If he is a mainstream conservative in the tradition of Justice O'Connor, he should be confirmed. But if on closer inspection he turns out to be an extreme ideologue with an agenda of stripping away important rights, he should not be.
I wonder how many people are buying the idea that O'Connor exemplifies "mainstream conservatism," which the Democrats spent the last few weeks promoting. But "extreme ideologue with an agenda of stripping away important rights" seems to be a relatively easy charge to refute. It doesn't seem to fit anyone with the stature to make make the short list. But I suspect we'll be hearing that overheated phrase again and again by those who want to defeat the nominee.
One of the most important areas for the Senate to explore is Judge Roberts's views on federalism - the issue of how much power the federal government should have. The far right is on a drive to resurrect ancient, and discredited, states' rights theories. If extremists take control of the Supreme Court, we will end up with an America in which the federal government is powerless to protect against air pollution, unsafe working conditions and child labor. There are reasons to be concerned about Judge Roberts on this score. He dissented in an Endangered Species Act case in a way that suggested he might hold an array of environmental laws, and other important federal protections, to be unconstitutional.The NYT can be trusted to make federalism values sound pernicious -- that is, as long as we're not talking about some very particular case where a state is engaged in an attractive, progressive policy experiment.
I'm concerned that Roberts won't care enough about federalism. He's been very deeply grounded in Washington, D.C. for a long time, and he represented the federal government in lawsuits. Why should he feel allied to the interests of the states?