MSNBC's Chris Matthews framed Sen. Jeff Sessions' criticism of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a "brutal assault," during MSNBC's live coverage of the Senate hearing Monday afternoon.
"It's a brutal assault on this nomination," Matthews complained about the Alabama Republican's remarks.
Matthews also seemed to cast Sessions as an unsophisticated country bumpkin challenging Kagan's prestigious Ivy League background.
"It's a strong cultural shot at her, and she does represent, if you will, academic excellence of the highest degree, coming from the best schools, dean of Harvard Law," Matthews crooned. "It's hard to get above that, to a person out in the country, from Alabama, like Jeff Sessions represents. That is probably a pretty rich target."
He accused Sessions of describing Kagan as pro-terrorist and tried to get liberal Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to say that Sessions' "assault" would whip up a storm.
Are the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings an occasion for media explanation...or celebration? The Washington Post Express tabloid ran this headline Monday: "Kagan's Big Day Finally Arrives." The copy underneath by AP reporter Nancy Benac sounds like a proud mother more than an objective journalist. She suggested "it may be her own words that best explain her success at charting an undeviating course to the front steps of the high court." She elaborated about Kagan's career, in sympathetic tones:
She's excelled by dint of hard work, smarts and what she describes as good "situation sense" - the ability to size up her surroundings and figure out what truly matters, as she put it during confirmation hearings for her last job, as President Barack Obama's solicitor general, the government's top lawyer.
It's what allowed Kagan to channel the thinking of legal giant Thurgood Marshall when she was a "27-year-old pipsqueak" clerk to the justice.
It's what allowed Kagan to navigate through the land mines of government policy on abortion, tobacco and other contentious issues as an adviser to President Bill Clinton.
The Monday morning shows on CBS, ABC, and NBC all worked to portray President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a moderate and open-minded legal scholar, downplaying her liberal views. All three network programs also minimized her controversial decision to ban military recruiters on campus while Dean of Harvard Law School.
On CBS's Early Show, legal correspondent Jan Crawford touted Kagan as "an intellectual heavyweight and consensus builder." Crawford noted how Republicans had "several lines of attack" against Kagan and would "try to paint her as a liberal activist." Crawford herself recently described Kagan as having "stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left."
On ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman did a fawning segment on Kagan in the 8AM ET hour, describing the former Dean as "intellectual" and "full of personal charm" during her tenure at Harvard. Shipman claimed that Kagan had "a determination to be open-minded," despite banning military recruiters from the university's campus over the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. On that issue, Shipman explained that despite Kagan's decision being unpopular "among student military vets....Iraq War veteran Kurt White says they were won over by Kagan's persistent outreach, another example of her political skills." Shipman failed to mention that White would be testifying on Kagan's behalf during the confirmation hearings.
When President Bush nominated John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in 2005, the media did not hesitate to describe both men as "very conservative," but when President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan this year many in the press couldn't seem to identify any liberal ideology. The Media Research Center has produced a video compilation of examples to further demonstrate the obvious double standard. [Audio available here]
During ABC's live special coverage of Roberts's nomination on July 19, 2005, then This Week host and former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos declared: "This is a very conservative man with a strong paper trail that proves it." NPR's Nina Totenberg could hardly contain her urge to label, using the word "conservative" several times during a July 23 appearance on Inside Washington: "John Roberts is a really conservative guy...he's a conservative Catholic....[President Bush] has given conservatives a hardline conservative."
The same labeling followed Alito's nomination months later. CBS's Bob Schieffer opened the October 31 Evening News by proclaiming: “Conservatives wanted a conservative on the Supreme Court, and said the President ought to risk a fight in the Senate to get one. Their wishes have been fulfilled.” Later that evening, on a special 7PM ET hour edition of CNN's The Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer described: "...there is a new nomination and new controversy. A battle shapes up as the president picks a staunch conservative who could help reshape the U.S. Supreme Court."
When President Obama picked Elena Kagan to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the broadcast networks referred to the upcoming Senate confirmation process as “contentious” a “meat grinder” and a “battle,” warning Kagan was “in for a fight.”
But a Media Research Center analysis of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts in the six weeks since Kagan was nominated shows the broadcast networks have failed to cover the “fight,” and have ignored most of the controversies that could lead to suspenseful hearings next week.
MRC analysts found that the broadcast network evening newscasts aired just eleven stories about Kagan since her May 10 nomination (six on CBS, three on ABC and two on NBC), plus another three brief items read by the anchor. All but one of those stories appeared during the first week after Kagan’s selection; only the CBS Evening News, in a June 3 report, has bothered to cover any of the thousands of pages of Kagan documents released in recent weeks.
