John Roberts was barely confirmed as the 17th chief justice when buzz around the Supreme Court speculated that President Bush plans to nominate – possibly as soon as today – Larry Thompson, 58, senior VP of PepsiCo, to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But since O’Connor will be on the bench when the court convenes on Monday, she’ll likely be there until April, says an insider. Thompson is a wealthy African-American businessman from Atlanta, who is said to enjoy the high life. He was deputy attorney general under John Ashcroft so he’s already been vetted and survived one Senate confirmation hearing. He’s well-liked and known to be very smart, getting high marks as both a U.S. attorney for Georgia and as a litigator with a large corporate firm. He’s a close friend of Justice Clarence Thomas and was the White House’s lawyer assigned to squire through the nomination. He is believed to be as conservative as Thomas.
Bush looking at women, too
But the more politically inclined on Capitol Hill seem to think he’ll go for a woman, perhaps Harriet Miers, 60, the White House counsel, and the first woman to become a partner at a Texas law firm and the first woman to be president of the Texas State Bar. She was also President Bush’s personal attorney.
Roberts does lunch well
Roberts will fit in with the lunchtime social life on the Supreme Court. During his years as a young attorney at Hogan and Hartzen, he lunched in the law firm cafeteria, frequently sitting at the round table in the corner under the plaque named for former partner, the late Sen. William Fulbright. Although he was very quiet, Roberts was likable and smart when he did join in the conversation with partners and associates, including former congressional heavyweights, GOP House leader Bob Michel, “Mr. Health” Paul Rogers, and former RNC Chairman Frank Fahrenkoph. “He fit right in, according to Michel. Fahrenkoph said he was so impressed with the young attorney that he later hired him to represent the American Gaming Association on a First Amendment case before the Supreme Court, and he won.
The new chief justice will be welcome at the table with the associate justices who usually lunch together in the justices’ dining room when the court is in session. “The room and conversation is pleasing, and the food, not so,” said one of the justices. Generally between six and nine of them lunch together. The conversation, I’m told, ranges from lawyers to performances at the opera or Shakespeare Theatre, or their children and grandchildren. From time to time, they invite outside guests to join them – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and biographer David McCullough. Alan Greenspan and Jim Wilkinson have been popular repeat invitees.
Embarrassed AU in uproar
American University is in such turmoil with the scandal surrounding its president, Benjamin Ladner, and his finances that even its damage control efforts aren’t successful. Embarrassed AU alumni and students are calling for a quick resignation.