Roberts Plays a Long Game

The New York Times, Friday, June 26, 2013

NEWS ANALYSIS

Roberts Plays a Long Game:  Conservative Record Gained Step by Step

 by Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON–“Viewed in isolation, the Supreme Court term that just ended had elements of modesty.  The court declined to do away with affirmative action, gave Congress another shot at salvaging the Voting Rights Act and refused to find a constitutional right to same sex marriage.

But glancing at an end-of-term snapshot can be misleading.  The more meaningful way to look at the court is as a movie, one starring Chief JUstice John G. Robers Jr. as a canny stategist with a tough side, and his eyes on the horizon.  He is just 58 and is likely to lead the curt for another two decades or more.

Chief Justice ‘Roberts has proved adept at persuading the court’s more liberal justices to join compormise opinions, allowing him to cite their concessions years later as the basis for closely divided and deeply polarizing conservative victories.

HIs patient and methodical approach has allowed him to esablish a robustly conservative record while ranking second only to Justice Anthony Kennedy as the justice most frequently in the majority.

‘This court takes the long view,’ said Kaannon K. Shanugam, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly in Washington. ‘It proceeds in incremental steps.”

Long game, long view: sports, business and war can take such an approach.  Baseball teams, as well as many other teams, want to win a game, but they also want to win more games than their opponents so they reach the playoffs or perhaps the World Series.  Businesses want to win a contract which may take many meetings.  Winning an immediate battle does not necessarily lead to winning the war.

The idiom shot in the first paragraph derives from shooting and guns, or sports, such as basketball or hockey.  In contrast to the long game, this is short, but has a trajectory as does the long game.  It is part of the long view.

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