Borrowing a line from one of her Harvard colleagues, the Washington Post entitled its June 10 front-page profile of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, "Her work is her life is her work."*
But the 60-paragraph story by staff writers Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker shed barely any light on the judicial philosophy that Kagan's life work demonstrates. Instead, Gerhart and Rucker presented a gauzy profile that rehashed the usual trivia -- Kagan loves poker and the opera -- while painting Kagan as a workaholic who still has time to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to friends in distress:
She has arrived at the age of 50 in a blaze of accomplishment. But her achievements can obscure how relatively narrow her world has been.
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford revealed how the Obama White House is “strongly” pushing back against her unsurprising report last week that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan “stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left” when she clerked for liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Crawford says the White House reaction to her report “has been astonishing....Their reaction has been to push back so strongly on allegations, as they would put it, that she’s a liberal. Like there’s something wrong with that, like it’s a smear to say their nominee is a liberal.”
To Crawford, Team Obama’s strategy reeks of phoniness: “They’re putting enormous pressure on Elena Kagan who, as you said, is qualified. She’s an intellectual superstar. They’re putting pressure on her to portray herself in these hearings as something other than what she is. They’re thinking short-term politically and not long-term for the Court and the law and liberal judicial philosophy.”
This is probably what a lot of people suspected, but couldn't tie it all of it together until documents and memos from President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan were made available to the public - that she is beyond a shadow of a doubt liberal.
Still, the White House has insisted Kagan's judicial philosophy doesn't line up ideologically - that she is neither liberal nor conservative. But according to documents unearthed by CBS Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford, Kagan holds some very liberal views.
"These documents have her squarely within mainstream liberal thought," Crawford said on the June 6 broadcast of CBS's "Face the Nation." "She's worried about the conservative Supreme Court undoing rulings that would give a woman a right to an abortion. She's worried about gun rights saying she's not sympathetic to an individual's right to own a handgun. She's concerned about conservative rulings scaling back rights of criminals. That's basic mainstream liberal thought."
The Associated Press apparently thinks its readers are either too young or too stupid to remember something that happened thirteen years ago.
On Friday, the Clinton Presidential Library released formerly private documents from the '90s that revolved around Elena Kagan's stint as an advisor to President Clinton. Of particular interest was her encouraging Clinton to veto a ban on partial birth abortions for late-term babies.
When Clinton used his veto pen to stop the ban in 1997, it was intensely controversial. Media archives from that year show it was described as a "bitter battle" over something full of "public revulsion."
How things change in thirteen years. Now with a pro-choice Supreme Court nominee to get through confirmation hearings, the AP blatantly ignored history to portray Kagan's advice as common sense pragmatism.
Writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis penned a dispatch obviously designed to be as friendly as possible, even if that left a few facts out of the story (h/t LiveAction):
On Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Jan Crawford filed a report recounting revelations that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has a history of taking solidly liberal positions on issues like abortion, gay rights, and gun control – with evidence in the form of memos, some going back to her days working for liberal Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Crawford: "Documents buried in Thurgood Marshall's papers in the Library of Congress show that, as a young lawyer, Kagan stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left, including on the most controversial issue Supreme Court nominees ever confront: abortion."
The CBS correspondent informed viewers that Kagan had fretted about conservatives restricting abortion rights: "In a case involving a prisoner who wanted the state to pay for her to have the procedure, Kagan writes to Marshall that the conservative-leaning court could use the case to rule against the woman and ‘create some very bad law on abortion.’"
Notably, on Monday, May 10, as the broadcast network evening newscasts introduced Kagan to their viewers, only CBS referred to her liberal ideology, as Crawford asserted: "Her career has put her solidly on the left."
The United States is fighting two wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan - so it's natural that the nation's leaders have a solid understanding of what war is about. But President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court has no wartime experience and if she is confirmed, that would mean no member of the highest court would have served in the military in or near combat.
This is a major shift for a nation with a proud military tradition. In the past 100 years, the United States has fought two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the Gulf War. American servicemen and women fought in the Philippines, Grenada, Panama, Somalia and Bosnia and many more. Given the nature of the terror threat America faces, more countries probably will likely join that list.
The three major broadcast networks have ignored this issue since Obama's May 10 nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Kagan does not have any military experience and is considered by some as anti-military. Yet, out of 17 stories on ABC, CBS and NBC since Kagan was named, not one has even mentioned the issue of wartime experience.
This, despite liberal arguments that a judge's experience is key to his or her decisions, and that the most lionized of progressive Supreme Court justices was an emphatically proud veteran of the Civil War, whose tombstone lists his war service before his court tenure.
