one that included important cases on the First Amendment, federalism and sex discrimination, and ended with a notable affirmation of executive power.That notable case was Dames & Moore v. Regan, which, the Times writes, "took an exceptionally deferential view of executive power." Hmm, yeah, but it also did what had to be done, from a completely pragmatic perspective (that is, leave in place the deal Jimmy Carter made with Iran to get the hostages released). It was virtually a unanimous decision, with only Jusice Powell partially dissenting. All the liberal justices joined Rehnquist's opinion. It is notable that Judge Roberts recently "accept[ed] the Bush administration's position that it could block claims against Iraq from American soldiers who had been tortured there during the Persian Gulf war," but it's not particularly interesting that he cited Dames & Moore. It's the standard precedent, not some special case he'd be especially attuned to because of his clerkship with Rehnquist.
Few if any of the memorandums found so far from Mr. Roberts's clerkship shed much light on his political leanings. They are, if anything, concise and reliant on procedural points. ...So this impression those other clerks expressed: where did it come from? What substance did it have? Was it mostly an inference based on their own aggressively liberal views? Where is this "conservative rigor" -- and what is it?
Most justices hired clerks who shared their views. But the Rehnquist clerks did not wear their politics on their sleeves, said Robert B. Knauss, a Los Angeles lawyer who also clerked for the justice that year.
"Frankly, the people that did were the liberal clerks, who were more out there, more aggressive, more, frankly, intolerant," Mr. Knauss said. "There were a few that were pretty aggressive that would try to come into the chambers and lobby you."
There are also the memos Roberts wrote as a clerk, which are available because Justice Blackmun allowed his papers to go public. But the Times finds nothing of substance worth mentioning: "Roberts's memorandums stand out as terse, lucid and even elegant." So, he's good on style. (And, really, why wouldn't everyone who gets a Supreme Court clerkship have a "terse, lucid and even elegant" writing style?)
Friends, despite the headline, there is absolutely nothing in this article that supports the prediction that Judge Roberts has a strong conservative political perspective on the substance of legal issues.