Newly released documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library reflect Mr. Roberts's repeated efforts to protect Mr. Reagan and his aides and supporters from some of their own most zealous instincts. He warned against excessive public presidential support for the Nicaraguan contra rebels. In 1984, he wrote a somewhat defensive note to his boss, the White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, arguing that it was all right for a presidential letter on minority business enterprise to speak of "encouraging government procurements," adding, "I do not think 'encourage' connotes anything in the nature of a set-aside or quota."He sounds like a tough and clear thinking character. We need someone with good instincts and the nerve and the intelligence to see the excesses in others and to stand up to them — in crisply apt English.
In 1984, Mr. Roberts objected to the proposed draft of a presidential campaign speech that would have had Mr. Reagan refer to the United States as "the greatest nation God ever created." Mr. Roberts wrote, "According to Genesis, God creates things like heavens and the earth and the birds and the fishes, but not nations." He added that the phrase was "a likely candidate for the 'Reaganism of the Week.'"
There's a limit to what we can infer from old papers, and we don't know how well the NYT picked through the documents and interpreted what it found, so I'm not going to become giddy with high hopes about Roberts. Still, I can't help but think that he will dramatically improve the quality of Supreme Court opinions. We shall see.