Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nina Totenberg, NPR News

Nina Totenberg's story on NPR this morning had the kind of slant to it that press members probably find hard to see -- partially because it was what she didn't say along with how she said what she did say that biased the story. These are things you don't think about if the bias happens to run parallel to your own beliefs.

"The documents released [on Judge Roberts] is an indication of why the Democrats want to see more from Roberts' years at the Reagan years in the White House, and from his tenure as a political deputy to Solicitor General Kenneth Starr during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Roberts, in a memo on his role in the preparation of Sandra O'Connor for her Senate hearings:

"The approach was to give specific responses to any direct questions on legal issues likely to come before the court while at the same time demonstrating a firm command of the subject matter and the arguments on both sides."

Now this should come as no surprise to anyone in politics. I'm not sure why this would be of concern to Democrats to begin with. A nominee put up by a Democratic president would certainly do the same thing. The implication is, of course, that Sandra, and by proxy Roberts, had something to hide. In fact, to my sensibilities, this is the only logical approach by a justice nominee. A judge should not make decisions outside of the context of a specific challenge -- and should not say how he would rule ahead of time. That would indicate an activist judge, in my book. One who already knows how he/she would rule on an issue before it even comes up in court. If Democrats are concerned with that approach, then I have concerns about theirs. I like Roberts approach.

During his tenure as deputy Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, Nina goes on to point out, he wrote briefs that argued, among other things, for the reversal of Roe v Wade.

Never mind that a lawyer's job is to argue one side of the case -- the one he's being paid to argue. The implication here, by omission of any mention of the context in which those briefs were written, is that it is self-evident that there could be no argument for such a reversal, and that anyone who did make arguments for it must be one of them thar radical religious right freaks.

And everyone knows that that is what this is really mostly about. The Pro-Choicers do not even want the decision questioned, much less reviewed. To even have questioned Roe v. Wade in any context is an abhorent thought to them. Now if you ask me, that makes it no different than a religious point of view. And it's the one issue guaranteed to charge up the Left. Which is why it is specifically pointed out in this story.

Nina goes on to say that the White House won't release memos from the Starr period for fear of chilling lawyers who advise the president on issues in the future from giving candid advice.

"But Democrats aren't buying that argument", she segues.
The choice of words along with the tone in her voice betray a skeptical "harumph!" on the part of the reporter. The language and tone suggest that the reporter herself believes the argument is a sham and so should you. If she said "Democrats say they aren't buying that argument", it would be different, or if she said "Democrats argue that..." it would be better.

But that's relatively small peanuts. She goes on to say

Time after time, Roberts takes the hardest of hard lines...

her voice taking on a disaproving, "tsk-tsk" tone. And there's some of that famous "fact based" NPR reporting.

He repeatedly butted heads with... [other conservatives]
Then she goes into detail about a particular case involving Theodore Olson -- going out of her way to show you just how conservative he was (he later had the audacity to argue the Bush side in Bush vs Gore) and a legal opinon Olson was asked for on the constitutionality of various bills in congress that would limiting the powers of the Supreme Court over the States' Jurisdictions (as outlined by the Constitution) on certain issues. Olson concluded that

While scholarly opionon was divided on the constitutionality, opinion among scholars, judges, and lawyers overwhelmingly opposed the idea as bad policy, and a threat to the American system of checks and balances. Were the President to oppose the legislation as unconstitutional, that position would be viewed by the press and public as a courageous and principled decision.
Ok, never mind that that's political advice, not a legal opinion, Nina uses this to set up Roberts' response to this as radical and suspect (an acid rejoinder, she says -- clearly an adjective chosen to cast a negative light on Roberts) Roberts wrote:

"Real courage would be to read the constitution as it should be read and not to cowtow to liberal thinkers."
Well, it would be. There he goes again, doing what a judge should do and look at laws or potential laws in light of the Constitution rather than in the light of public opinon. Man, the nerve!

Congress (being elected) is supposed to take care of public opinion. The Supreme Court is supposed to check it with the Constitution. That's the checks and balances as they were designed. Roberts gets it.

She then brings up the fact that he argued for a narrow interpretation of a sex discrimination law in intercollegiate athletics. He allied himself with the department's head of the Civil Rights Division, William Bradford Reynolds.

(I guess Nina's saying, "see, I said something nice about him -- so that's balanced") BUT....

In some cases Roberts even butted heads with Reynolds (God forbid you back different issues on both sides of the political fence case by case on their merits -- I mean, what kind of a judge would do that????)

She goes on to illustrate, I guess, that many of his memos address Civil Rights and Affirmative Action issues and that these writings have an "edge" to their tone not typically found in other memos, writing about a report from the Commission on Civil Rights advocating affirmative action,

"The logic of the report is - perfectly circular."
And her point is????????? Do we get to hear or see the report? Was the logic in the report, in fact, circular? Or, is anything coming out of the Commission on Civil Rights Sacrosanct, and not to be questioned or criticized? Is the point, "Roberts criticized a report from the Commission on Civil Rights, therefore, he is against Civil Rights."?

Roberts, it seems, is for Judicial Restraint on the part of the Supreme Court. It's not because Roberts opposes Civil Rights or any other pet issues of the Left, it's that he (*GASP*) SUPPORTS THE UPHOLDING OF THE CONSTITUTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh --- my -- GOD!!!! We can't have THAT!!!!!!! That's .... RADICAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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