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Friday, August 26, 2005
Now Roberts Hates Civil Rights
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:11 am

Last week we had definitive proof that Roberts hates women and gender equity.

Now, via WaPp, we learn his support for civil rights is questionable: In Article, Roberts’s Pen Appeared to Dip South

When John G. Roberts Jr. prepared to ghostwrite an article for President Ronald Reagan a little over two decades ago, his pen took a Civil War reenactment detour.

The article, which was to appear in the scholarly National Forum journal, was called “The Presidency: Roles and Responsibilities.” Roberts was writing by hand a section on how the congressional appropriations process had evolved.

A fastidious editor of other people’s copy as well as his own, Roberts began with the words “Until about the time of the Civil War.” Then, the Indiana native scratched out the words “Civil War” and replaced them with “War Between the States.”

The handwritten document is one of tens of thousands of pages of Roberts files released over the past several weeks from his 1982-1986 tenure as an associate counsel to the president.

While it is true that the Civil War is also known as the War Between the States, the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the term is used mainly by southerners. Sam McSeveney, a history professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University who specialized in the Civil War, said that Roberts’s choice of words was significant.

“Many people who are sympathetic to the Confederate position are more comfortable with the idea of a ‘War Between the States,’ ” McSeveney explained. “People opposed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s would undoubtedly be more comfortable with the words he chose.”

My general position on the Civil War should be well known to long-term readers, but for those who are new, have forgotten or chose not to read those posts, let me note: I am not sympathetic to those who wish to downplay the significance of slavery in the Civil War. I don’t buy the “it was about states’ rights” argument as a means of deflecting the slavery issue insofar as the chief right in question was the right to own slaves.

(As a side note, I also don’t buy the idea that every time someone mentions “states’ rights” that they are speaking in racist code)

Further, I do think that the term “Civil War” is ultimately more accurate in its overall connotation than “War Between the States.”

However, to bring this up in the context of the Roberts nomination, and to quote Professor McSeveny in a fashion that is supposed to raise the specter that Roberts is a closet racist who opposed the civil rights movement, it a tad, well, ridiculous.

And what is that headline supposed to mean? Are we being a tad condescending here, or what?

I will grant that the article goes on to provide an alternative explanation, but it seems quite clear, from the very fact that this piece of information was deemed worthy a story at all, that the reporter and editors and WaPo favor the anti-civil rights angle.

Here’s the alternative thesis:

John M. Coski, the historian and library director of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, said the term was commonplace in the South until the 1960s or early 1970s. He said some people use “War Between the States” out of habit, others think it quaint or iconoclastic, and still others use it because they believe the Confederacy was right to secede.

“You can’t always draw the inference that someone who uses the term does so with an ideological intent, but at the same time you can’t be blind to the fact that some people do,” Coski said.

Given that Roberts was writing the article for Reagan, maybe he thought Reagan would have used the term. Who knows?

My question is: is this truly newsworthy?

h/t: E-mail from Anklebiting Pundits

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | |Send TrackBack linked with Is Roberts a Neo-Confederate?
PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Slow News Monday linked with [...] itle: “Roberts Hate Bad Grammar!” — at least that makes it parallel with this and this). Via the NYT: In Re Grammar, Roberts’s Stance Is Crystal Clear In fact, an obsession wi [...]
A Knight’s Blog » More WaPo Idiocy on Roberts linked with [...] Roberts Filed under: Media, History — Paladin @ 9:00 am Poliblog has a great post on the latest Washington Post article on Roberts, who is apparently now a racist, white supremacist [...]


  1. I would think there was some significance to the fact that he had written Civil War and changed it to say War Between the States. What that significance is, I couldn’t possibly say. Now, to the question “is this truly newsworthy?” Couldn’t we ask that of WAY TOO MANY news stories. Anything that a reporter or editor thinks that people might want to know is deemed newsworthy, the more it can be sensationalized, the better. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it is the world we live in and it isn’t going away.

    Comment by Jan — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 8:29 am

  2. Now if he’d called if “The War Of Northern Aggression”….

    Comment by Harry — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 8:36 am

  3. Granted, we live in information overload, and overall, I can’t, in all honesty, complain about too much information.

    What strikes me here is the clear (IMHO) political intent.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 8:41 am

  4. I find this a ridiculous accusation leveled at an individual who seems to be a pretty good man. As far as the written word goes, those who have had any experience in writing academically are aware that word choice is often made based upon its aesthetic value. Perhaps “War Between the States” rolled off the pen a little better than “Civil War.”

    Comment by clint — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 8:43 am

  5. […] Roberts
    Filed under: Media, History — Paladin @ 9:00 am

    Poliblog has a great post on the latest Washington Post article on Roberts, who is apparently now a racist, white supremacist […]

    Pingback by A Knight’s Blog » More WaPo Idiocy on Roberts — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 9:00 am

  6. I agree with the commenter who mentioned “The War of Northern Aggression”. I’m not a fan of that term, but “War Between the States” has an interesting ring to it, and may not mean that the person who wrote it is an EVIL RACIST.

    Comment by B. Minich, PI — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 10:33 am

  7. I always thought it was known as “the recent unpleasantness.”

    Comment by Ugh — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  8. He was writing for Reagan, and perhaps he thought that “War Between the States” fit Reagan’s oratorical/lyrical style of writing and speaking.

    Comment by Teri — Friday, August 26, 2005 @ 11:02 pm

  9. Heya Doc, saw this one on Althouse too. I’m just amazed at how much effort the WaPo is putting into maligning Roberts every step of the way.

    The irony of it is that since this is the first nomination in “the internet age,” we’re beginning to see that all that information that is available to everyone may actually be less significant and more meaningless than what we ascribe to it.

    Comment by O.F. Jay — Saturday, August 27, 2005 @ 10:45 am

  10. Is Roberts a Neo-Confederate?

    Of course not, but SCOTUS nominee John Roberts’ increasingly desperate opponents have seized on a 1980s article:A fastidious editor of other people’s copy as well as his own, Roberts began with the words Until about the time of the Civil

    Trackback by — Saturday, August 27, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

  11. […] itle: “Roberts Hate Bad Grammar!” — at least that makes it parallel with this and this). Via the NYT: In Re Grammar, Roberts’s Stance Is Crystal Clear In fact, an obsession wi […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Slow News Monday — Monday, August 29, 2005 @ 6:27 am

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