Williams Recommends Liberal Reading List on Souter and Successor

NBC anchor Brian Williams' Web surfing centers on liberal sites, as at least evidenced by the reading list he recommended in his Monday afternoon entry on The Daily Nightly blog consisting of four articles, all from left-leaning sites: Slate, The New Republic and The Daily Beast. “Because of my Souter departure obsession,” he explained, “today I want to share with you some interesting writing I found over the weekend.”

The suggested reading started “with a former Souter clerk (a familiar name from American history).” That would be “Justice Cincinnatus: David Souter -- a dying breed, the Yankee Republican,” by Kermit Roosevelt on Slate who maintained: “I think Souter is indeed in many ways a Republican; it's just that his sort of Republican no longer really exists.” Translation: liberal. Roosevelt hailed Souter's resistance to overturning Roe v Wade: “The charge fell short in the end, turned back by just a few people, Souter crucially among them, who found themselves in the right place at the right time.”

Second, Williams highlighted “a great essay by a journalist who covers the court.” That's “Justice Heartbreaker: David Souter leaves the court that left him behind,” also on Slate, by Dahlia Lithwick. She quoted President Obama's wish for a justice who has “that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.” Lithwick then concluded: “He could have been describing Justice Souter, a man who may have looked on the surface like he preferred books to people, but in reality, and perhaps unbeknownst even to himself, always put people first.”

Third, Williams shared how “my favorite (provocative) essay is on the subject of who should NOT be appointed to the court (sorry, Harvard and Yale).” The least liberal item on the Williams list, that linked to a Daily Beast post by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos: “More rare than a lesbian or Latino on the bench: a justice who didn't go to Harvard or Yale. While others speculate on the race and gender of Justice Souter's replacement, Paul Campos explains that the Supreme Court's real diversity problem is career path and class. It wasn't always this way.”

Fourth and last, Williams cited “a very tough examination of a current favorite for the court.” That sent readers to Jeffrey Rosen's “The Case Against Sotomayor” in the New Republic magazine. Rosen's essay fretted that federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor, considered a leading candidate to replace Souter, lacks the heft “to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.” Rosen asserted:
Over the past few weeks, I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.
On Friday's NBC Nightly News, Williams saw the court pick as another burden for Obama:
So President Obama, who plainly has enough going on right about now, now gets handed a big decision. Short of sending troops into battle, appointing a justice for life on the court is one of those presidential decisions that has the most influence on American life.
The May 4 The Daily Nightly post by Williams from 4:31 PM EDT:
It's all about the bench

Because of my Souter departure obsession, today I want to share with you some interesting writing I found over the weekend...starting with a former Souter clerk (a familiar name from American history) and a great essay by a journalist who covers the court.  My favorite (provocative) essay is on the subject of who should NOT be appointed to the court (sorry, Harvard and Yale) and there is a very tough examination of a current favorite for the court.

We're back with our Monday night broadcast tonight, and we hope you can join us.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center