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Jul 24, 2005

Roberts' Rules of Order


Let me state up front, I'm just reading tea leaves.

That said, I think the chances are good that John Roberts will take over Sandra Day O'Conner's role as the mediator between the Supreme Court's more liberal and conservative members.  To put it another way, I don't think Roberts -- at least personally -- has a hidden agenda. 

Why do I say this?

I think family portraits are typically very revealing of psychological traits and personality styles.  The shot above is the single family photo the Roberts clan picked out to submit to the media.  Of course, it might not be be representative for any number of reasons.  If it is, however -- and I'm speaking as a liberal right now -- I find it somewhat reassuring.


I don't know if things might have been a little contentious or distant between John's parents.  Or maybe John was just favored by both parents as the only boy.  Whatever the dynamics, John can be seen to form a connection between the parents and possibly even hold the two together.  (Notice how Mom is turning away from Dad with her left shoulder and head, and Dad sits independently upright?) 

I wouldn't be as keen on the photo, however, if I hadn't seen it after reading several biographical sketches of Roberts.  In most every quote from Roberts himself, as well from the comments and anecdotes of others, what emerges is the picture of a man who subsumes his own preferences in favor of achieving a consensus.

Consider these sample comments from last week's extended profile of Roberts in the NYT:

"[H]e just got along with everyone."

"Judge Roberts ... stood out for his even-tempered nature and his ability to engage with people with many different viewpoints."

"[Roberts was] very interested in what other people had to say."

"Judge Roberts said to me a long time ago there was no case he had been on where he couldn't have done the other side."

Perhaps the strongest evidence of character style involves the job Roberts chose on the Harvard Law Review. From all indications, Roberts had an intellect that was hardly matched. Rather than write, however, he job the chose of managing editor.

[College friend Stephen] Galebach said the fact that Judge Roberts's position at the law review was managing editor "tells a lot about John." He added: "Managing editor is the one who just makes sure everything is done to a high level of quality. It's the ultimate position of not injecting your own views, but allowing other people to reach high levels of scholarship."

Far from being a scientific investigation or a representative sample, I was curious if there were other visual examples (either from portraits or other key events in Roberts' life) that might show a preference for being in the center. The NYT slide show on Roberts' life has four group photos. I pulled out the three where it seemed the people had arranged themselves. In each case, what I did was mark the exact center of the photo in red.

The first photo is Roberts' High School drama club photo.  Roberts is in the front row, second from the right.


The next shot is from the Harvard Law School Yearbook depicting the Law Review staff.  Roberts is the one circled.   


The last image is from a wedding of one of Roberts' best friends. Roberts is third from the left. (Notice how strongly he is leaning to his left? Although he is leaning toward his best friend, who is the groom.)


Maybe this is all coincidence.  Or maybe it's not and Roberts is a peacemaker and natural centrist -- but maybe his ultra-right wing wife has more influence on him than we can know.

I realize I'm supposed to remain paranoid, but I just don't get the feeling this guy is going to be doing anything too extreme -- except, perhaps, to try and get Ginsburg and Scalia to make nice.

(image 1: AP Photo/Roberts Family. Undated. Made available Thursday, July 21, 2005 by the family. image 2: La Lumiere High School yearbook. Undated. image 3: Harvard Law School Yearbook. Undated. image 4: wedding photo. 1981.)


Of course, he could just always be one of the first two or three to line up for pics. If he came late he wouldn't be in the center of the pic, would he?

And another thing. I noticed that the people in the center of club pics or pics of organizations tend to be the core group - the closer to the center, the closer one is aligned with the group. So, if the pics were of ACLU events, I just might agree with you, however, I think Bush picked him because he holds group loyalty over all other ideals, which is perfect for a fascist government that wants the courts to play nice. Remember his chosen favorite group is the Federalist Society and the GOP.

I am just going to keep saying this: Roberts is the Chief-Justice-in-Waiting. Aside from speculation that "torture boy" is too close/in on the Rove problem (and therefore Alberto could not be nominated) BushCo, with this appointment, is making sure that a CJ candidate is in place in case Rehnquist does not last. There would be a terrible Senate fight if Scalia or Thomas (who each lack the consensus/collegiality gene) were to be nominated for CJ.

A couple of interesting tidbits, SDO'C was waxing enthusiastic about justice/independent judiciary in the UKRAINE recently, noting her discomfort with moves AGAINST an independent judiciary in the US these days. I also heard that Rehnquist is feeling somewhat akin to that--perhaps he has said he is determined to stick it out through this administration. . .

My prediction: The radical right, sensing that Roberts won't be their man when he won't answer questions about abortion to *their* liking (or anyone else's), will pick the fight – and blame the liberals for it. It's already started happening through the usual radio and tv outlets.

