CBS Again Insists Sotomayor No Ideologue; Scant Attention to Plunge in Obama's Approval

On the first day of Senate hearings, CBS's Wyatt Andrews on Monday night again insisted Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor cannot be categorized ideologically and highlighted how “the hearing marked the first spotlight moment for former comedian, now Senator, Al Franken who cast himself as new but ready,” all before anchor Katie Couric fretted “some Republicans didn't really treat her with kid gloves.” Couric and Bob Schieffer squeezed in just a few seconds for how a new CBS News poll discovered “President Obama's overall job approval rating is down six points since June.”

Back in May, Andrews insisted Sotomayor had “no clear ideology on discrimination, gay rights, or abortion and who can't be easily defined by political labels.” Monday evening, he spotlighted vindication in a month-old report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service, which he stressed is “non-partisan,” that Sotomayor “defies categorization along ideological lines.”

Though the only critical comment CBS showed from a Republican Senator was a pretty mild one -- Lindsey Graham advising “I think your experience can add a lot to the court, but I don't think it makes you better than anyone else” -- Couric wondered: “As we saw, some Republicans didn't really treat her with kid gloves. If she's heading for confirmation, what do you think their objective was?”

My May 22 NewsBusters post, “CBS Decides Sotomayor No Liberal: 'Can't Be Easily Defined by Political Labels,'” recounted (with video):
A baffled CBS. The CBS Evening News, which in 2005 had no doubt about how John Roberts and Samuel Alito were dangerous conservatives, expressed bewilderment Wednesday evening over where Obama's Supreme Court nominee stands. “Pundits usually label judges as either liberal or conservative, but that won't be easy with Judge Sotomayor,” Katie Couric propounded in setting up a piece from Wyatt Andrews, who concluded:
President Obama, then, has found a judge with 17 years experience but no clear ideology on discrimination, gay rights, or abortion and who can't be easily defined by political labels.
At least not by the CBS newscast, which back in 2005 asserted Roberts would move “the court further to the right” and fretted over the Alito pick “tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction for years to come.”
The story from Andrews on the Monday, July 13 CBS Evening News:
WYATT ANDREWS: After waiting seven weeks to defend her record, Sonia Sotomayor, the nation's first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court, began by giving credit to her mother.

JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: I am here, as many of you have noted, because of her aspirations and sacrifices for both my brother Juan and me.

ANDREWS: In a day confined to speech making, Democrats and Republicans revealed very different approaches to judging the judge. To Democrats, it's all about her 17-year record on the federal bench, a record the non-partisan Congressional Research Service said “defies categorization along ideological lines.”

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: If the number-one standard that conservatives use and apply is judicial modesty and humility they should vote for Judge Sotomayor unanimously.

ANDREWS: But Republicans plan to focus on her speeches, not her judicial rulings, arguing her speeches hold the key to what she really thinks.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: It just bothers me when-

ANDREWS: Especially her famous remark that “a wise Latina woman would reach a better conclusion than a white male.”

GRAHAM: I think your experience can add a lot to the court, but I don't think it makes you better than anyone else.

ANDREWS: Sotomayor did not address the charges specifically but made it obvious she plans to define herself.

SOTOMAYOR: Many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. Simple: fidelity to the law.

ANDREWS: The hearing marked the first spotlight moment for former comedian, now Senator, Al Franken who cast himself as new but ready.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN: I may not be a lawyer, but neither are the overwhelming majority of Americans.

ANDREWS:: And there was one moment of raw candor as Republican Lindsey Graham analyzed the judge's chances.

GRAHAM: Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed.

ANDREWS: Now, a complete meltdown is not likely to come from this seasoned federal judge, but if any heat gets generated by these hearings that could come tomorrow when the questioning begins. Katie?

COURIC: Wyatt Andrews. Wyatt, thank you very much. Bob Schieffer is our chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation and Bob, as we saw, some Republicans didn't really treat her with kid gloves. If she's heading for confirmation, what do you think their objective was?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I think, I guess they don't want the folks back home to think they're potted plants, for one thing. But, I mean, the other part is they have been very careful to strike this along philosophical lines. They want to make sure that they got the comment from her that they got today when she said on the bench she will apply the law, she will not make the law. But I tell you, in the end, Lindsey Graham is right, Katie. It's going to be very hard for Senators to vote against this wonderful life story that this woman has who was raised by a widowed mother and went on to be the first Hispanic woman to be nominated.

COURIC: And they want those Hispanic voters, too. We can't forget that. Bob, let's go back to our latest CBS poll. President Obama's overall job approval rating is down six points since June [63 to 57 percent]. His approval rating for handling the economy is down nine points. I'm just curious, what do you think is behind these declining numbers.

SCHIEFFER: I think it is all about the economy, Katie. One of the findings in our poll says nearly 70 percent of people in America are worried about losing their jobs, at least what what somewhat worried. When people are in that kind of mood, the President's popularity is going to go down. They want to see some results. He's launched all these programs, now they want to see that the programs are having some impact.
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