With a firm Republican majority in the Senate, the confirmation of Judge John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court is a fait accompli.

Roberts’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was lauded as brilliant by his advocates and as evasive by his critics. Perhaps brilliantly evasive is the best way to characterize his vague and incomplete answers to questions about his judicial philosophy. Nimble equivocation, however, is not a measure of intellectual brilliance, let alone judicial temperament. If one of the purposes of the hearings was to inform the American public about the philosophy and moral convictions of a man who might preside over the Court for decades, it failed.

Admittedly, the political etiquette of recent Senate confirmation hearings has not allowed for much candor from nominees. Even by those standards, though, Roberts was exceptionally taciturn. As the nominee of an administration that fights every disinterested effort to inform the public of its actions, Roberts’s circumventions fit a disturbing pattern of presidential arrogance and manipulation, as did White House refusal to release Roberts’s writings as deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration. It appears not to have occurred to the president and his staff that it would have been good for the nation to hear what Roberts thinks about the broad constitutional issues he is likely to confront as chief...

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