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Thursday touted Supreme Court collegiality from Justice Antonin Scalia as a real victory in the battle over Elena Kagan's nomination. Stephanopoulos enthused, "Justice Scalia, who is likely to be a conservative adversary if Kagan gets confirmed, pointed out that everybody on the bench now is a judge."
(Kagan is likely to be a conservative adversary? The ABC host appeared to be continuing the liberal talking point that the mind of Obama's nominee is somehow unknowable.)
Stephanopoulos eagerly quoted, "So, he went on to say, 'I'm happy to see that the latest nominee is not a federal judge and not a judge at all.' Of course, Kagan has gotten some criticism from some senators because she's not a judge."
Yesterday I tackled how Newsweek's Howard Fineman was attacking Kentucky Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul for picking a fight that the liberal media, in fact, was whipping up.
Today, it's Fineman colleague Ben Adler and his insistence that conservatives are fixated on smearing both Elena Kagan and softball players everywhere as gay.
Adler made his argument in his May 20 The Gaggle blog post, "What Is With Conservatives, Gays, and Softball" by picking apart a comment Fox Business Network's John Stossel made on Fox News Channel in which he defended Paul's comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964.What annoyed Adler most was Stossel's quip that gay softball leagues, for example, should not be forced to admit straight players:
The gay softball team? The proverbial black student association has long been every anti-civil-rights pundit's favorite shibboleth, but why suddenly gay softball team? Do gay people have separate softball teams that don't allow straight people to play for them? If so, it's still an awfully random example. Oh wait, no it isn't, it's a dog whistle to everyone who thinks that women who play softball are gay, and that therefore Solicitor General Elena Kagan is gay. Stay classy, John.
There are two problems with this. First and foremost, it was gay groups that first made a stink about an innocuous photo by the Wall Street Journal that was clearly selected as a clever tease for a story in the May 11 edition. The headline and caption for the Kagan-playing-softball photo were as follows:
In 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama cast doubt on President Bush's pick of Harriet Miers in part because "her [legal] experience does not include serving as a judge" and as such "we have yet to know her views on many of the critical constitutional issues facing our country today."
Yet five years later, after President Obama named his solicitor general -- who has also never served as a judge -- to the Supreme Court, the media are not picking up on the parallels between the Miers pick and Obama's choice of Elena Kagan.
Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell discussed this on today's "Fox & Friends" program in an interview via satellite shortly before 8:30 a.m. EDT [MP3 audio available here].:
As a Sunday afternoon treat, here’s a sneak peek at the May 17 edition of MRC’s Notable Quotables newsletter, our bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. The entire edition will be posted, with five video clips, at www.MRC.org on Monday morning.
Shortsighted Voters Fail to Grasp Obama’s Historic Greatness
“Big problems. Big achievements. Big costs. Historians say President Obama’s legislative record during a crisis-ridden presidency already puts him in a league with such consequential presidents as Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. But polls show voters aren’t totally on board with his achievements, at least not yet, and the White House acknowledges that his victories have carried huge financial and political costs. ‘There are always costs in doing big things,’ Obama told USA Today.” — Opening of May 12 USA Today cover story by Susan Page and Mimi Hall, “Will doing ‘big things’ wind up costing Obama?” The accompanying picture showed a portrait of Abraham Lincoln peering down at President Obama.
Appearing on the May 13 "Hannity" program for a "Media Mash" segment, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell tackled the media coverage of the Elena Kagan nomination. After the Fox News host played some clips of network anchors focusing on how the Obama Court nominee loves opera, softball, and poker, Bozell noted it was par for the course.
While "from the moment he was nominated, [Clarence Thomas] was savaged," whenever a liberal is nominated by a Democratic president, the media label him or her a moderate and focus on humanizing them, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell noted.
MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday actually expressed some journalistic outrage over a White House PR video disguised as an interview, deriding the administration for "crossing a number of lines when it comes to journalism." An irritated Mitchell highlighted a video on the White House website that features Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. [Audio available here.]
Most other media outlets have ignored this story. Mitchell, however, complained to reporter Kelly O'Donnell: "But, the White House has gone overboard, I think some would suggest, in terms of the control of all of this."
Attacking the "pseudo interview," Mitchell mocked, "Doesn't this seem to you like they are really crossing a number of lines here when it comes to journalism and the proper approach to selling a justice?"
In the latest example of a pattern of opacity, the White House has cut off the press's access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Kagan has extensive ties to journalists, which only serves as a testament to this administration's determination to control the message on its major initiatives, including Kagan's nomination.
