Put John Kerry in the "no" column on John G. Roberts. In an email message that is going out now to his supporters, Kerry says that he can't vote "for a Supreme Court nominee who came before the Senate intent on demonstrating his ability to deftly deflect legitimate questions about his views, opinions and philosophy."
"Win or lose on this vote, it is essential that we act on our deepest convictions," Kerry says.
Kerry said it was incumbent upon Roberts to "show us where his heart is," and that he failed to meet that test during his confirmation hearings.
Both Kerry and Patrick Leahy, who came out in support of Roberts' nomination this morning, described their decisions as matters of conscience. We'll grant that there's some of that at play, but there's also the matter of future political aspirations. Kerry has them -- his full-court press this week on Katrina and now Roberts underscores his desire for another White House run -- and Leahy does not. That means that Leahy can afford to infuriate activists on the left in a way that Kerry -- to the extent he hasn't already -- cannot.
And "infuriate" is plainly the right word here. Minutes after Leahy made his announcement this morning, People for the American Way President Ralph Neas had hash words for the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Neas said that Leahy had "eloquently made all the arguments against the confirmation of Judge Roberts, and then made a decision that contradicted his own compelling reasoning." He called Leahy's decision "inexplicable" and "deeply disappointed," and he said that Leahy will ultimately be "complicit" when Roberts becomes chief justice and "votes to erode or overturn longstanding Supreme Court precedents protecting fundamental civil rights, womens rights, privacy, religious liberty, reproductive rights and environmental safeguards."