Profiles in Courage, Part I: The liberal group People for the American Way has many things to say about President Bush's choice for the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr. It calls his record "disturbing" and says he is "hostile to women's reproductive freedom" and "detrimental" to free speech. It has "serious concerns about his ideology" and says he "falls far short of demonstrating the commitment to fundamental civil and constitutional rights that should be shown by a Supreme Court nominee."

So the organization, it is fair to say, has a position in opposition to Roberts?

"No, we don't," says Ralph Neas, the chief. The group, trying to avoid a "rush to judgment," is officially neutral. But it's not exactly a mystery where PFAW, a reliable foe of conservative appointees, is heading. "It's safe to say we're not going to take a position in support," Neas said.

PFAW is not the only liberal outfit trying to avoid conservatives' "knee-jerk" charges. The Alliance for Justice, too, says it has "serious concerns" about Roberts. He has an "exceedingly restrictive view of federal law-making authority" and has views or policies that "could threaten a wide swath of workplace, civil rights, public safety and environmental protections" and could "weaken school desegregation efforts, the reproductive rights of women, environmental protections, church-state separation and the voting rights of African Americans."

So, surely the Alliance for Justice is opposed?

Heavens, no. "We are raising serious concerns, but we are not opposing at this time," spokeswoman Kelly Landis said.

Grilling Karen Hughes: Over Easy

Profiles in Courage, Part II: The Wall Street Journal reported Friday morning that "Democrats plan to grill Bush confidant Karen Hughes about leak-case in her confirmation hearing for State Department public diplomacy post." That was indeed the plan -- except the Democrats did not show up for the rare chance to question the powerful Bush adviser. The ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), begged off because of "previous commitments."

"Excuse me, but do you ENJOY being in the minority?" asked the Center for American Progress, a group formed by former Clinton chief of staff John D. Podesta, after the Democratic no-show. The group said the confirmation hearing, images of which were beamed across the airwaves, was the perfect chance to ask Hughes about whether she had a role in the outing of a CIA operative.

Instead, the GOP-only Foreign Relations Committee "showered praise" on Hughes.

Making Tracks

Hey, Mr. President, get off of their cloud.

The Rolling Stones will launch a new album in September, and the music trade press was abuzz last week with word that it may include a track criticizing the Bush administration's foreign policy. The song, "Sweet Neo-Con," is said to be one of 18 tracks that have been recorded; 11 will wind up on the CD.

President Bush probably did not expect to get satisfaction from the Stones, but Britain's New Musical Express publication, which calls itself "the world's biggest-selling rock weekly," reported last week that Sweet Neo-Con "is believed to be an attack on the politics of George Bush and the Republican administration." Various other publications have made similar reports, and the Rolling Stones Fan Club of Europe says Virgin Records has been telling people the song has "a political message about moralism in the White House."

Not so, says Stones publicist Fran Curtis. The song "is not about nor does it mention Bush or his administration." Curtis did not say what it is about, but no matter: It's Only Rock 'n Roll.

Regardless, this got the Democratic Leadership Council's Marshall Wittmann thinking. He suggested that the White House could form its own band, "the Stonewalls," with Scott McClellan on vocals, Ari Fleischer on bass, Nicolle Devenish on guitar and Karen Hughes on drums.

Its warm-up act: the Talking Heads, featuring Tim Russert on vocals, Howard Fineman on bass, Norman Ornstein on guitar and George Will on drums.


"Unless I misread the political tea leaves, there is a great deal of support for what I say."

-- Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), announcing that he is considering a 2008 presidential run, a week after he suggested that if terrorists launched a nuclear attack in the United States, "you could take out their holy sites."

Are Mick Jagger and Keith Richards cutting a track called "Sweet Neo-Con" that lights into the Bush administration? No, says a Rolling Stones publicist, it's not about the president.