"Tell her we're deeply frustrated," one reporter told White House press secretary Robert Gibbs of the administration's refusal to grant Kagan a traditional interview with the press. Kagan did do a short interview with a White House staff member released only online, in what CBS White House correspondent Peter Maer called "Kagan 'in her own words' without anyone else's words."
Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason was harsher in her criticism. The White House interview "doesn't count toward the administration's 'accountability' totals," she wrote on the paper's Beltway Confidential blog. "It's just another campaign commercial, masquerading as openness."
As the MRC’s Tim Graham documented yesterday, ABC and NBC's morning and evening newscasts have so far refused to tag Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a “liberal,” with CBS’s Jan Crawford offering the sole ideological label of the nominee on Monday's Evening News: “Her career has put her solidly on the left.”
In contrast, all three networks made a major deal out of the last person nominated by a Republican President for a slot on the Court, Justice Samuel Alito. Out of the first 21 stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows after Justice Alito’s selection, correspondents conveyed ten explicit “conservative” labels during the first 36 hours of coverage. In contrast, Graham documented just one “liberal” label in 14 Kagan stories during the equivalent time period after her selection.
In Alito’s case, the networks began trumpeting ideology from the moment he was picked. Anchor Charles Gibson opened ABC’s Special Report announcing Alito’s nomination: “He is very conservative. This is a liberal appellate court, but he is the most conservative member on it....The President has picked someone very conservative, but a very accomplished jurist as well.”
As first reported by Matt Cover at the Media Research Center's news wing CNSNews.com, Kagan offers up this gem:
"If there is an ‘overabundance' of an idea in the absence of direct governmental action -- which there well might be when compared with some ideal state of public debate -- then action disfavoring that idea might ‘un-skew,' rather than skew, public discourse."
So if talk radio suffers from an "overabundance" of conservative voices, government action to "un-skew" this particular public discourse is just fine by her.
Hello so-called "Fairness" Doctrine. Not to mention Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd's liberally "skewed" interpretations of FCC "media diversity" and "localism" rules.
Brent Baker remembered NPR reporter Nina Totenberg found Judge John Roberts carried conservatism to wretched excess. On NPR's All Things Considered back in 2005, she prefaced “conservative” with three verys, describing him as “a very, very, very conservative man.” But in a taped soundbite on the next day's Good Morning America on ABC, she cut back to merely “a very, very conservative man.”
But Totenberg matched other media liberals in finding no measurable ideology in Elena Kagan when her nomination was announced. Within minutes (for the West Coast stations still in Morning Edition time), Totenberg could only exclaim Kagan was "was a star student at Princeton, at Oxford, at Harvard Law School -- then clerked for the man she calls her mentor, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who used to refer to her as Shorty."
CNN's Jack Cafferty expressed skepticism of President Barack Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court during a commentary on Tuesday's Situation Room. After outlining Kagan's elite background, Cafferty noted that many thought that "someone who has spent so much time in elite academic settings is out-of-touch with average Americans."
The CNN commentator began by pointing out a promised made by the President in the past: "President Obama promised us all Supreme Court candidates who can relate to the real world and how the law affects ordinary Americans, but there are questions about whether Elena Kagan fits that description. Kagan comes from a world unknown to most Americans: from Manhattan's Upper West Side, to Princeton University, and on to Harvard Law School."
But the early stories on President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan routinely avoided describing her as a liberal. In six evening news stories and eight morning news segments since her official press conference on Monday morning, the broadcast networks have employed only one liberal label, on CBS. ABC and NBC offered none.
Do Republican presidents really pick "strong conservatives" for Supreme Court nominations, while Democrats are reduced to picking moderates who end up disappointing true liberals? Clinton's 1993 liberal nominee, former ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would seem to rebut that view, as would George H.W. Bush's 1990 selection of David Souter, who moved to the left upon appointment to the dismay of conservatives.
Kagan serves as solicitor general and was dean of Harvard Law School. Strongly pro-choice and pro-gay rights, her condemnation of the military's policy of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" led her to ban military recruiters from the campus. Yet the Times forwarded liberal complaints that Kagan may not be sufficiently activist to hold up the liberal wing of the Supreme Court.
In an interview with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith lamented President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court: "Liberals feel let down because she would be filling a seat left by John Paul Stevens, they don't feel like she's enough – has enough gravitas to fill his shoes."
In his first question to Biden, Smith fretted: "Some people have said she's a person so careful as to leave no footprint. Do you really know what you're getting? Do the American people know what they're getting?" Smith went on to question Kagan's qualifications: "she's never been a public defender, she's never been a prosecutor, she's never been a judge. Most of her career has been in Washington or in an ivy or ivory tower."
