Souter was nominated by the first President Bush but disappointed conservatives by often voting with the court's liberal bloc, which may be why Greenhouse wished him such a fond farewell:
David H. Souter had no agenda 19 years ago when he took his seat on the Supreme Court, but he did have a goal: not to become a creature of Washington, a captive of the privileges and power that came with a job he was entitled to hold for the rest of his life. In this, no matter what else can be said about his tenure on the court, he succeeded brilliantly.
Just a few decades ago, this would hardly have been a singular accomplishment. Even the most distinguished Supreme Court justices often disappeared from public view, speaking only through their opinions -- the full texts of which were all but inaccessible to ordinary citizens without access to a law library. But in this media-saturated age, the justices are everywhere. If they are not on book tours, they are opining on the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, or mingling with their peers in Europe, or on C-Span addressing high school students, or at least delivering named lectures at law schools.
None of this held any appeal for David Souter, who after returning home from his Rhodes scholarship at Magdalen College, Oxford, crossed the Atlantic only once again, for a reunion there. Who needed Paris if you had Boston, he would remark to friends. When the court is in recess, he gets in his Volkswagen and heads to Weare, N.H., to the small farmhouse that was home to his parents and grandparents.
Greenhouse took sides on a recent Supreme Court decision:
Friday afternoon, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez observed that since “Obama is essentially replacing...a more liberal judge with what will eventually probably be a liberal judge doesn't really change things a lot,” but, he contended, a President McCain would have caused an “extreme” shift, as if one more non-liberal on the court would cause an “extreme” change: “If John McCain were the President of the United States today, this court would be changing in extreme ways, wouldn't it?” Of course, if McCain were President there wouldn't now be an opening on the court and it presumes McCain would nominate a conservative.
Sanchez's formulation, in which had cited RNC Chairman Michael Steele's point that Supreme Court openings are why conservatives should have supported McCain, came just after CNN's legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, described the court's current make up as consisting of “four very conservative justices” and four just plain “liberal justices” -- apparently not “very” liberal.
During the 3PM EST hour of live coverage on MSNBC, anchor Norah O’Donnell turned to White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie for reaction to President Obama’s surprise appearance at the daily press briefing to discuss the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter: "Savannah, let me just start with you, the shock factor. I mean, you've got that seat right there by where the President walked out. Were you surprised?" Guthrie replied: "Shocked is more like it, Norah. I felt a little bit like I was having a dream sequence minus the pink unicorn. I have to say, we attend those briefings every day, they are rarely so exciting." [audio for download here]
Guthrie went on to explain: "I had kind of been giving Gibbs a little bit of a hard time, saying, 'look, why does everyone in Washington know this and you're telling us there's been no communication between Justice Souter, the Supreme Court, and the White House?' And sure enough, the President walks in and said ‘I just got off the phone with Justice Souter.’" O’Donnell asked: "Are you suggesting, Savannah, it was your questions that were the reason the President walked out? Because that sounds like where you're going with this." Guthrie humbly replied: "Well, I'm not quite that self-centered. But all I'm saying is I'm very happy to have my question answered, and certainly, personally by the President."
What should President Obama’s impending Supreme Court Justice be? A thoughtful jurist? A legal scholar with impeccable credentials? An experienced, accomplished, wise legal expert to judge whether laws are Constitutional?
Apparently, the most important thing to remember is that this justice should be a Hispanic woman.
Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was conducting pundit interviews this morning for analysis on Justice Souter’s newly announced retirement. One such pundit was Tavis Smiley, and as a gentle segue into the subject of identity politics, Scarborough brought up Justice Clarence Thomas [emphasis mine]:
While reporting on the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter on Friday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Wyatt Andrews explained: "Souter quickly stunned conservatives in 1992, casting the crucial fifth vote to uphold Roe vs. Wade in the landmark abortion case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Souter evolved into one of the court's more liberal justices."
Andrews went on declare that: "Obama specifically promised to appoint justices who are pro-abortion rights." A clip of Obama on the campaign trail was played: "That's why I am committed to appointing judges who understand how our laws operate in our daily lives, judges who will uphold the core values of our Constitution, that's why I won't back down when it comes to defending the freedom of women." Andrews concluded: "In the search for his replacement, the President will face significant pressure, not just to name a liberal justice, but also to appoint a woman justice."
