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Step back a pace. Breathe.

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The moment after President Bush made his announcement that Judge John G. Roberts would be his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, the special interest groups swung into action. Conservative groups hailed the nomination in stellar terms. Special interest groups on the left chastised the nominee in equally dire language. The battle lines were being drawn.

But rather than jump into the melee, let’s all relax, step back a pace, breathe. Perhaps the extra oxygen will help Americans think objectively and read a bit about the nominee on their own.

Part of the problem in today’s extremely partisan environment is that Americans are saturated with instantaneous and biased views that seek to distort the facts and push an agenda. The aim is clear: Left-wing outfits want to raise anxiety among their supporters in the hopes of raising contributions to battle the conservatives. Right-wingers are praising the candidate in the blind faith that Bush has followed through on his word. Why? Because Bush’s team knows they need to keep conservative voters satisfied, and allowing the perception that Roberts might be a moderate or even a moderate conservative would leave the base softer in a trying time for a president who’s popularity ratings are low and falling lower.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrat leader from Nevada, has the right approach. He noted Roberts has “suitable legal creden­tials,� whose record will be examined by the Senate “to determine if he has a demonstrated commitment to the core American values of freedom, equality and fairness.� In the effort to understand Roberts’ values, he will be questioned on his stance on the controversial issues of the day — gay rights, abortion, environmental policies, corporate labor practices, separation of church and state, and so on.  If he can address America’s concerns on those issues and demonstrate that he embraces the core values of freedom, equality and fairness, Mr. Roberts will likely be the next Supreme Court justice. If he cannot, there will be a legitimate fight in the Senate.

But before we crank up the rhetoric, let’s pursue the facts.

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