We noted yesterday that it's hard to believe that if judge Sonia Sotomayor were a man that the New York Times, just three days after the nomination was announced, would run a lengthy news piece that revolved solely around the fact that Sotomayor had a reputation of being pushy on the bench. (That's a trait that's often celebrated when displayed by male judges.)
We noted that the Times, at least according to Nexis, never wrote an article about legal hot head Antonin Scalia's temperament during his nomination process. In fact, the Times never wrote a single sentence about how Scalia famously pushed people around from the bench.
But at The New Republic, Jonathan Chait claims that the Times article, and the topic of temperament, is completely common and nobody should be surprised or offended:
But nobody can seriously contend that the subject of a potential Supreme Court Justice's temperament is unfit for publication. Indeed, the New York Times today has an article on the exact same topic.
Here's the thing though, not only did the Times not think that Scalia's famous temperament was newsworthy during his confirmation process, but for the last two judges nominated to the SCOTUS, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the Times never bothered to report out their court room temperament either. (And it certainly never relied on anonymous quote to make its point the way it did in its Sotomayor article.) Chait claims that nobody would suggest temperament was out of bounds and that's fair game for Sotomayor because heck, even the NYT wrote about it.
But the truth is the Times, with its temperament article on Friday, showed a deep interest in a topic that it simply has not displayed before. The Times simply invented new rules for Sotomayor.
UPDATE: Talking Points Memo clipped a video of the New York Times' Adam Liptak, who co-wrote the Sotomayor "temperament" story, discussing this issue on MSNBC. Liptak didn't know whether the Times ever wrote about Scalia's temperament during his nomination. According to Nexis, the newspaper did not.
And the newspaper's Adam Nagourney told MSNBC it was a "legitimate" topic to write about, even though as I point out, the Times didn't write about the temperament of the two previous (male) SCOTUS nominees.
Just a coincidence, I guess, that the Times is tackling the topic with Sotomayor.
From The Hill:
Mitt Romney isn't a Senator. He's never been a Senator. He isn't even in elected office anymore. How he could fillibuster is anyone's guess.
Responding to the insulting claim from right-wingers that Sonia Sotomayor is a "racist," at least one prominent Republican said, enough:
"I think it's terrible," Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NPR's "All Things Considered" Thursday. "This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent."
It's an interesting development not only because it highlights how the Republican Party has completely lost control of the GOP Noise Machine, which rejects any semblance of adult supervision. But it's also telling that the Republican senator called out Limbaugh and Gingrich's "racist" nonsense while the so-called liberal media hasn't said boo about it.
I foolishly thought that when Gingrich made his "racist" claim that it would set off a media firestorm of sorts with all sort of commentators denouncing the hateful allegation and pointing out that likening a single sentence from a esteemed judge's speech eight years ago with racism and America's dark history of Jim Crow laws and lynchings, for instance, was beyond the pale and that Gingrich ought to apologize.
Instead, the press simply treated the "racist" attack as straight news. The Times, the Post, all the networks they all did the same thing: Gingrich called Sotomayor a racist. Period. They all acted like it was common place, like that's what happens to all Supreme Court nominees; within hours of their introduction to the public they're labeled racists. That's part of the process. And that Gingrich's wildly incendiary claim was normal.
It's not. It's unprecedented. But the press wouldn't say so. Instead, it took a conservative member of Congress to state the obvious--it's terrible.
The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb remains on the lookout for evidence that Sonia Sotomayor has benefited from "preferential treatment."
On Wednesday, Goldfarb argued that one such example was when a law firm apologized to Sotomayor for suggesting that she only got into Yale Law School because she was Puerto Rican (rather than because she had compiled an impressive academic record at Princeton, including winning the school's top academic prize.) That's a pretty absurd example of "preferential treatment," but today Goldfarb outdoes himself.
In October 1974, Princeton allowed Sotomayor and two other students to initiate a seminar, for full credit and with the university's blessings, on the Puerto Rican experience and its relation to contemporary America.
