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Reaction to Roberts swift, disparate

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President Bush called John Roberts "one of the best legal minds of his generation."

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(CNN) -- Early reaction to news that President Bush has nominated Judge John Roberts Jr. to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court portends a partisan fight.

Brian McCabe, president of conservative group Progress for America, opined that Roberts is "a man of great character who deserves genuine consideration and not automatic attacks and partisan indignation."

But a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was less enthusiastic, saying Roberts has "suitable legal credentials." Spokesman Jim Manley said Roberts, once a law clerk for Justice William Rehnquist, "needs to demonstrate to the Senate that he has a commitment to core American values of freedom, equality and fairness."

Roberts sits on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. A veteran appellate attorney, he has argued more than 30 cases before the Supreme Court, in private practice and as deputy solicitor general during the administration of Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described Roberts as "an exceptional judge, brilliant legal mind, and a man of outstanding character who understands his profound duty to follow the law."

Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, commended the president on his choice.

"Judge Roberts is the kind of outstanding nominee that will make America proud. He embodies the qualities America expects in a justice on its highest court -- someone who is fair, intelligent, impartial and committed to faithfully interpreting the Constitution and the law."

People for the American Way issued a statement expressing dissatisfaction with Bush's recommendation.

"We're extremely disappointed that the president did not choose a consensus nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor," the advocacy group's statement read. "Replacing O'Connor with someone who is not committed to upholding Americans' rights, liberties, and legal protections would be a constitutional catastrophe."

Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, questioned Roberts' judicial philosophy.

"Given the administration's track record of selecting ideologically driven, divisive candidates for the bench, it would be unsurprising if Judge Roberts embraces a judicial philosophy that is insensitive to the rights and protections that ... have brought us closer to realizing the twin ideals of freedom and equality," she said in a statement from the national association of advocacy groups.

Bush's nomination came as a disappointment to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

"We are saddened that President Bush chose the politics of conflict and division over bipartisan consensus," the civil rights coalition said in a statement. "At first blush, John Roberts may not appear to be an ultra right judicial activist, but his approach to issues of protecting the rights and freedoms of individual Americans are, at best, unclear and, in some instances, deeply troubling."

Yet House Majority Whip Roy Blunt said he looks forward to seeing Roberts on the high court soon.

"Roberts ... has proven himself as a judge who applies the law impartially with an eye toward the strict interpretation of the Constitution, rather than legislating from the bench," Blunt said. "The Senate confirmed Judge Roberts to the circuit court just two years ago. I look forward to a swift and deliberate confirmation process this fall."

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