Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts made every reasonable effort not to be mistaken for a conservative jurist in his hearings today. He assured Senators that all those memoranda he wrote in the Reagan White House gustily (and at times gutsily) fending off liberal intrusions into those sacred halls were little more than some youthful abstract musings dashed off to satisfy an inconsequential though demanding client. Yes it's quite a game being played, but make no mistake - a game it is. Democrat senators need to grill him hard not just to please their own constituencies but also to make the process as painful as possible for the White House and nominee and thus discourage an even more conservative nominee for the next round. The Republicans, meanwhile, must bide their time, and put up with vague responses that do nothing to assure their constituents that this guy's the real deal. They just have to trust the White House on this one. So conservative pundits will begin to get a little restless and start making noises that we have another Souter on our hands. But the more they complain, the less seriously the press will take the Democrat's complaints, which will tend to dampen the impact of the Democrat offensive. And that's the funny thing about Supreme Court justices - you just never know for sure until their decisions start to come in.