In a promo on Thursday’s Early Show, CBS asked if same-sex “marriage” is “inevitable in all 50 states,” and during their segment on the issue, seemed to answer this rhetorical question affirmatively. The network also lined up four sound bites from three individuals who supported the legalization of such unions against one from a leader of a conservative organization. Additionally, correspondent Priya David made one factual error about California’s Proposition 8 during the report.
David began the segment by outlining which states had passed same-sex civil unions, which states permit domestic partnerships, and which states “offer full marriage rights for same-sex couples.” She continued by actually using a political label for the “marriage” states: “In allowing same-sex marriage, Vermont has joined its neighbors in the north, Massachusetts and Connecticut, which are traditionally liberal states. But now there’s support in a place you might not expect.”
Liberally slanted legal reporter Neil Lewis has a scoop-let on President Obama's anticipated first court appointment, the "moderate" Judge David Hamilton, to the federal appeals court in Chicago ("Moderate Is Said to Be Pick for Court").
Lewis saw this upcoming move as a "signal" Obama's future appointees would be "moderate" as well. But how truly moderate is David Hamilton, federal trial court judge in Indiana and former board member for the Indiana ACLU?
Lewis provides no evidence, only the vague assertion that Hamilton "is said by lawyers to represent some of his state's traditionally moderate strain." But that seal of approval has a certain "strained" quality itself; if Hamilton is "said" to "represent some" of Indiana's moderation, then he's not all moderate, but something else as well. Probably something liberal. Why?
For one, the liberal Obama picked him. For another, his only memorable rulings, according to Lewis himself, were two anti-conservative ones. In one case, he sided with the ACLU on prayer, a ruling later overturned. Third, Hamilton clerked for a liberal judge. Lewis's assertion is contradicted by factual evidence from his own story.
This is not a story of bias in the media. It is a story, rather, that affects both the Old Media of newspapers, TV and radio, as well as the New Media of the Internet. Our disagreements with the Old Media aside, we both stand to see trouble if a recent court case in Massachusetts gains momentum or is applied liberally henceforth.
The Associated Press reports on a libel case in Boston that pits a fired employee of the Staples office supply chain against his former employer. Staples, as it happens, sent out an emailed newsletter informing its employees that salesman Alan Noonan was fired for padding his expense account. Noonan sued for libel. Alarmingly, even though the emailed newsletter was reporting the strict truth the court held that truth was no defense in this case.
What does this mean to us? Journalists (and that means us too, folks) have been protected for decades by the concept that "truth isn't libelous" allowing things of a nature vexing to people in the news to be published without fear of a lawsuit. Even though this court case is not about journalism per se, it could come back to bite us all if this ruling is applied broadly.
On the December 9, 2008, Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann charged that Bush administration members – whom he did not specify by name but presumably President Bush was meant to be included – deserve to be "in hell," as he cited a report that a post-war insurgency in Iraq using roadside bombs to attack U.S. troops had been predicted by the U.S. military before the invasion. During the show’s regular "Bushed!" segment, Olbermann lambasted the Bush administration:
So not only did the Bush administration and the Bush Pentagon ignore the prewar intel, that the WMD we sought to recover were not in Iraq, but the Bush administration and the Bush Pentagon ignored that if we removed Saddam Hussein an insurgency of some sort would develop in Iraq. And now we learn the Bush administration and the Bush Pentagon ignored the prewar intel that when an insurgency did develop, it would use roadside bombs to kill the troops we needlessly sent there.
I don’t know what, if any religion you belong to, but I suspect you’ll agree that people who ignored that many foretellings of preventable death should have a long time to think about it in hell!
Below is a complete transcript of the "Bushed!" segment from the December 9, 2008, Countdown show on MSNBC, with critical portions in bold:
Among the five "Scenes From an Inauguration" letters the Washington Post published from readers in its January 21 edition, one took the cake for over-the-top left-wing derangement.
The letter, by one Ed Burke of Warrenton, Virginia, launched a screed at Chief Justice John Roberts, calling his mistake reciting the presidential oath for Barack Obama "a disgrace" whether it was "through design" or "an amazing lack of preparation."