I went to Princeton but somehow I never got to teach my own class, or grade my own work. One wonders how Sotomayor judged her work in that class, and whether the grade helped or hindered her efforts to graduate with honors.
And here's the Princeton press release Taylor cites:
So they [Sotomayor and two other students] did what scores of other Princeton Students have been able to do for the past six years: they initiated their own seminar ... The seminar is being taught by Dr. Peter E. Winn, Assistant Professor of History and a specialist in Latin American affairs. Under a plan adopted by Princeton in 1968 students are free to propose seminars on special topics to a faculty Committee on Course of Study. ... In the past 12 terms 132 such courses have been approved and offered."
Would the NYT ever dream of typing up a straight news article about whether the judge was too bossy on the bench? I can't imagine the newspaper would, simply because when male judges assert themselves they're often cheered and they build careers around that, but apparently when a woman judge does it, she's a you-know-what.
But the press has ceded the Sotomayor 'debate' to the right-wing, so if they say there's a problem with Sotomayor's temperament, the press, including the Times, feels duty bound to puff it into news, so that's what the newspaper does today, and yes it will make your head hurt.
Sotomayor's Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament
And the guts:
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's Supreme Court choice, has a blunt and even testy side, and it was on display in December during an argument before the federal appeals court in New York. The case concerned a Canadian man who said American officials had sent him to Syria to be tortured, and Judge Sotomayor peppered a government lawyer with skeptical questions.
The example the Times then details to showcase Sotomayor's "testy" side--the Canadian man sent to Syria--is so pedestrian as to be comical; she interrupted a lawyer with questions. Again, male judges do this all the time. But at the Times because Sotomayor did it, and because the right-wing is pushing the idea that she's a bitch, reporters type it up as news.
And FYI, at no time during the nomination process of notorious legal hot head Antonin Scalia did the New York Times news team ever devote an entire article, let alone a single sentence, to examining his "temperament."
From a May 29 WorldNetDaily article:
WND also used Fox Nation's post to fundraise for it's "Where's the birth certificate?" billboard campaign and promote its petition for the "PUBLIC RELEASE OF BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA'S BIRTH CERTIFICATE."
As Media Matters for America documented:
A May 28 headline on The Fox Nation -- Fox News' purportedly bias-free website -- asked: "Should Obama Release Birth Certificate? Or Is This Old News?" But contrary to The Fox Nation's question, the Obama campaign released a copy of President Obama's birth certificate, posting it on the campaign's Fight the Smears website. It also reportedly provided the original document to FactCheck.org, whose staff concluded in an August 21, 2008, post that it "meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship." The Hawaii Department of Health also repeatedly confirmed that the birth certificate on record with the state is valid and proves that he was born in the state of Hawaii.
With each passing day the so-called journalism surrounding Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination gets more and more gruesome. Today, and it's early yet, the top honors in that category goes to the AP's Sharon Theimer with a piece that needs to be examined in order to understand just how dreadful our 'serious' press corps has become.
There are two sides to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor: a Latina from a blue-collar family and a wealthy member of America's power elite. The White House portrays Sotomayor as a living image of the American dream, though its telling of the rags-to-riches story emphasizes the rags, a more politically appealing narrative, and plays down the riches.
Message: Sotomayor and the White House are hypocrites because they talk about the nominee's "blue collar" upbringing but don't talk about how "wealthy" she is; they don't dwell on her "riches."
If you read the AP, it seems that Sotomayor is privately living in the lap of luxury but she doesn't want anyone to know about it. But is she? The AP's got the proof:
She now earns more than $200,000 a year and owns a condominium in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood of million-dollar-plus homes. Her brother, Dr. Juan Sotomayor, is a physician in North Syracuse, N.Y., whose practice doesn't accept Medicaid or Medicare - programs for the poor and elderly - according to its Web site.
