Our views depend on our priorities and the information we receive
as it could be, I really think. From Roberts' thoughts today:
"Here I was, with my client having the US, the most powerful entity in the world, arrayed against him. All I had to do was convince the court that I was right on the law, and all that power would recede away. That is the beauty of the power of law.
"I will fully and fairly analyze the cases before me, consider the opinions of my colleagues on the bench, and I will remember that it is my job to call balls and strikes, not to bat."
The talk is right (especially combined with the "humility theme" as Brooks_nyt calls it). He's no J. Marshall or Brennan, but we can't expect that right now. It also sounds like he fits Sen. Durbin's two "criteria" for confirmation.
OTOH, Roberts' mentioning that he'll protect the "integrity" and "independance" of the judiciary could cut either way. It's true that judicial activism is good or bad depending on one's political view at the time. As I read it, a lawyer's using these terms puts him in the grey area--he'll allow himself to interpret the law, and not really act as "just"
an umpire. But he'll be tied to a strict positivist jurisprudence, it sounds like.