Balls and Strikes (or, the Umpire Strikes Back)

June 30th, 2010

Inspired by “As Elena Kagan’s Confirmation Hearing Approaches, We’re Reminded of John Roberts’s Promise to Be an Umpire Calling Balls and Strikes (Calvin Trillin,  The Nation 6/07/10) and The Roberts Court’s Record of Overreaching, Alliance for Justice June 2010.

Regardless of which laws he likes,
He’s only calling balls and strikes.
Of balls and strikes that he has eyed,
The union pitches all look wide.
When criminal defendants try
To throw a strike, it’s always high.
Consumers make for easy calls:
Their pitches simply all are balls.
By chance, the pitches that are great—
The ones that nick or split the plate;
The ones deserving of ovations—
Are pitched by cops or corporations.
A left-wing lawyer sharp as Darrow
Will find the strike zone much too narrow.
Behind it, crouching, is the Chief,
Quite confident in his belief:
Regardless of which laws he likes,
He’s only calling balls and strikes. — Calvin Trillin

Chief Justice Roberts testified during his confirmation

That he’d be an impartial umpire without partisan affiliation.

He said all he’d do was call balls and strikes,

Not at all influenced by his preferences and dislikes.

Now with the evidence of his Court’s activism’s extent,

I understand that what Roberts meant:

Calling strikes for their pitcher and balls for ours

(So much for the separation of powers).

Today, Senate Republicans echoed the same refrain

As they demand that would-be Justice Kagan from activism refrain.

What they should do instead is inquire

About their own umpire.

What discussion of baseball and politics would be complete

Without reference to George Will (he of Kagan questions replete):

You ask questions to which you think you know the answer

(Not very much of a debate enhancer).

And your questions about activism suffer from the same GOP defect

That says it’s not activism if you think the outcome is correct.

And Calvin: Your poem was so good, I just had to quote it.

(I have to say, I wish I was the one that wrote it.)


Here’s CBS News’ 6/30/10 report on Kagan’s second day of testimony about balls and strikes, followed by a (long) panel discussion of the McDonald gun rights decision and judicial activism. (The “balls and strikes” part is at the beginning for those who don’t want to watch the full half hour.)


Here’s secret video (since the Supreme Court doesn’t yet allow cameras) of Chief Justice Roberts questioning an attorney about his client’s plans.

Sorry, wrong video. That was as scene from episode 4 of the Star Wars series (for the uninitiated, episode 5 provided the inspiration for our title).

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One Response to “Balls and Strikes (or, the Umpire Strikes Back)”

  1. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Release the Kagan Says:

    […] said he’d be an impartial umpire, but he’s proved anything […]

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