Of course, most observers -- apart from Joe Klein -- regardless of political leaning would say it was likely an innocent rookie mistake, this being the chief justice's first of hopefully many inaugurations to come. Yet the Post saw fit to publish Burke's melodramatic screed.:
A federal judge threw out a spurious lawsuit by serial atheist litigant Michael Newdow. Yet in reporting the story in its January 16 print edition, the Washington Post made it sound like a federal judge has ended the suspsense and permitted prayers to be offered at the inauguration, as though they were seriously in danger in the first place.
"Judge Clears the Way for Prayer at Swearing-In," declared the page B4 headline in the Inauguration Watch digest. Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber echoed the headline's language in his lede:
A federal judge yesterday cleared the way for government officials and ministers to pray and make references to God during the swearing-in.
Wilber explained that "U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton refused to grant an injunction in a lawsuit seeking to block such references." Nowhere in his 3-paragraph-long brief did Wilber mention Newdow by name, nor his history of frivolous litigation such as trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are "moderate" liberals. And GOP opposition to Obama Supreme Court nominees would constitute a "fake fight" demonstrating that Republicans remain mired in the culture wars. Such was the collective wisdom of two of the roundtable members on ABC's "This Week" today.
Before moving to the substance, a word about the roundtable's lopsided composition, which resembled nothing more than Homecoming for public radio types. To "balance" David Brody of CBN, ABC chose Kurt Andersen of Public Radio International, Alison Stewart of NPR, and John Dickerson of Slate and . . . NPR. Andersen kicked off the Supreme Court segment with his "moderate" liberal comment. Dickerson followed with his pre-emptive warning about that potential Republican "fake fight."
In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, Walters asked few questions that put the Obamas on the defensive, in contrast with her January 2001 interview, aired on 20/20, with then-President-elect Bush in which she challenged him on a number of fronts. Most notably, she seemed to chide Bush for choosing John Ashcroft as Attorney General because he "openly opposes abortion," and claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights." She asked Bush about reports that, as governor of Texas, he "spent relatively little time studying specific issues," and "only does a few hours of work" a day. The ABC host also challenged Bush from the left on the trade embargo against Cuba, and even asked Laura Bush if her more "traditional" plans for her time as First Lady would be a "setback for women." It is also noteworthy that Walters asked Bush about his plans for dealing with Saddam Hussein and cited "people in the know" who contended that the Iraqi dictator was "stronger than ever."
Liberal CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin appeared on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS on Wednesday night, and Smiley focused on several "hot button" issues that were largely ignored in the general election: campaign finance reform, abortion, racial preferences, and gun control. Toobin insisted that Obama’s long list of small (and unidentified) donors suggests "there’s less risk of corruption, I think." On Supreme Court picks, he said Obama will pick someone with liberal views on abortion and racial preferences, but insisted that Obama really matches Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor’s views on race. On gun control, Toobin defined the struggle strangely, like he wasn't very smart about weapons: "What's the line between a handgun in D.C. and a surface-to-air missile? I think the courts are going to have to figure that out."
First, Toobin found no need for reform of the current campaign finance system, with the favorable results and all:
SMILEY: The money in this campaign, with all due respect to Barack Obama and the three-quarters of a billion dollars he raised in this campaign, do we need to get back now to a serious conversation about campaign finance reform? Because everybody can't do what Obama did.
We've seen some major cases of left leaning bias in the media, especially during the late presidential campaign. Many of these cases have been blatant and over-the-top in style but, while covering the brazen cases of such bias, it is easy to forget that there are every day cases of the more subtle bias to the left in the media. Today, we have a perfect example of a more subtle left leaning bias in the media with a Reuters story headlined "Obama likely to push courts away from right." In it there are lies, distortions and tricky wording all used to pat Barack Obama on the back for his assumed sharp turn to the left he'll take as he appoints judges during his forthcoming presidency. The same tricks of the trade are used to attack George Bush and conservatives for their judicial turn to the right these last eight years.
The headline, of course, is a classic example of leftist bias. Just take a look at the language: "Obama likely to push courts away from right." More properly this headline should read: "Obama likely to push courts to the left." But, notice that instead of saying "push to the left," they say "push away from the right." This gives Obama cover for what he's really doing and takes the emotional impact away from the fact that Obama is, indeed, going to veer to the left by placing the negative connotation on the right. Reuters is assuring people that Obama ISN'T going left, no, no, no, he's only going "away" from the right!
Someone at The Phoenix, a small Boston weekly, is off his medication. It's hard to believe sanity is a familiar state, at least, when reviewing the silliness passed off as serious political analysis, anyway. For the lead editorial in The Phoenix this week is a fantastic display of hyperbole filled with "truther" propensities. The editorial, you see, is all worried that John McCain will make himself a "dictator" if he wins the election next month. No, they are serious, so quit laughing.
And how is it that he will become a "dictator"? Why, it's because he will be able to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice, you see. Yes, that is the only proof posited for this idiotic theory.
The "argument" this editorial pushes on an unsuspecting reader is that if McCain appoints another eeeevil conservative Justice, then the Courts will turn over all the power in the land to the president. After that, I suppose the writer of this schlock posing as analysis imagines that the rest of the government will just turn off the lights and go home, or something.
I thought Sarah Palin did more than fine on Saturday Night Live [Noel's got the video here]. In particular, during her Weekend Update appearance Palin displayed a speaking poise and polish exceeding that of the other candidates on both tickets. But Republicans who agree to appear on such shows put themselves in the lap of the liberal media gods. And those lesser deities abused their power last night, running a nasty joke at Clarence Thomas's expense during Weekend Update shortly before Palin appeared.
The set-up was the fact that, in a dissenting opinion published this past week, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts employed the style of a hard-bitten detective novel. That set up this . . .
For someone who doesn't know something as obvious as the fact that—given her upcoming book—Gwen Ifill has a financial stake in an Obama win, Maggie Rodriguez has an awfully high opinion of the knowledge level of ordinary Americans. Rodriguez interviewed a feisty Fred Thompson on today's Early Show. During the course of the contentious exchange:
Questioning Thompson on Sarah Palin's inability to name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade with which she disagreed, Rodriguez claimed that “everybody” and “ordinary Americans” can cite Supreme Court cases.
When Thompson stated that Palin would be dealing tonight with a moderator with a financial interest in an Obama win, Rodriguez retorted “I don’t know about that.”
A Federal judge from Louisiana is under a cloud of impeachment and if he's convicted it'll be the first federal judge impeached in almost 20 years. The story was covered by the new wire service named ProPublica, a service that claims to be non-partisan. Yet in two stories on this judge there is not one mention of the fact that he was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton, nor that his corruption was known by the Department of Justice when Clinton made the appointment. I wonder why ProPublica didn't find that relevant, don't you?
A while back, I wrote of a new wire service that was starting up to be called ProPublica. This new service claimed that it was going to be a non-partisan service but the fact that it was being funded by left-wing billionaires made me wonder about the veracity of that claim. I have to admit that I haven't paid much attention to ProPublica since my first look into it, but this judge story piqued my interest. So, I gave ProPublica a look see.
On Sunday's The Chris Matthews Show on NBC, during a discussion of how well a President McCain might work with a Democratic Congress, host Matthews seemed to generalize about the political opinions of women as he contended that "one of the biggest fears women especially have" is that McCain would appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, whom Matthews branded as "hawkish" on abortion: "One of the biggest fears women especially have is that we'll have a Supreme Court judge retirements or deaths or whatever, need to [be] replaced. McCain could come in there, he's a pro-lifer, pick some real hawkish people on the topic of a pro-life anti-abortion stance." He also euphemistically referred to the Democratic majority's ability to block pro-life appointments as being a "safety net." Matthews: "Would one of the safety nets be for the Democrats, they've got almost 56, almost 60 Democratic Senators that would say no way?" (Transcript follows)
Retiring New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse has answered some more questions from readers at nytimes.com. After an earlier revelation that she considers the former ACLU lawyer Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a centrist comes details of her deep affection for late ultra-liberal Justice William Brennan, whose decisions favored explicit racial quotas, no limits on abortion, mandatory school busing, opposition to the death penalty, and the strict separation of church and state:
Obviously, not every opinion Justice Brennan put his name to will stand the test of time. But many will. A personal note -- I took some time off from the court beat in the mid-1980's to have a baby and cover Congress for a couple of years. When I came back in 1988, Justice Brennan was 82 and the end of his tenure was in sight. He was one of the first people I ran into, in a court corridor. "I'm glad you're back," he said to me. I replied, "I'm glad you're still here."
The New York Times sent veteran Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse into retirement in grand style on Sunday, turning over to her the front page of the Week in Review for "2,691 Decisions," a title marking the number of court cases she had covered during her tenure.
