Washington Prowler

Sinking to a New Low

Bottom-feeding researchers isolate Democrats trying to oppose John Roberts.

By 8.8.05

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It was opposition research generated by pro-abortion group NARAL -- and distributed to Democratic operatives working against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John Roberts -- that spurred these operatives to encourage reporters in Washington to look into the Roberts' adoption process.

"They [NARAL and other anti-Roberts groups] went into this with a laundry list of things, and the idea that given what was at stake nothing was out of bounds," says a Democratic lobbyist who is part of the Roberts fight. "That's why you saw that ridiculous Roberts-is-gay thing spinning through the blogosphere, and why you had serious reporters looking at the adoption issue."

Another Democratic operative said that NARAL officials hit on the adoption issue because "Some of these NARAL and really aggressive pro-choice groups see political motivations behind everything. They see people who adopt children -- beyond the desire for children -- having an ideological predisposition against choice issues. It isn't just about kids, it's about politics."

The Democratic lobbyist says the very fact that the adoption issues reached so far as the New York Times, as well as other Washington bureaus for major newspapers and wire services, shows how desperate Roberts opponents have become: "There is a lot of Roberts writing, but there isn't anything much to hang our hat on. He's clean, and it's frustrating our ability to paint him anything other than what the White House put forward: a smart, sharp and fair legal mind."

Thus far, the White House has handled the Roberts nomination process exceedingly well. Seemingly sensing that the left was organizing a whispering campaign about Roberts, the White House through back channels encouraged the leak of information that Roberts through his law firm did pro bono work on behalf of a gay-rights lawsuit before the Supreme Court. "That story just killed us," says the lobbyist. "How do you push back on that?"

The White House and Roberts supporters saw little downside to encouraging the gay lawsuit story to get out, according to Republican sources. "The guys who normally would have gone out there and really blasted Roberts were already out there backing him. They could criticize him, but not pummel him the way they might have were the story released before the nomination was made," says a GOP surrogate on the Roberts nomination. "If this continues, this nomination fight will be the model for future nominations."

As for talk that the New York Times or other news outlets got very far on the adoption story, the Republican operative doubts they got anywhere. "Our impression is that the left was just trying to get others to do their dirty work, so they could say, 'We've heard the New York Times is doing something,' just to get the left all agitated and talking about something on Air America," says the operative.

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