I wrote last week that Sen. Ken Salazar seemingly let John Roberts pass go on his way to being the next Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court because he was picking his battles. Roberts was a shoo-in for the nomination, and Salazar has proved if nothing else in his short time as a senator that he is a pragmatic political operator.

Well, it looks like Salazar has stepped into the ring. Today he spoke out strongly against President Bush and the idea that an “unqualified idealogue” could be nominated for the next vacancy to the Supreme Court.

Saying President Bush sometimes acts “like a king,” Sen. Ken Salazar warned Friday that he would vehemently oppose Bush’s next Supreme Court pick if it turns out to be one of two controversial U.S. Circuit Court judges or someone else he considers an unqualified ideologue.

During a conference call with reporters, Salazar said he would oppose Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen, two circuit court judges the U.S. Senate recently installed on the bench following a blistering confirmation process.

By singling out Brown and Owen, Salazar made his most specific warning to the White House yet, calling for more advance consultation before the president makes a nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“This president, frankly, sometimes acts like a king,” Salazar said. “He’s imperious. He believes he controls Washington and controls our country, and does so sometimes in a way that, it’s his way or the highway, and doesn’t take into account what other people are thinking…when they have a different point of view or are (from) a different party.”

Some Democrats weren’t happy that Salazar let Roberts take his seat on the Supreme Court without putting up a symbolic fight, but Salazar was saving his bullets for another day. It’s easier to fight a potential nominee before they are actually nominated than it is to battle it out in the senate once they get the nod, because Republicans hold a numerical advantage and don’t need to round up a great number of votes. When he backed Roberts, Salazar was saying, in effect, “I’m okay with this guy, but you’re going to have to listen to me on the next one.” We’ll see if it worked.