Conservative media critics know New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse as an overtly liberal reporter who has marched in pro-abortion protests and gives speeches about her crying at rock concerts about how conservatives have ruined the country and mangled the promise of the baby-boomer generation. But at the end of the PBS chat show Washington Week on June 27, NBC's Pete Williams praised her as a clarinet virtuoso of a reporter, the best the Supreme Court has ever seen.
GWEN IFILL, host: Before we go tonight, we want you to join us in saying congratulations and farewell to Washington Week's longest serving panelist. Linda Greenhouse has been covering the Supreme Court for the New York Times for 30 years. That's more than 2,800 bylined stories.... She's leaving the Times, among other things, to teach at Yale - what Chief Justice John Roberts, a Harvard man, recently called one of the best law schools in New Haven. I have to ask, though, what is it like to compete against Linda, Pete?
PETE WILLIAMS: When I started covering the Supreme Court fifteen years ago, I would get up in the morning and read Linda's story to see if I got it right. But I think that learning to cover the Supreme Court is a little like learning to play the clarinet. And the more you learn the instrument, the more you begin to recognize the talents of a virtuoso. (Laughter, but collegial laughter, not derisive laughter.) It's true. And I will miss Linda's story because she has such grace, she has such ability to know when do you talk about the precedents and where you do you put the dissent in and how do you put this on the larger picture. I really think that she is the best it's ever been, and it will never be better, and we will miss her desperately.
Everyone can understand kind words for a retiring colleague, but these words clearly go beyond what politeness requires. You could praise her for being knowledgeable or helpful or skillful. But when you start describing someone as the equivalent of a musical genius, and describe how you measure your own work by how it matches her music, then you have the sound of adoration.