The big three broadcast networks have been mostly silent during the run-up to the Senate's hearings on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, with just a handful of evening news stories over the last five weeks. But big papers such as the Washington Post have been busily poring over Roberts' writings, hunting for the legal brief or memo that might put his seemingly-assured confirmation in doubt. No "smoking gun" has emerged, but that hasn't stopped some journalists from trying to tar Roberts as a kooky far right-wing extremist. Recall:
-- On July 20, the day after President Bush announced he'd picked Roberts, ABC's Barbara Walters suggested the judge's Catholicism might be a problem for pro-abortion liberals. "How important to him is his religion?" she wondered on Good Morning America. "Do you think it might affect him as a Supreme Court Justice?"
Another week, another opportunity for NPR's Nina Totenberg to discover that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is conservative and to caution us about it anew. On Inside Washington over the weekend, she warned that "if he's as conservative as his papers reflect, his nomination will dramatically change the direction of the court." Seconds later she made clear she is sure that he's going to be a "very conservative" justice: "I have no idea what kind of justice he's going to end up being, except for the fact that I'm pretty sure he's going to be very conservative." A week earlier on the same show she declared that after reviewing memos he wrote while working in the Reagan White House counsel's office, "he is much more conservative than I ever would have guessed."
In recent weeks, Totenberg has tagged Roberts as "very conservative," "very, very conservative" and "very, very, very conservative," as well as "a really conservative guy," "a hardline conservative" and "a clear conservative," to say nothing of being "a conservative Catholic." Four weeks ago on Inside Washington she asserted that she "was actually quite surprised at how, how very, very conservative he was."
NB: I wrote this after David Limbaugh's post on the same matter, but unaware of his post.
The Washington Post's Jo Becker uses Judge John Roberts preference of the term "War Between the States" (WBTS) to title the American Civil War as a jumping off point to subtly accuse the Supreme Court nominee of being sympathetic to Southern secession. File this bias under scraping the bottom of the barrel.
While no one that Becker quotes openly accuses Roberts of bigotry or of harboring the view that the 1861 secession of Southern states was legal and the Union's prosecution of war as unconstitutional, hints are dropped that the use of WBTS by Roberts could be a harbinger of a separatist ideology or pandering to opponents of civil rights legislation from the 1960s.
I find these daily investigative forays into Judge Roberts' decades-old work product amusing, until I consider that those writing these stories must truly be serious.
Check out this story in the Washington Post today titled, "In Article, Roberts' Pen Appeared to Dip South." It seems that when Roberts was "ghostwriting" an article for President Reagan for the National Forum journal on "The Presidency: Roles and Responsibilities," he left a handwritten, self-editing trail, as I suppose he frequently did -- as did Reagan himself, as we know.
Now, here's the big scoop. In one section of the draft, he began a sentence with the words, "Until about the time of the Civil War." Then, according to the Post, he "scratched out the words, 'Civil war' and replaced them with 'War Between the States.'"
NPR’s Nina Totenberg is repeatedly surprised by how conservative Supreme Court nominee John Roberts really is, apparently not cognizant of all of her earlier pronouncements about his conservatism. On Inside Washington over the weekend, she declared that after reviewing memos he wrote while working in the Reagan White House counsel’s office, “he is much more conservative than I ever would have guessed. He is on the most conservative side of almost every issue within the Reagan administration." In recent weeks, Totenberg has tagged Roberts as “very conservative,” "very, very conservative" and "very, very, very conservative," as well as "a really conservative guy," "a hardline conservative" and "a clear conservative," to say nothing of being "a conservative Catholic." Three weeks ago on Inside Washington she asserted that she “was actually quite surprised at how, how very, very conservative he was.”
When they’re not outright telling us what to think, the AP sometimes points out the tediously banal and attempts to use that to influence public opinion. Take today’s John Roberts-bashing piece called, “Roberts' Writings Reveal Strong Views.”
Among his insidious “views,” are these; “In one paper for his boss, he slipped in that he routinely worked until 10:30 at night,” and “He joked when a $25 ticket was dismissed that the hearing examiner's ‘learning and insight are wasted at Traffic Court.’” And, probably most shocking of all, “He once wrote an entire memo in French.”
