Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Judge Clarence Thomas both had compelling life stories when they were nominated for the Supreme Court. But only Sotomayor's story has been celebrated that way by the New York Times.
Sotomayor's rise from a housing project in the East Bronx to Supreme Court nominee was "a compelling life story" in Thursday's lead article by Peter Baker and Adam Nagourney.
By contrast, the lead July 2, 1991 story by Maureen Dowd, then a White House reporter, was rather curt when it came to extolling the conservative Thomas's riveting life history. Dowd dispensed with Thomas's inspiring rise from poverty in Pin Point, Ga., where he was raised by his grandparents, in two and a half paragraphs, and suggested a cynical political motivation on the part of President George H.W. Bush. Thomas's life wasn't necessarily inspiring but was merely "offered as inspiring" by the president:
Baker and Zeleny never directly acknowledged Sotomayor's liberal outlook, although there is enough in her judicial record (and her own words) to indicate her ideology.
President Obama announced Tuesday that he would nominate Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals judge in New York, to the Supreme Court, choosing a daughter of Puerto Rican parents who was raised in a Bronx public housing project to become the nation's first Hispanic justice.
In making his first pick for the court, Mr. Obama emphasized Judge Sotomayor's "extraordinary journey" from modest beginnings to the Ivy League and now the pinnacle of the judicial system. Casting her as the embodiment of the American dream, he touched off a confirmation battle that he hopes to wage over biography more than ideology.
Judge Sotomayor's past comments about how her sex and ethnicity shaped her decisions, and the role of appeals courts in making policy, generated instant conservative complaints that she is a judicial activist. Senate Republicans vowed to scrutinize her record. But with Democrats in reach of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, the White House appeared eager to dare Republicans to stand against a history-making nomination at a time when both parties are courting the growing Hispanic vote.
Again, the Times hinted at but didn't directly label Sotomayor with the still-damaging label of "liberal," never using the term to describe her.
President Obama delivered the commencement address at Notre Dame on Sunday, amid protests that the nation's preeminent Catholic college shouldn't be honoring a pro-choice president who even supports the gruesome procedure of partial-birth abortion.
President Obama directly confronted America's deep divide over abortion on Sunday as he appealed to partisans on each side to find ways to respect one another's basic decency and even work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
As anti-abortion demonstrators protested outside and a few hecklers shouted inside, Mr. Obama used a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame to call for more "open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words" in a debate that has polarized the country for decades. The audience at this Roman Catholic institution cheered his message and drowned out protesters, some of whom called him a "baby killer."
Monday's print version is toned down from the original filing Sunday afternoon at nytimes.com. That story, credited to Peter Baker alone, had a headline with a more defensive thrust -- "At Notre Dame, Obama Defends His Abortion Stance." That filing (no longer available at nytimes.com, but you can read it here for now) also included this paragraph:
Did the NYT bury reporter Peter Baker's story on a memo written by Obama's own national intelligence director, suggesting that harsh interrogation methods had proved effective in understanding Al Qaeda? Washington Examiner journalist Byron York has his suspicions.
From Baker's 850-word online story, "Banned Techniques Yielded 'High Value Information,' Memo Says, " which has rocketed across the Drudge Report and the conservative web since it was posted at nytimes.com Tuesday:
President Obama's national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.
"High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country," Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.
Baker caught an intriguing bit of redaction by the Obama administration:
In the midst of a discussion about President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill on Friday night's program sought confirmation for her theory that “what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now” as “people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers?”
New York Times reporter Peter Baker agreed: “That's right, exactly.” He proceeded to fret over how “people voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose...between our election and our inauguration” just isn't compatible with the “hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today.” Baker admired how “Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush,” whom Baker conceded is “still in charge,” and “finding a way to assert leadership.”
On Monday’s “No Bias, No Bull” program, CNN’s Campbell Brown lashed out at President-Elect Barack Obama for his flippant response to a reporter’s question: “Mr. President-Elect, reporters, we hope, are going to ask you a lot of annoying questions over the next four years. Get used to it. That is the job of the media, to hold you accountable. But this isn’t just about the media. It’s about the American people, many of whom voted for you because of what you said during the campaign, and they have a right to know which of those things you meant and which you didn’t. Apparently, as you made clear today, you didn't mean what you said about Hillary Clinton. So, what else didn’t you mean?”
During the press conference where Obama unveiled his national security team, Peter Baker of the New York Times brought up the tough primary fight between the President-Elect and Mrs Clinton: “...[Y]ou were asked and talked about the qualifications of the -- your now, your nominee for Secretary of State, and you belittled her travels around the world, equating it to having teas with foreign leaders. And your new White House counsel said that her resume was grossly exaggerated when it came to foreign policy. I’m wondering whether you can talk about the evolution of your views of her credentials since the spring.” The outgoing Illinois senator replied, “I mean, I think -- this is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign. No, I understand, and you’re having fun.”
Washington Post reporter Peter Baker penned a story on Bill Clinton for Friday’s front page. The Post website summarized: "Former president promotes wife’s candidacy while trying to set the record straight on his own tenure." Set the record straight? That’s what Baker wrote in his article: "As Clinton travels the country campaigning for his wife with characteristic intensity, he is fighting not only to promote Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy but also set the record straight on the two terms he spent in the White House." Does Clinton have the credibility to "set the record straight" when he has a long record of public lying, even lying in court?
Baker’s front-pager promoted Clinton’s long-standing pique with independent counsel Ken Starr:
"Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon," he told the students last week, his eyes narrowing and his finger jabbing the air.
In Monday’s Washington Post, reporter Peter Baker’s front-page political analysis on President Bush’s improving fortunes carries a strong whiff of Hate to Admit It:
In many ways, the shifting political fortunes may owe as much to the absence of bad news as to any particular good news. No one lately has been indicted, botched a hurricane relief effort or shot someone in a hunting accident. Instead, pictures from Iraq show people returning to the streets as often as they show a new suicide bombing.
That’s just wrong. The Big Kahuna of bad news has always been Iraq, which has always cast a dark cloud over other news. Left out of Baker’s analysis: how much the media spin has affected most of these stories (leave out Iraq for the moment).