Ted Cruz calls Chief Justice John Roberts a 'liberal,' apologizes for backing his nomination

Ted Cruz attacks Chief Justice John Roberts
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Republican fight over Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has twice upheld ObamaCare, broke into the open on Wednesday night's CNN debate. Jake Tapper asked Jeb Bush if his brother, former President George W. Bush, had made a mistake when he appointed Roberts to the highest court. Bush responded that Roberts has made some good decisions, but that as president, he would only nominate justices with strong, long conservative track records, unlike Roberts. He responded to criticism of Roberts from Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) by noting that Cruz backed the Roberts nomination at the time.

Cruz started out by saying that George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush should have picked the more "rock-ribbed conservative" jurists they had at their disposal, not Roberts and David Souter, respectively. When Jeb Bush again noted Cruz's public support for Roberts, Cruz issued a mea culpa: "That was a mistake and I regret that," he said. "I wouldn't have nominated John Roberts and indeed Gov. Bush pointed out why. It wasn't that President Bush wanted to appoint a liberal to the court. It is that it was the easier choice."

Mike Huckabee then chimed in with a whole list of conservative litmus tests he would use to pick judicial nominees. None of the candidates explained how they would get their proven far-right candidates through the Senate.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.