It seems the right is frantically trying to explain away the fact that the first President Bush nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. district court, and having some success getting reporters to buy their spin. A little bit ago, Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes downplayed the appointment, making a factual error aong the way.
Now, Politico's Ben Smith says a Weekly Standard writer has "partially puncture[d]" the talking point that Bush appointed Sotomayor. Here's Smith:
One of the key talking points about Sotomayor is that she was first appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush.
John McCormack partially punctures that one, noting that "Sotomayor was nominated as part of a compromise in which Democratic Senator Moynihan was allowed to recommend judges for two of the seven vacancies."
So it's worth keeping in mind that New York's other senator, Republican Al D'Amato, spoke glowingly of Sotomayor. As Media Matters has previously noted:
[D]uring the September 30, 1997, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of several judicial nominations, D'Amato stated: "I predicted to this committee, almost five years ago, that Judge [Sonia] Sotomayor would be an exemplary, outstanding justice. She has demonstrated that, repeatedly. She has shown compassion, wisdom, one of the great intellects on the court."
In fact, during D'Amato's 1998 unsuccessful re-election campaign, backers praised him for his support for Sotomayor. Here's a 1998 New York Post report:
D'Amato, meanwhile, snagged Herman Badillo's endorsement, marched in the Hispanic Day parade and launched a radio ad in Spanish attacking Schumer for missing votes in Congress on Puerto Rican issues.
Badillo praised D'Amato for spearheading the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, a Puerto Rican, to the U.S. Court of Appeals and for organizing disaster relief efforts recently for the hurricane-ravaged Dominican Republican and Puerto Rico.
Finally, the right's effort to downplay Bush's appointment of Sotomayor by pointing to the fact that Moynihan recommended her is, well, nonsense. Moynihan may have recommended her, but Bush still appointed her. Nobody would say Ruth Bader Ginsberg doesn't count as a Clinton nominee because Orrin Hatch recommended her to him, would they?
Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes:
Obama also said he would try to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats, and I think Republicans will argue this choice is not designed to appeal to them. That is part of the reason the President pointed out this morning that Sotomayor was initially appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush, although that was part of a deal with New York's Democratic senators.
New York's senators at the time were Democrat Patrick Moynihan and Republican Al D'Amato.
The conservative onslaught against Sonia Sotomayor should begin any minute now, and will presumably focus on the things conservatives always focus on: abortion, gay rights, affirmative action. They'll call her a "judicial activist," which they will suggest is the worst thing a judge can possibly be - even though the phrase basically has no meaning, and to the extent it does, the most "activist" member of the high court is probably Clarence Thomas.
And the media will likely proceed as though the topics the conservatives are focusing on are the most important things to address in their coverage of Sotomayor's nomination. And, certainly, abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, and executive power are important subjects; the media should examine Sotomayor's record and philosophy in these areas.
But the Supreme Court deals with a lot of other issues, too - issues that tend to get comparatively little media attention during nomination fights. Economic and regulatory issues, for example, are extremely important at any time, but particularly in the midst of one of the worst economic environments in American history. The media should assess Sotomayor's record and philosophy as they pertain to a wide range of important issues, not merely the ones the conservatives think they can boost their direct-mail fundraising by yelling about.
However, the fact that Sotomayor is a Latina could also present a political challenge for Republicans. Senators from the GOP, which has suffered from an internal rift over immigration issues and problem-plagued efforts to reach out to Hispanics, will have to decide how directly and sharply they want to attack a Latina single mother whose confirmation to the court is virtually certain.
From Greg Mankiw's Blog:
SCOTUS appointee is a spender
I once wrote a short paper called The Savers-Spenders Theory of Fiscal Policy based on the premise that there are two types of people: Some save and intertemporally optimize their consumption plans, while others live paycheck to paycheck, spending their entire income as soon as it's received. Sometimes readers of that paper think of the two groups as rich and poor, but that interpretation is wrong. Some people with low incomes manage to scrimp and save (I always think of my grandmother), and some people with high incomes spend most everything they earn.
Apparently, the new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is an example of the latter. The Washington Post reports that the 54-year-old Sotomayer has a $179,500 yearly salary but
On her financial disclosure report for 2007, she said her only financial holdings were a Citibank checking and savings account, worth $50,000 to $115,000 combined. During the previous four years, the money in the accounts at some points was listed as low as $30,000.
My grandmother would have been shocked and appalled to see someone who makes so much save so little.
