Is Justice Breyer Really Dumb About Tools?

A classic form of media bias is this: if someone the liberal media considers to be a dummy (Sarah Palin, or for an older example, Dan Quayle) says something that suggests serious confusion, it's a big gaffe story sent directly to the desks of Leno and Letterman. But if we put the same words in the mouth of say, a liberal Supreme Court justice the media considers a genius, then no one blinks. At National Review's Bench Memos, Matthew Franck offered an example: 

First I read it in the New York Times this morning, but it didn't hit me. Then my coffee kicked in, and by the time I was reading the Washington Post, I was awake enough to say "huh?" It seems that [Tuesday], during oral argument at the Supreme Court--the context is unimportant--Justice Stephen Breyer said that if a certain course of reasoning were to be adopted, "we are not just throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of government contracting; we're throwing the whole monkey."

It's quite possible that Breyer was trying to be a Supreme Court cutup. But would a Palin get the chance to be a wise-cracker? Or wouldn't every reporter conclude she didn't know what a monkey wrench was? As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal asked: "Think about this. One of the most powerful men in America -- a man entrusted to interpret words in ways that often have life-and-death consequences -- apparently doesn't know what a wrench is. He thinks it's part of an animal's anatomy. Does anyone else find this more disturbing than funny?"

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis