CNN devoted several segments on Tuesday and Wednesday to Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell's apparent gaffe on the First Amendment, but barely acknowledged her opponent Chris Coons's own gaffe on the amendment. Analyst Jeff Toobin spun O'Donnell's remark as demonstrating that "she didn't seem to know" the amendment. It took conservative Dana Loesch on AC360 to bring up Coons's own gaffe.
Opening his October 18 article on a tight House race in Maryland that's garnered national attention, Baltimore Sun's Paul West trotted out the typical liberal lament about corporate money in politics (emphasis mine):
With low poll approval ratings and the prospect of his congressional allies in Congress taking a drubbing in November, it's hardly surprising the liberal media are looking for any silver lining for Obama that it can find.
Enter Time magazine's Kate Pickert, who on the magazine's Swampland blog yesterday claimed that a ruling upholding ObamaCare's constitutionality yesterday was a "significant victory for the Obama administration."
A temporary boost, perhaps, but significant? The ruling was at the District Court level, and the public interest firm representing the plaintiffs plans to appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Plus Pickert herself noted that there are plenty of other court challenges against ObamaCare, and they are not all bound to come down the same way District Court Judge George Steeh ruled yesterday.
What is significant is how Judge Steeh's reasoning profoundly obliterates the scope of the Constitution's interstate commerce clause to define refraining from commerce as commerce. It's an open question if appellate courts agree.
The New York Times, which is opposed to First Amendment protections for political advertising, has an untrammeled view of free speech when it comes to violent video games and even the picketing of soldiers' funerals by the family of Fred Phelps, infamous for their "God Hates Fags" signs and other despicable messages.
The New York Times Co. has filed a "friend of the court" brief with the Supreme Court (along with 20 other news outlets) in support of Phelps's church, which is being sued by the family of fallen Marine Matthew Snyder for picketing his funeral, displaying signs like "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates you."
The Times found the matter important enough to devote Thursday's lead editorial to it -- "Lamentable Speech."
To the American Nazi Party, Hustler Magazine, and other odious figures in Supreme Court history, add the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. and the members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Their antigay protests at the funeral of a soldier slain in Iraq were deeply repugnant but protected by the First Amendment.
All of the sympathy in the case of Snyder v. Phelps, which was argued on Wednesday at the Supreme Court, goes to the family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, the fallen Marine. But as the appeals court in the case observed, using words of Justice Felix Frankfurter, "It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have often been forged in controversies involving not very nice people." That happened when the court protected Hustler's right to mock the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the right of American Nazis to march in Skokie, Ill.
Appearing as a guest on Monday’s Charlie Rose show on PBS, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin seemed to misunderstand conservative complaints about judicial activism as he seemed to suggest that any court rulings that strike down legislative action could be considered part of judicial activism. The CNN analyst charged that the Supreme Court of the United States has recently engaged in "conservative judicial activism" in its enforcement of the First and Second Amendments.
Missing the point that "judicial activism" often involves a distortion of the Constitution's words to find legal precedent that does not exist, Toobin characterized recent decisions by a "very aggressive conservative wing" of the court as activism: "But what we have seen in recent years is conservative judicial activism, telling Congress you can't ban, you can't regulate campaign finance the way you thought, you can't – state legislatures, city councils – you can't impose gun control. So you have a very aggressive conservative wing of the party telling the democratically elected branches what to do."
Minutes earlier, he had described Chief Justice John Roberts as "very, very conservative."
“On this first Monday in October, the Supreme Court opened its new term today,” an excited Diane Sawyer announced Monday night, trumpeting how it's “making history for America's mothers, sisters and daughters.” ABC reporter Terry Moran was even more thrilled, marveling that “the most remarkable thing in that courtroom today, on this historic day, was how unremarkable it was.”
Despite the lack anything “remarkable,” however, Moran found new Justice Elena Kagan's performance quite remarkable, trumpeting “the one word that leapt to my mind was 'ready,'” touting how “she was confident and well prepared and fluent and probing” and, at one moment, “you could almost...imagine some of the other justices...looking down the bench at Justice Kagan like a major league scout might say, 'you know, that kid's got some real pop on her fastball.'”
An eager Sawyer wondered: “How was Justice Kagan on her first day?” A giddy Moran expounded:
After some discussion of a Gallup poll showing Americans have little trust in the mainstream media, host Uma Pemmaraju shifted the discussion to the new Supreme Court study from Times Watch. (Watch the video here.)
Fox News Host Uma Pemmaraju: "But there's another poll, out right now that looks at media behavior as well and specifically how the media handles the Supreme Court nominees, how are those related?"
As liberal Justice Elena Kagan takes her place on the Supreme Court next week, she could thank The New York Times for making her confirmation process smoother. Ever since Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork and he was rejected by the Senate in 1987 for his views and not his character or qualifications, confirmation battles for liberals have become less like judicial seminars and more like political campaigns.
For almost 20 years, in this new era of activist groups and activist reporters, TheNew York Times has covered Supreme Court fights with a heavy finger on the scales of justice, tipping the balance. They have painted conservatives as highly controversial and dangerously ideological, while liberal nominees were presented as "brilliant" moderates who were only newsworthy in that they were often laudably "historic" choices, or, in Kagan's case, she was not only "brilliant," but "very funny, warm and witty."
For Supremely Slanted, Times Watch analyzed the arc of coverage over the last two decades and the last seven Supreme Court justices, from Clarence Thomas's nomination in 1991 to Elena Kagan's confirmation in 2010, and found stark differences in how the Times reported on the four Justices nominated by Democrats versus the three nominated by Republicans.
Times Watch examined every substantive New York Times news story on each nomination, starting with the official presidential announcement and ending with the Senate vote confirming the nominee to the Supreme Court. Among the findings:
A stark pro-Democratic double standard in labeling:
The Times demonstrated a 10-1 disparity in labeling "conservative" justices nominated by Republicans compared to "liberal" ones nominated by Democrats.
In all, the three Republican-nominated justices were labeled "conservative" 105 times, while the four justices nominated by Democrats were labeled liberal on just 14 occasions.
It is truly remarkable to observe how press outlets continue to misreport and misinform the public in the area of stem cell research.
One of the latest examples came yesterday at the Associated Press. In a report covering a court ruling on government funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), the AP's Nedra Pickler completely failed to acknowledge that there are any other kinds of stem cells. Every single use by Pickler of the terms "stem cell" or "stem cells" has no modifying adjective, except the very first, whose modifier is "embryonic."
It's as if there are no other avenues besides ESCR for "scientific progress toward potentially lifesaving medical treatment." In fact, Pickler's less-informed readers would have no reason to believe that there is any form of stem cell research besides ESCR. The reality, which will be shown later for the umpteenth time, is that non-embryonic stem cells, often referred to as adult stem cells, have already shown that they can do virtually everything embryonic cells can with far less potential for side effects and, of course, no loss of human life. The word "adult" does not appear in the AP report.
Here are several paragraphs from Pickler's pathetic piece, which also includes a deeply deceptive quote (is there any other kind?) from Obama White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (bold is mine):
"The justices have not struck down a major piece of legislation, let alone a president's signature initiative, as beyond Congress's power to regulate commerce in some 75 years."
That's how Newsweek's Stuart Taylor Jr. today all but argued that, political ideology of the Supreme Court's majority aside, a Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional the "individual mandate" of ObamaCare is quite unlikely.
But while Taylor may be right that no signature presidential initiative post-New Deal has been declared unconstitutional by the Court on the grounds that it violated the interstate commerce clause, he neglected to mention there are two key cases in the past 15 years where the Supreme Court did set outer limits to Congress's exploitation of the commerce clause as a fountain of federal power.
NBC tonight (10 PM EDT/PDT, 9 PM CDT) debuts a new drama, Outlaw, centered on a conservative Supreme Court justice who, as a gambler and a philander, is a hypocrite played by Jimmy Smits. Realizing his political misdirection, he resigns from the court so he can become a crusading lawyer for liberal causes. But the program is so awful, even MSM TV critics are ridiculing it. (Joe Scarborough has at least one cameo in it.) “The show is so ludicrously dumb that your eyeballs will hurt from rolling so much,” Hank Stuever warned in Tuesday's Washington Post.
In USA Today, Robert Bianco pleaded: “Surely NBC's joking. There's awful, and then there's atrociously, hilariously awful -- a line NBC and Jimmy Smits soar across with Outlaw.” He proceeded to describe the show's premise:
A gambling, womanizing, conservative Supreme Court justice who chucks the court to become a crusader for the outcast and oppressed? That's not a prime-time show, it's a Saturday Night Live sketch. We meet Smits' Justice Cyrus Garza as he's being thrown out of a casino for counting cards. Outside, he stops to debate a case he's due to decide with a pretty ACLU protester (because you know those justices, yak, yak, yak) -- whom he then beds. But her words move him, and he resigns to become a trial lawyer.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday wondered if a Florida pastor's threat to burn a Koran could "change" and "challenge" the meaning of the First Amendment. [MP3 audio here.]
Talking to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the Good Morning America host speculated, "When you think about the internet and when you think about the possibility that, you know, a pastor in Florida with a flock of 30, can threaten to burn the Koran and that leads to riots and killings in Afghanistan, does that pose a challenge to the First Amendment, to how you interpret it?"
Stephanopoulos followed-up, "Does [the threat of the Koran burning] change the nature of what we can allow and protect?" The ABC host didn't explain expand on how the First Amendment "changes" in light of an unpopular action such as a Koran burning.
Giving Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer an unusual evening newscast platform to plug a book, on Monday’s NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams brought viewers back to the Left’s ten-year-old grudge, cuing up Breyer to agree: “Do you think Bush v Gore hurt the credibility of the modern court?” Breyer replied with a simple “yes” and Williams suggested: “Irreparably?” “No,” Breyer said in rejecting Williams’ overwrought premise, so Williams pressed: “For how long?”
Williams introduced the September 13 segment by marveling:
We can’t remember a sitting justice on the U.S. Supreme Court ever stopping by our studios here, but it happened today. We spent some time with Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Clinton and residing on the liberal side of the court. Justice Breyer is out with a new book today. It’s about how the court works, including mistakes the court has made over the years. I started out by asking Justice Breyer, given his love of the Supreme Court, if he's concerned that just one percent of those Americans polled, in a recent survey, knew his name?
On Monday's Situation Room, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin used dire language to describe a federal judge's decision which struck down federal funding for embryonic stem cell research: "The bottom line is this is a major setback for stem cell research and for the Obama administration....it will certainly cut way back on federal funding." Anchor Suzanne Malveaux labeled it a "potential wedge issue."
Malveaux led the 5 pm Eastern hour with the "breaking news" about Judge Royce Lamberth's decision, who issued a preliminary injunction against federal funding for the life-destroying research. The anchor brought in Toobin and asked, "What does this mean today?" Toobin immediately gave his "major setback" assessment and described the grounds on which Judge Lamberth gave in his 15-page opinion.
The CNN senior legal analyst, like many in the media, omitted that embryonic stem cell research isn't the only field when it comes to stem cell research. The federal government has actually spent much more on adult stem cell research. According to a July 18, 2008 report by PBS, the NIH "spent $200 million funding non-embryonic stem cell research, and only $38 million on embryonic stem cells." Less than a month ago, on August 2, the Associated Press actually highlighted the successes of adult stem cell research.
How dense and forgetful does Newsweek think socially conservative voters are?
Apparently so much so that the magazine's Ben Adler predicts yesterday's stay on Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling permitting same-sex marriages in California will blunt the hopes Republicans have of social conservatives coming out in force on Election Day to help push the GOP to victory in the midterms on Election Day.
Social conservatives were set to use the images of gay couples getting married in California as grist to motivate their base to turn out in the midterm elections. Republicans look certain to gain seats in both Houses of Congress in November, as opposition parties typically do during midterms. Whether they will pull the inside straight they need to take over either, or both, the House and Senate, will depend on any number of factors, but turnout is sure to be one of them.
Further, Adler maintained, because "the Democrats have not done much to invite images of an American Gomorrah" what with President Obama moving "very gingerly" and tentatively on issues like repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," social conservatives need the visual impact of gay and lesbian couples at the altar this fall to incense social conservatives and drive them like angry hornets to the ballot box.
Crazies on the left allow journalists to see themselves as under siege from both sides of the spectrum, and thus must be playing it down the middle. To wit: Saturday’s Washington Post carried a letter from a reader upset the newspaper had reported the Supreme Court has “four firm liberals.”
Robert B. McNeil Jr., of Alexandria, insisted “there hasn't been even a single ‘liberal’ on the court in years.” He recommended:
The Post should recognize philosophical reality and refer to the “moderate” and “conservative” wings of the court, although “moderate” and “radical-conservative” would be more accurate.
During a discussion of California's Proposition 8 being overturned on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, fill-in host John Dickerson questioned Family Research Council President Tony Perkins's assertion that the federal judge who made the ruling was openly gay: "You mention this claim that he's openly homosexual. I'm not sure if that's, in fact, the case."
Perkins replied by citing his source on Judge Vaughn Walker's sexual orientation: "Well, that, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, that he is openly homosexual, one of two federal judges." Thursday's Good Morning America on ABC reported that fact as well, even while NBC's Today and the CBS Early Show failed to mention it.
Dickerson followed his doubt of Perkins by arguing: "...whether [Walker] is or isn't, what basis – what bearing does that have on the case?" Perkins responded: "...had this guy been a – say, an evangelical preacher in his past, there would have been cries for him to step down from this case. So I do think it has a bearing on the case." Dickerson countered: "You think it's made his ruling skewed?"
U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who ruled last week that a voter-approved amendment to California's constitution that limited marriage to the union of one man and one woman violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, based that ruling in part on his finding that a child does not need and has no right to a mother.
Nor, he found, does a child have a need or a right to a father.
"Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted," the judge wrote in finding of fact No. 71 in his opinion.
Analysts that spend their time critiquing the media normally don't have very good things to say about what they observe these days, but the final segment of Sunday's "Face the Nation" on CBS was a marvelous exception.
Substitute host John Dickerson invited on the network's chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford and the Washington Post's Dan Balz for a refreshingly open and honest discussion of two pivotal legal issues facing our nation: a judge's decision to overturn California's controversial Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriages, and; whether or not the 14th Amendment should be revised to address illegal immigration.
What ensued was a tremendously informative seven minute report about these two issues without any cheer-leading or accusatory finger-pointing: Crawford gave the facts about both legal matters as she saw them; Balz addressed the political ramifications for both parties as well as the White House, and; Dickerson asked great questions to keep the conversation moving.
With that as pretext, sit back and watch - or read if you're so inclined - the way these kinds of issues should be discussed on a television news program (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Rosie O'Donnell was in the news this week when she signed to do another TV talk show on the forthcoming Oprah cable network. But she's still serving up leftist political goodies on her satellite radio show. Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer found her declaring her "wedding" ceremony in San Francisco to former girlfriend Kelli Carpenter was a political protest stunt:
George Bush, in the middle of a war, had an all-station news conference to announce how horrible it was for the safety of America that gay people were getting married in San Francisco, which pissed me off enough to get on a plane and go get married.
Okay, first of all, on February 24, 2004, President Bush didn't call "an all-station news conference." He made a rather routine statement (not a press conference) in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. And he didn't say it was "horribly for the safety of America" that gays would marry. He did say the people had voted to endorse the traditional definition of marriage, and some activist judges in Massachusetts and city officials in San Francisco were overturning the will of the people of California. But to Rosie, everything she hears is exaggerated into hate, even as Bush called for civility and calm. She was making it sound like the Nazis were rounding people up:
On Wednesday, CNN's daytime coverage of a federal judge's decision on California's Proposition 8 leaned mostly towards those who opposed the voter-approved amendment to the state's constitution, which banned same-sex marriage. When the judge's ruling was released, which found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, the network went so far to get immediate reaction to the ruling at a "gay" bar in West Hollywood.
Don Lemon was the first CNN anchor to bring on guests on the issue 15 minutes into the 12 noon Eastern hour, none other than Gary Spino and Tony Brown, the two subjects of their pro-homosexual parenting documentary "Gary and Tony Have a Baby." Minutes before the two appeared, the network replayed a glowing report by senior political analyst Gloria Borger, which originally aired on June 16, profiling Ted Olson and David Boies who are fighting to overturn Prop 8.
Lemon began his interview of the same-sex couple with a softball question: "So listen, Gary, I want to get you in here. Are you- how are you guys feeling? Are you anxiously awaiting this judge's decision, or what- is it just something that's in the back of your minds now?" He asked a similar question of Brown: "Are you feeling anxiety about this?"
On Wednesday night's "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin claimed that the federal judge in the Arizona immigration case doesn't possess "a strong political profile one way or another," which is a sign the decision is well-supported by the law.
Cooper asked Toobin if Judge Bolton, who decided the case, was a liberal, noting that she was appointed to the post by President Clinton."She's a Clinton appointee, but she was recommended by Jon Kyl," Toobin responded, "who is a very conservative senator from Arizona."
"She's clearly not a strong partisan, but we are a long way from the last word on the constitutionality of this law," Toobin added. "This is a hard case. You are going to see other judges come out other ways on this."
Toobin's points were also echoed by liberal blogs such as Media Matters and ThinkProgress, a liberal blog.
Elena Kagan's record clearly demonstrates she's a liberal, but to Rachel Maddow, she's just not liberal enough to be an "actual liberal." While she did a bit of a victory lap with Newsweek's Dahlia Lithwick on Tuesday night that the Republicans failed to scare people about Kagan and "nobody was terrified," Maddow still felt Obama wimped out by not picking an obvious radical leftist:
LITHWICK: At the end of the day you have a nominee who just utterly slid under the radar. And I don't know how the fundraising went but I know that the narrative was "She's fine, yawn. She's fine."
