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I predicted it.

I told you those expected to oppose the nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court would come around after realizing they got their wish – another Anthony Kennedy or David Souter.

It’s happening.

Just check out the column earlier this week by the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen.

This is the beginning.

Soon you will see some of the most partisan Democrats in the U.S. Senate coming around. Mark my words.

Cohen’s commentary is not directed to Republicans in the Senate, who will support the nomination by President Bush unanimously. It is directed to those who might consider opposing him. Here’s a man who is convinced, as I am, that Roberts has virtually the entire “conservative movement” bamboozled.

“John G. Roberts Jr. is out of the closet,” he writes. “President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court, on the basis of the available evidence and all we know about human behavior, is not – and I emphasize not! – a bigot. Specifically, he seems to harbor no prejudice against gay men and lesbians, who are, as we all know, anathema to social conservatives, who are anti-gay and pro-Bush, in about equal measures. Roberts, amazingly and inexplicably, seems to be a man of tolerance.”

What this really means is that Roberts has no objections to creating special protections for homosexuals based on their sexual behavior.

He bases this conclusion on Roberts’ role in the landmark 1996 Romer Supreme Court case. Roberts, he points out, “helped develop the winning legal strategy.”

Cohen asserts that Roberts may even have endorsed the cause – rather than simply come to the aid of a colleague from his firm, as the White House suggests.

“After all, Roberts was not compelled to volunteer his time. Hogan & Hartson encourages pro bono work, but it hardly compels its lawyers to take cases that they might find morally or politically repugnant,” Cohen writes.

Clearly, a lawyer who, say, agreed with the likes of the Rev. Pat Robertson or Rep. Tom DeLay (Rev., Rep., it’s all the same nowadays) would not have taken the case. What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest that Roberts knew what he was doing. He made no mention of the case in the 83 pages he submitted to the Senate outlining his finances, pro bono work and other matters of interest. He knows the political peril of tolerance.

But as we should realize by now, Roberts faces no peril from the right – only the indignities of grilling from the left.

What a sad state of affairs.

We now have “conservative” organizations leading the fight for confirmation of a man who is certain to be a grave disappointment to them.

Ahhh, but we’ve been here before.

Some of those same organizations and individuals fought equally hard for the confirmations of Souter and Kennedy.

Some people never learn.

Oh, there will be a few left-wing groups that raise a ruckus about Roberts to the bitter end. Groups like NARAL and People for the American Way raise money by demonizing the nominations of Republican presidents.

But, again, watch the votes in the Senate. Watch the hard-line Democrats fall into place one by one and two by two over the coming weeks. When all is said and done, Roberts may wind up with a unanimous or near-unanimous approval.

That’s my prediction.

This kind of clarity is just one of the benefits of being around long enough to see history repeat itself – tragically and ironically.

Cohen’s right. Roberts is “out of the closet.”

But some people – notably most “conservative” organizations – aren’t going to recognize it until it’s too late.

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