In an interview with Republican Senator Jeff Sessions immediately following the Biden interview, co-host Maggie Rodriguez went so far as to wonder if Kagan would have a conservative influence on the court: "When she worked for the Clinton administration, Ms. Kagan asked the President to support a ban on all abortions of viable fetuses except when the mother's health was at risk. And some analysts have used that example to show that she may actually shift the court to the Right, compared with Justice Stevens. How do you respond to that?"
Twice in the span of ten minutes, MSNBC on Tuesday ran segments touting left-wing complaints that Elena Kagan may not be "liberal enough." News Live host Peter Alexander seriously speculated of the Supreme Court pick: "...But who is really most frustrated with the pick? It seems as many liberal groups are upset by this as are conservatives."
Later in the 10am hour, Alexander worried, "And also right now on the left, she may not be liberal enough. That's the complaint there. Some progressives say she's too much of a blank slate to know how she stands on any issue." He also uncritically listed the issues Kagan is supposedly conservative on, including "supporting banning late term abortions."
In what may be a sign of the media's confidence that Elena Kagan will be easily confirmed to the Supreme Court, NBC's Matt Lauer, on Tuesday's Today show, didn't feel the need to sell Kagan to viewers and actually asked somewhat tough questions to Vice President Joe Biden. Lauer even hit Biden from the right when he asked the following: "When we say maybe does she or does she not understand the plight of ordinary people, is that even important? Isn't the job of a Supreme Court justice to understand the Constitution only and interpret it?"
However Lauer returned to liberal form, when questions turned to the oil spill in the Gulf when he pressed: "Given the fact we're facing an environmental and economic disaster here Mr. Vice President, are the President's plans to expand offshore drilling dead in the water?...Are people gonna have an appetite for more drilling after all this?
The following is the full interview with Biden as it was aired on the May 11 Today show:
At The New Yorker website (his other gig), CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explained that he is a longtime friend of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and went to law school with her, even studied with her in a small group -- and yet, her political views are somehow a "mystery" to him. Not even liberals are buying this (take Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress). Toobin stated:
The justices are not really managers of people, certainly not in comparison to the dean of a major law school. Judgment, values, and politics are what matters on the Court. And here I am somewhat at a loss. Clearly, she’s a Democrat. She was a highly regarded member of the White House staff during the Clinton years, but her own views were and are something of a mystery. She has written relatively little, and nothing of great consequence.
In quite a contrast to the immediate tagging of the Bush and Obama Supreme Court nominees as “conservative” (and that includes Sonya Sotomayor), on Monday night ABC and NBC refrained from applying any ideological description to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan while CBS snuck in one. CBS's Jan Crawford declared “her career has put her solidly on the left,” but contended “she will have significant conservative support among academics and lawyers” and warned “that support alarms some liberals.”
Amongst the non-ideological superlatives: ABC's Diane Sawyer trumpeted the “historic nomination” of the “five foot three inch powerhouse,” CBS's Crawford insisted “her interests reflect her openness. She loves softball and poker” (poker reflects “openness”?) and NBC's Pete Williams hailed her as an “accomplished poker player, opera lover.”
ABC, CBS and NBC all highlighted Kagan's high school yearbook picture of her in a robe and holding a gavel (ABC's Moran: “Even in high school, check out her yearbook photo here, she had her sights set on the high court”), but none pointed out the explicitly very liberal polemical points she made just a year or two later, nor did CNN's The Situation Room.
In the 7:30AM ET half hour on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez lobbed softballs to disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer about his college friend and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan: "She's been labeled as moderate. If you had to put a label on her, would you say that one is accurate?" A headline on screen read: "Who is Elena Kagan?"
Spitzer replied: "I guess you could say moderate....it's very hard to pigeon hole her." Rodriguez's question was prompted by his insistence that Kagan "is not an ideologue of the Left or the Right and that is clear from what she did as dean of Harvard Law School. Just a perfect temperament to be a justice." Of course, during Kagan's tenure as dean of Harvard Law, she pushed for military recruiters to be barred from campus because of her opposition to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.
Rodriguez wondered about Kagan's college days: "Can you think of a story or an anecdote from back then?" Spitzer recalled: "a friend and I were going back and forth about who could eat more, she goaded us into having a spaghetti eating contest." Rodriguez looked for the best way to spin the story to make it relevant: "I'm trying to take something from that, could it be that she's persuasive, can bring people together, which is what the President is hoping?" In response, Spitzer declared that once on the Supreme Court, Kagan "will get the fifth vote."