Besides his long and stellar résumé, Mr. Roberts, who was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit less than two and a half years ago, has an extremely short and thin record of actual decisions. Those two attributes may be equally desirable for a Supreme Court nominee these days. The résumé attests to his right to be considered, and the lack of a real judicial record makes it hard for potential critics to guess how he might rule on controversial issues.
Like the president, this page worries about activist judges who might use the Constitution as a cloak for their desires to remake society in the mold of their own political preferences. Unlike Mr. Bush, we believe the record now shows that most of those jurists are conservatives, who strike down laws that do not fit their political philosophies or their extremely narrow view of governmental power.
The Senate has a duty to find out whether Judge Roberts has that kind of mind-set. There are troubling hints that he may. If the coming confirmation hearings were important before, they now become crucial. The chief justice is in many ways positioned to have more long-term influence over the nation than any other person. Given a lifetime appointment, Mr. Roberts, 50, could lead the court through the administrations of a half-dozen presidents.