Unmentioned were her off-the-clock denunciations of conservatives, such as her infamous speech at Harvard in June 2006 when she tore into the Bush administration. What was included: Her clear belief that the world is a better place with Anthony Kennedy on the Court and Robert Bork not.
First, some of what Greenhouse told Harvard students in 2006:
...our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."
If there's one person in the NBC news stable who combines solid analytical skills with a commitment to fairness, it could be political director Chuck Todd. Evidence thereof comes from no less a certified conservative source than Tom DeLay. Appearing on this evening's Hardball just after Todd had offered his breakdown of the electoral map, DeLay allowed that he "can't dispute" any of Todd's analysis, prompting Chris Matthews to exclaim "that's a development for us here: objective truth for you!"
So what was that Todd analysis that DeLay didn't dispute? There was much to it, but for present purposes let's focus on this: Todd can't see how Obama wins without Pennsylvania, and that having former governor Tom Ridge on the McCain ticket would help deliver the Keystone State. The catch is that Ridge is pro-choice, which in turn poses the question of whether pro-life Republicans would revolt if McCain chose him for the veep slot.
Got to be good looking 'cause he's so hard to see Come together right now Over me—The Beatles, "Come Together" (1969) [YouTube]
Bob Herbert just doesn't get it. As Noel Sheppard has noted, in his NYT column today Herbert accuses Barack Obama of "lurching right when it suits him, and . . . zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash." The NY Times columnist goes on to condemn the candidate for "pandering to evangelicals;" agreeing with Justices Scalia and Thomas on a "barbaric" interpretation of the 8th Amendment; and playing a "dangerous game" with his "shifts and panders."
No, no, no, Bob! That's not what's happening at all. Obama isn't flip-flopping. He's simply fulfilling his pledge to bring us together. What makes Herbert's obtuseness all the more infuriating is that enlightenment was just a stroll down the corridor away, to the office of Gail Collins. Herbert's fellow Times columnist explained what is really going on during her appearance today on Morning Joe.
Here's something you don't see every day: a major American newspaper admonishing the Supreme Court for ruling against the death penalty.
Yet, that's not even close to the oddest aspect of Saturday's editorial by the Washington Post, for the paper agreed with the Court's 5-4 decision to ban the death penalty for those convicted of child rape, but felt compelled to expose an error in how the Justices reached their conclusions.
In fact, the Post laid out a convincing enough case that the state of Lousiana might have grounds for a rehearing (emphasis added, h/t Hot Air headlines):
One of the more astounding post-9/11 liberal media affectations has been the extraordinary concern press members have for how terrorists looking to kill innocent Americans are treated at detention centers.
A fine example of this occurred on Thursday's "Hannity & Colmes" when the left-leaning part of Fox News's successful duo debated former White House adviser Karl Rove about the recent Supreme Court decision granting habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Readers are advised to get a big bag of popcorn for this barnburner (video embedded right):
Nearly two years ago on Newsbusters, I floated a proposal that newspapers require their editorial and other writers to police themselves for accuracy by requiring them to turn in footnotes with their copy. The process would force writers to check information they think they know that isn't so.
The Chicago Tribune has lurched to the left of Sen. Barack Obama, at least on gun rights, marking the latest point in its evolution from a historically moderate-to-conservative paper to a reliably left-wing broadsheet.
That's how MRC Director of Media Analysis characterized the Trib's decision to issue an editorial last Friday calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The editorial board's writers whined that the Constitution's Framers "could have used an editor" in writing the Bill of Rights. [audio available here]
Below is a transcript -- h/t MRC intern Peter Sasso -- from Graham's appearance on the June 30 "O'Reilly Factor" with guest host John Kasich:
As a deeply divided Supreme Court issued 5-4 rulings the past few weeks bouncing from liberal to conservative interpretations of the law, something was woefully missing from the coverage: journalists apologizing to the nation for regularly insinuating that the Court's December 2000 decision concerning Bush v. Gore was politically based.
After all, for seven and a half years, a regular media meme has been that a "conservative Supreme Court" gave George W. Bush the presidency by stopping the recounting of votes in Florida.
Yet, as the Washington Post reported Sunday, today's Court, though "sharply divided ideologically on some of the most fundamental constitutional questions" as well as being "roughly balanced," is probably more conservative than it was in 2000 as a result of recent appointments (emphasis added throughout):