Does 'guilt' by association come any more rank than this? Sotomayor lives--she owns a condo--in a neighborhood where some very rich people own expensive "homes." How much is Sotomayor's condo worth? Did it cost millions? The AP has no idea, but Sotomayor's neighbors have a lot of money, so that's all readers need to know. (Note to AP editors, in NYC pretty much every neighborhood in Manhattan has "million-dollar-plus homes.")
And what about Sotomayor's brother? Well, he's rich because he's a doctor. Plus, his practice doesn't accept Medicaid or Medicare. I'd sure to curious to hear Theimer's justification for how that has anything to do with the Supreme Court nominee. And more importantly to her editors, has the AP ever in its history of Supreme Court reporting--ever, ever, ever?--spotlighted the billing processes of a sibling in order to take a swipe at a raising star judge?
Elsewhere, the AP suggests Sotomayor's a hypocrite about her Puerto Rican heritage [emphasis added]:
On ethnicity, Sotomayor herself has recognized - and contributed to - the dichotomy. She proudly highlights her Puerto Rican roots but hasn't always liked it when others have. She once took issue with a prospective employer who singled her out as a Latina with questions she viewed as offensive yet has shown a keen ethnic consciousness herself.
Yet years ago, during a recruiting dinner in law school at Yale, Sotomayor objected when a law firm partner asked whether she would have been admitted to the school if she weren't Puerto Rican, and whether law firms did a disservice by hiring minority students the firms know are unqualified and will ultimately be fired.
Afterward, Sotomayor confronted the partner about the questions, rejected his insistence that he meant no harm and turned down his invitation for further job interviews. She filed a discrimination complaint against the firm with the university, which could have barred the firm from recruiting on campus. She won a formal apology from the firm.
According to the AP, Sotomayor got bent out shape when a firm partner merely highlighted her Puerto Rican roots. Actually, what the partner did was suggest that maybe Sotomayor got a free ride to college because she was Puerto Rican and would be in over her head if hired by the firm. How on earth does that qualify as highlighting her minority heritage? And how does that support the AP's claim that Sotomayor is proud of her Latina heritage but doesn't want others to dwell on it?
And oh yeah, Theimer also rips Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" quote completely out of context.
Like we said, just gruesome.
UPDATE: According to the Los Angeles Times' reporting, Theimer (surprise!) got Sotomayor's salary wrong. It's not "more than $200,000 a year." From the Times, which used 2008 government disclosure forms:
As an appellate judge, Sotomayor earned an annual salary of $179,500.
But the White House won't talk about how "wealthy" Sotomayor is; it won't dwell on her "riches."
UPDATE: Blogger Big Tent Democrat points out that in the past, like when the AP was reporting on Obama's proposed tax cuts, the news outlet did not refer to people making more than $200,000 as "wealthy." Instead, they were merely "workers." But when the AP (erroneously) reported that Sotomayor earned that much as a judge, suddenly she's "wealthy" and enjoying her "riches."
UPDATE: To be precise about Sotomayor's annual income, she earns $179,500 as a judge and $25,000 as a lecturer at Columbia University. So I take back what I said about Theimer getting it wrong when she wrote that Sotomayor earns "more than $200,00 a year." She does.
But here's some more context about how "wealthy" Sotomayor is. According to the same disclosure forms that the Times reported on, Sotomayor has a maximum of $65,000 savings in the bank and anywhere from between $1,000 and $15,000 in credit car debt.
Yet within the corridors of Beltway power, AP wants us to think that Sotomayor is one of the truly "wealthy" ones with all kinds of "riches."
UPDATE: For some actual context regarding wealthy judges, this is from Canada's National Post, following president Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005 [emphasis added]:
At the end of 2003, Roberts's assets were worth as little as $3 million and as much as $7 million. (Given that the stock market has soared since then, the net worth could now be in the $10 million range.) Roberts's most valuable assets were his bank accounts, which held between $1 million and $2 million. (His house in Chevy Chase, Md., is not listed on the form.)