I once used photogrammetric cameras and software for close-range measurements. In the glass plate the film was held up to (a tricky piece of mechanics) are many small "crosses" called "reseau" marks, that are documented to microns, so to determine in the developed film, stretch or distortion, as a result of temperature or other parameters. They are also documented with one lens too to take into account any aberrations. Well these crosses reminded me of them a little. The close-range photogrammetry was introduced to me by Canadians who where trying to figure out how to respond to a US "drubbing" for not getting the forensic info on a military air crash in Gander, Newfoundland before a blizzard covered up the perhaps crime scene. The Rollei camera people were developing it. However Avianca crashed in the woods while they were teaching me it and I to this day sometimes feel guilty. However they say that was caused entirely by language misinterpretations. Maybe the Supreme Court with Roberts could force more cases to be heard about the victims of disasters (Flight 007 the USSR shot, the Iranian jetliner we shot, Flight 800 (?), the events of 9/11, etc.) and force close-range photogrammetry on the law, as it is being adopted in England for car-crashes and other work. The idea was that one could have flown over the crash site in a helicopter before the blizzard and had extremely accurate measurements to work from, and perhaps compare them after the thaw.

Actually, regarding the Harvard Law School Yearbook photo, I think there's a much simpler dynamic at work.

Maybe he really isn't as worrisome as we've been supposing.


Note how scrunched into themselves the two women on the left have to be to allow John to be the tallest in the room. They're mashed together, and the other daughter? on the right is hidden behind her father.

John is the sibling front and center, complete in his own space, with feet placed as though he were walking toward the camera. The pose should be one of confidence for him, yet there is a tension, too -- suggested by the slightly off-kilter tie and apparently "sassy hips" that he's got going on.


For a message of conservatism, just look at the clothes! Is the 1980s style (shoulder pads, hair) meant to reference the GOP's glory years under Reagan?

I noticed you referenced John's stance and compared it to his political alignment in this quote:

"The last image is from a wedding of one of Roberts' best friends. Roberts is third from the left. (Notice how strongly he is leaning to his left? Although he is leaning toward his best friend, who is the groom.)"

I seriously doubt anyone (either consciously or subconsciously) fixes their stance so that they are leaning in the direction of their political preferences for wedding photos. And even assuming he did, would he not also be able to realie that they way he lemaned would be the opposite of what viewers of the photo saw/ And if so would he not have adjusted his leaning so that he was leaning right by his perspective, but left by the viewers of the picture?

seems to me the man had reached his (glass)ceiling a while ago and has been in "storage" until his call would come.......the GOP "coup" has been in the making since a very...very long time...why bother with robots when you can do it with humans?...this is better than fiction.......joli coup...

Fucker can't remember if he was a Federalist Society member very much like Clarence 'I hate Being a Negro' Thomas couldn't remember that he could speak English during the Rob-Gore Election of 2000, where he didn't ask a single question and claimed it was due to his Gullah accent (which he explained in perfect English). Anything a Bush pulls out of his respective ass is SHIT. As for Roberts being in the center--well, he may dig the smell of guys' sweat (hint hint...)

I would never have noticed it without coming to this site, but I think there's even more to it than just his own preferences. I mean, how on earth does he always seem to be in the middle? I see it that people just like him, and that they naturally see him in the centrist position; as a balance to things. It's not just that he's short, or something, because he's seen sitting. So I think this is not just a sign that he sees himself as a reconciler, but that others see him that way too.

And I stand by the idea that he's good news. He looks like a nice guy, but he's obviously not dumb. And I support any nice, intelligent people; even if they are conservative.

Hey, what's Roberts doing with the president of Iran? And is that Lewis Black in the front row?

Fun analysis

What if the WH just picked those pictures where Roberts is in the middle? I would have. After all, the nomination is all after him.

My family would never choose such a group portrait. John dominates this photo like Jesus dominates 'The Last Supper.' What makes him the superstar of the siblings? As a feminist I am deeply offended by this photo.

Judging by Robert's hair in the family shot, I'd say the photo looks at least 10 years old. Nothing like being topical.

Stella; what makes him the superstar? Didn't you know; his all-American dick. It protects these American borders; it protects the American dream. You're aware no women could do that right? Groan.

Look at this post by Australian blogger by Mark Bahnisch, which features a much scarier photo!

(On my browser you have to scroll down a fair way to see the photo, but YMMV.)

For a message of conservatism, just look at the clothes! Is the 1980s style (shoulder pads, hair) meant to reference the GOP's glory years under Reagan?

Try 1950s - as the comments on Mark's post point out, the family looks like something out of the Midwich Cuckoos.

My Take: Roberts is just another brick in the wall of Bushco's insulation strategy. The guy is anonymous to you and me, but he is an inside player to the insular mindset of Dubya. I wonder how much he supports (and is compromised by) the partisan shenanigans of Rove, the duplicity of Cheney, and the pretense of Bush? I am less concerned about his conservatism than his allegiance. I suspect the USA is best. and the Constitution? a mere tool. It's about time the administration opened its books (on Roberts and so much else), so that the American people can have a look inside.... It'll never happen, Bush had a 51% mandate (not counting no shows) and he has the legal experts to prove it.

An excellent analysis, as usual, though I must confess that my first thought was: those are the whitest people I've ever seen. Like, the boiledd-down, syrupy essence of honkitude.

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