Sadly that's what unfolded on NPR over the weekend, as "On the Media" looked at the press' coverage of the supposed Cheney/Obama showdown over national security last week. Host Bob Garfield seemed to think that the press had manufactured the battle royal by elevating the unpopular Cheney to an equal to the POTUS.
Guest Mark Jurkowitz from the Project in Excellence in Journalism had a different take and blissfully rewrote media history [emphasis added]:
One of the things the media claims is that in the run-up to the Iraq War was that their failure to more closely scrutinize the rationale for going to war--the weapons of mass destruction--part of that could be attributable to the fact that there weren't very many Democrats articulating an opposition that they could report about to Bush's war plan.
Now, you could argue that in those days the Democrats didn't have much more power than the Republicans have now. But clearly the media would have glommed onto some major Democratic spokespeople had they arisen to challenge the [war] policy.
See, the press had its hands tied. It couldn't scrutinize Bush's war policy because the Dems remained mum. Oh brother. So suddenly Beltway pundits and reporters don't make a move until the DNC tells them to? That's a pretty loopy/naive way to look at how news and commentary is made inside the nation's capitol.
But more importantly it's just dead wrong to claim that no famous Democrats stepped forward th challenge Bush on the war. Or are Al Gore and Ted Kennedy not famous enough to garner media attention? In late 2002 both men made very public speeches that raised all kinds of doubts about Bush's war plan; doubts that were proven to be quite accurate.
The media's reaction? The press sure as hell didn't 'glom' onto Gore or Kennedy. In fact the press pretty much did the opposite--they ignored the buzz kill Democrats. Take a look at the ABC World News Tonight report on Gore's September 23, 2002 speech. The report was buried mid-broadcast. And yes, this was the news dispatch in its entirety:
In San Francisco today there was pretty strong criticism of the Bush administration from the former Vice President Al Gore. Mr. Gore told an audience that the administration's campaign against Saddam Hussein would damage the U.S.'s ability to win the war against terrorism.
45 words total for Gore.
But hey, that's more coverage than what Ted Kennedy received from the Washington Post when the Democratic lion roared against Bush's war plan, or at least set out an entire phalanx of concerns. As I noted in Lapdogs:
In September 2002 [Kennedy] made a passionate, provocative, and newsworthy speech raising all sorts of doubts about the war. It garnered exactly one sentence--thirty-six words total-of coverage from the Post, which in 2002 printed more than a thousand and columns, totaling perhaps 1 millions words about Iraq, but only set aside third-six for Kennedy's antiwar cry.
Even before President Obama has officially announced his selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, CNN is giving a boost to the smear campaign that has been waged against her:
CNN's web article:
President Obama has chosen federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, two sources told CNN on Tuesday.
But she has suffered through recent stinging criticism in the media and blogs from both the left and right over perceived -- some defenders say invented -- concerns about her temperament and intellect.
CNN offers no evidence that Sotomayor's intellect or temperament are concerns.
In fact, that "stinging criticism" comes from a widely-debunked article by Jeffrey Rosen (an article that contains a blatently false description of a misleadingly-cropped quote -- an error Rosen refuses to correct.) Rosen relied on anonymous sources to trash Sotomayor, admitted he had neither read enough of her opinions nor spoken to enough of her supporters to form a fair assessment of her, and cropped and twisted a quote from a colleague who praised Sotomayor's intellect in order to make it appear that he had criticized it.
Rosen's assessment, in short, has no crediblity. But CNN adopted his critique and passed it on, without any indications of its flaws.
(And on television, CNN's John King offers: "Some are saying that she is not an intellectual firebrand, someone who could compete with Antonin Scalia or Justice Alito, the conservative brains, if you will, on the Supreme Court." Oh yeah? Who are these "some"? King doesn't say, though he pretends this is the view on the "left.")
When President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, conservatives baselessly claimed liberals opposed Alito because he is Catholic -- a baselss claim that ABC News was quick to adopt.
Now the Christian Broadcast Network's "Brody File" hints that it may make an issue of Sonia Sotomayor's Catholicism:
Watch conservative groups try and tie Sotomayor's "liberalism" to President Obama and make him pay a political price for nominating her. He may get her through because he has the numbers in the Senate but his poll numbers showing him as a centrist may take a hit. Keep an eye on Gallup.
The Brody File has also been alerted to the fact that she is a practicing Catholic. More details on that to come. Keep it here.
That comes just hours after the Washington Post ran a piece suggesting that the way to "diversify" the Court might be to nominate a "white Anglo-Saxon Protestant" to the court, noting that with David Souter's departure, "the demographic will be seriously underrepresented on a court that features five Catholics and two Jews."