The filibuster fight worked. You don't nominate John Roberts if you believe you can (and should) ram through a nominee with 50+1 votes. You only choose someone like Roberts if you believe you need as many votes and as smooth a ride as possible, and that you don't want to risk having 41 Senators block your nominee. Had the Republicans succeeded in executing the nuclear options, John Roberts would not have been the nominee. Period.
That also suggests that the President didn't want to spend any political capital pushing this nominee -- whether because he sees himself as weakened or conservative judicial philosophy as unpopular, Bush has chosen a nominee that does not automatically force a debate about what "strict constructionism" really means because his paper trail does not reveal it in action.
Think about it: he could have chosen any number of equally qualified (Mike McConnell) or more experienced (Luttig, Wilkinson) nominees. He could have chosen a female or minority candidate. He didn't. Why? Why did he not give his conserative base the Absolute Sure Thing they had been promised? (And yet, why are they so happy?)
Because he wanted this to be easy. But we don't have to let it be.
This is not to say that Roberts will not ultimately deserve confirmation. He probably does. But it does allow us the opportunity to set the terms of the debate, by bringing forth to the American people those issues that we know are affected by this choice -- and by explaining to them why the elections in 2006 and 2008 matter. ("If you want judges who will protect your right to privacy against the Republican-run federal government, vote Democratic.")
This is also not to say that Roberts' actions on the bench won't be indistinguishable from that of Justices Scalia, Thomas or Rehnquist. However, the President has sent up a nominee that makes it clear he does not want to have to defend such views all summer long. He's weak, and the country needs to be reminded that this pick represents that.
During the next few months, the point will not be whether Roberts responds to the requests with documents and answers; it is that we are asking these questions and keeping these issues before the public. The point of our opposition is not, given what we know now, to block his confirmation by any means necessary -- it is to reveal what conservative legal philosophy is, so that the public will want to guard against it, and vote against it, in the future. If we can use this as an educational moment, we can take back the Senate and the White House.
How else have we won? Notice that the nominee was not Brown, Owen, Myers, Estrada, etc. By denying them confirmation for so long (and in Estrada's case, at all), we prevented them from having the minimal federal judiciary seasoning they'd have needed for this slot. All of them -- whether for their views or their age, or even their competence -- would have been worse than Roberts.
One final note: John Roberts is getting a lot of bad-mouthing, from MoveOn and others, for being a "corporate lawyer". Guess what? I'm a corporate lawyer too -- I've represented (and continue to represent) major pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies and the like. So, too, are many of the lawyers who write for this site. Unfortunately, that's what best pays the bills. So don't knock him for his clients -- knock him for what he believes -- assuming, that is, that we can figure it out.
edited to add Another Final Note: The only way that the public will start to see this as the sign of a weak President is if that's how we start talking. Remember: there's only so much we can do in terms of affecting who fills this slot -- unless you think we can filibuster nominees until January 1, 2007 without prompting the nuclear option *and* take back the Senate next year, Republicans are in control. So define "victory" as something other than getting a Good Nominee here -- that's impossible.