Washington Post foreign affairs reporter Robin Wright has no sense of humor -- at least when it comes to a conservative daring to make any kind of joke related to women in the workplace, even a little girl. Saying “I don't know whether they were quips,” on Friday's Washington Week on PBS, Wright proceeded to act offended as she made clear that “as a woman” she was “struck” by how, in the Reagan-era memos written by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, he “questioned whether it was a good thing for a woman to go back later in life to law school” and he dubbed, as a “little huckster,” a Girl Scout who wanted to sell some cookies” to President Reagan. The humor-challenged Wright arrogantly judged: "I have to say, you know, one case of this is one thing, but to see this repeatedly was really striking, as a woman, to me."
Host Alan Murray pointed out that Roberts' asides were “jokes” and, as noted in an earlier NewsBusters posting by me about the Post's deliberate distortion of his quip in a story headlined “Roberts Resisted Women's Rights,” his remark about homemakers becoming lawyers was a slap not at women but at how there are too many lawyers. NBC's Pete Williams, however, chimed in with how “the President of NOW said his views are, quote, 'neanderthal.'"
The front page of Friday’s Washington Post features an article with a lead clearly framed through a liberal prism intended to paint Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as an extremist and/or a male chauvinist. “Roberts Resisted Women's Rights: 1982-86 Memos Detail Skepticism,” declares the headline over the August 19 story it took three reporters to research and write, Amy Goldstein, R. Jeffrey Smith and Jo Becker (along with six more credited at the end of the article.) The loaded lead: “Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called 'the purported gender gap’ and, at one point, questioning 'whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good.’”
A look at the full quote, however, shows that the Post distorted the personal aside in the memo. Roberts was not making a disparaging remark about women but -- in response to a judging panel at Clairol considering an award to a female White House staffer who had convinced some homemakers to go to law school -- he simply offered a quip about whether society needs more lawyers: "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."
[Update, 11:30am EDT: The New York Times got the joke.]
Described alternately as “insular,” “Mayberry-like,” and “nearly all-white,” AP writers Tom Coyne and Ashley M. Heher have raised serious questions about the racial integrity of John Roberts’ boyhood town.
Having delved into Roberts’ religious affiliation, his wife’s social activities and even the adoption of his children, the AP, in the ultimate reach, is now conducting investigations into Long Beach, Indiana. The indictment begins:
Like many towns across America, the exclusive lakefront community where Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. grew up during the racially turbulent 1960s and '70s once banned the sale of homes to nonwhites and Jews.
In today's Washington Post on page A04, staff reporters R. Jeffrey Smith and Jo Becker penned this headline: "Library Missing Roberts File"
The headline, and the first paragraph, were seemingly written to set the tone of possible file theft by the Bush Administration:
"A file folder containing papers from Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s work on affirmative action more than 20 years ago disappeared from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after its review by two lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department in July, according to officials at the library and the National Archives and Records Administration."
Senators Edward Kennedy and Patrick Leahy wasted little time in calling for investigations.
In today's Washington Post, staff writers Amy Goldstein and Jo Becker relay excerpts from Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts writings during his tenure in the Justice Department and the Reagan White House which show conservative leanings on social issues like abortion and affirmative action. Goldstein and Becker start off citing a 1985 memo, then hint that it provides perhaps the "clearest insight to date on Roberts's personal views on abortion.' Of course, Roberts's personal views on abortion aren't as relevant to legal precedents like Roe v. Wade, as much as the legal reasoning underpinning such precedent. As a Court justice, Roberts would be expected to interpret the Constitution objectively and correctly, not according to his personal views. So that said, it seems Goldstein and Becker really buried the lede as later, deep within their piece, they relay something you'll never likely see front and center in a liberal metropolitan newspaper: the fact that liberal and conservative legal scholars alike agree Roe v. Wade is bad case law, arrived at by shoddy legal reasoning.
With a little nudge from the White House, Sheryl Gay Stolberg partially corrects her faulty story from yesterday on the John Roberts' nomination.
Congressional reporter Stolberg took quite a bit heat from Rush Limbaugh and others for letting liberal Sen. Rob Wyden of Oregon put words in Robert's mouth regarding the Terri Schiavo case. Stolberg's story on Wednesday let Wyden characterize a private discussion between he and Roberts about the congressional intervention to save the brain-damaged Florida woman, but didn't bother getting the other side's perspective.
Today Stolberg provides the other half of the conversation: "On Wednesday, Ed Gillespie, the chief White House lobbyist for Judge Roberts's Senate confirmation, sent a letter to The New York Times, saying that notes taken by a White House aide during the session reflected a different response: 'I am aware of court precedents which say Congress can overstep when it prescribes particular outcomes in particular cases.'"