The Democrats "game plan" on John Roberts?

Democrats know this nominee isn't likely to be filibustered; he's too well qualified. They assume he will be approved, barring any unforeseen developments. So here's the challenge: Find a smart way to lose.

Sure, the Democrats should do their reasonable best to get the full Roberts record. But they know the conservative story line here; they risk looking obstructionist if they go to the mat. Let's face it: Roberts is not John Bolton. When Democrats waged a battle over the release of information regarding Bush's nominee as envoy to the United Nations, they were on terra firma. Bolton's ex-colleagues had already provided reasons to question his character and conduct. If Bolton was Dr. Evil, Roberts is Ward Cleaver.

This is not to say that Democrats should just raise the white flag. Why not pick a few issues to press, thereby defining the differences between Democrats and Republicans? A good choice would be the right to privacy. Not just abortion; argue about the role of government in our lives. It's broader--and allows Democrats to revisit the Terri Schiavo case, in which the GOP angered a majority of voters by intervening. That way, says one Democratic strategist, "we can also talk to conservative men in the Midwest" who haven't been cheering Democrats on lately. The pitch: Roberts isn't a bad person; he's just the single best example of the different party views of the world.

Brain drain. Yet this is the sad news about the Democrats: For liberals, that won't be enough. In fact, Democrats who are polite to Roberts--and may even vote for him--will no doubt be considered a bunch of appeasing Neville Chamberlains. "We have lost our brains," one Democratic pollster confides. "The left wing controls all of the dialogue." Just last week, when Sen. Hillary Clinton called for an ideological truce within the Democratic Party, she was shellacked by liberal bloggers. Her crime: agreeing to come up with a more positive--and inclusive--party agenda. Imagine that. . . .

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