MADDOW: Yes. Well, should liberals look back at this experience? I mean, we're not out of it yet but should they essentially look back and say, "An actual liberal, a real -- a more liberal justice could have gotten through here?"
LITHWICK: I think so. It seems to me that to the extent that Obama had a moment to put someone a little bit more -- a little closer to a Stevens legacy or a Brennan legacy, a little closer to a passionate firebrand, this would have been the moment to put them up if the rumors are -- and they're only rumors -- true that Ginsburg is going to leave while Obama is still in office.
The shallow and promotional TV coverage of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings illustrated once again how the shamelessly ABC, CBS, and NBC shape the political Play-Doh they offer to the American people as “news.”
First, there was the amount of coverage.Let’s put it this way: “coverage” is the wrong word. Entire days of hearings, filled with tough exchanges with Republicans on issues like the military, “gay marriage,” and abortion were swept under the rug. Instead, the one talking point every viewer was supposed to remember was this: Kagan is funny! She is really, really funny!
At one point in the hearings, they discussed the Obama administration’s very unfunny failure to stop the Christmas Day bomber from almost blowing up a plane as it landed in Detroit. That somehow turned into a joke about Kagan’s Jewishness. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has seemed desperate to ingratiate himself with Obama’s nominees, set Kagan up to joke that she probably spent Christmas at a Chinese restaurant.
There have been a lot of complaints from the left over the opposition Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan has faced from Senate Republicans in her battle to win confirmation. But Kagan proponents should have seen this day coming when Democrats in the Senate did the same things to try to slow the confirmations of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
On CBS's July 4 "Face the Nation," CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford explained why. Previously throughout these types of confirmation processes, the Senate would approve a President's nominee, assuming the candidate was qualified. But President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. all set a new precedence when George W. Bush was president.
"Historically, [Kagan] would have been confirmed like Justice Ginsburg was, 96-3, or Justice Breyer, 87-9, but things changed. I mean, things changed 10 years ago, when Democrats started filibustering President Bush's qualified nominees," Crawford said. "I had a talk about all this -- I guess, what, five or six years ago with Mitch McConnell. You know, he said memories are long in the U.S. Senate. People remember what the Democrats -- including President Obama, Vice President Biden, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy -- did."
During the 'Early Wrap' segment on Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith discussed the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan with a panel of media pundits: "The almost unknown, practically under the radar, the Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, before committees this week being funny. She was downright funny."
GQ Magazine's Washington correspondent Ana Marie Cox agreed with Smith and added: "...a Saturday Night Live skit made live, in part because she looks exactly like Rachel Dratch. And it's perfect because Al Franken is on the committee. And I kept on watching like waiting for someone to burst into song or Unfrozen Caveman Senator." Radio host Jane Pratt chimed in: "Her joke was good, the Chinese food joke was good." Smith remarked: "Very funny. Sunday night, and Christmas."
On Wednesday's Good Morning America on ABC, news reader Juju Chang noted Kagan's "lively sense of humor" and later asked co-hosts George Stephanopoulos and Elizabeth Vargas "who is going to play her in the SNL skit?" Vargas replied: "I don't think they could be as funny as Elena Kagan was!"
Wednesday's evening news shows and Thursday's morning programs continued to minimize or leave out important moments of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings. ABC's Good Morning America, for instance, has offered only 67 seconds of coverage over three days. Today and The Early Show each provided a single ten second news brief on Thursday.
It's not as though the second day of testimony lacked interesting developments. The New York Times on July 1 reported the intense questioning by Senator Orrin Hatch on an abortion memo written by then-Clinton White House Counsel Kagan.
Hatch demanded, "Did you write that memo?...But did you write it? Is it your memo?"
In covering Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings, CNN and MSNBC have repeatedly lauded the Supreme Court nominee for her "flashes of humor" and "disarming ease."
In tune with the reverberations of the network morning shows' echo chamber, correspondents like CNN's Dana Bash and anchors like MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday praised Kagan for her ability to inject humor into otherwise "hollow and vapid" hearings and charm hostile Republican senators into docility.
"But just on a color note, what struck me, Candy, has been the way Elena Kagan has tried to use a sense of humor to really disarm the senators, particularly Republicans," noted Bash.
Maddow's guest, Dahlia Lithwick of the liberal Slate magazine, gushed over Kagan's "gut-wrenching" sense of humor, her masterful ability to balance "seriousness and levity and humor," and her "disarming and charming and kind of likeable" personality.
"A likeable liberal. Dear me, I know," quipped Maddow.