Whatever standards the Times used to employ to report on SCOTUS nominees has been tossed out the window for Sotomayor, whom the Times continues to falsely paint as a hothead on the bench, among other perceived transgressions.
Today's Daily Howler highlights another way in which the Times has capitulated its Sotomayor coverage to dumbed-down GOP talking points. On its website, the Times highlights and recommends a recent left/right edition of Bloggingheads, which featured a discussion of the judge's nomination. The nytimes.com headline?
That's a headline that quite literally could have been faxed over from the RNC and a headline that has no connection to reality or Sotomayor's nearly two-decade career on the bench.
Notes the Howler, which found the comments by Bloggingheads conservative participant, James Poulos, to be inane:
It would be hard to overstate how silly Poulos' "analysis" actually was. One might wonder why Bloggingheads would choose such an unprepared lad for such a discussion in the first place. But once the discussion had been recorded, why on earth would our most important newspaper recommend such nonsense to its readers? Worse: How foolish must that newspaper be to run this abject nonsense beneath that insulting headline?
Rarely has The Cult of the Offhand Comment offered such a moronic analysis. But so what? The New York Times thought you should ponder it well -- that you should ask yourself if that single word marks Sotomayor as a "lightweight."
Stuart Rothenberg has had enough, and isn't going on Hardball again. Why? Because he has suddenly realized "it's time to change the tone of our 'politics' " coverage:
Chris Matthews is a smart, politically astute observer of politics, but my last appearance convinced me that "Hardball" has evolved from a straight political news program with quality guests to one that has more in common with its network's prime-time slant. Like most of the evening programming on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, "Hardball" has become a partisan, heavily ideological sledgehammer clearly intended to beat up one party and one point of view.
During the show on which I appeared, Matthews referred more than once to Republicans as "Luddites" and took every opportunity imaginable to portray them as crackpots. The show's topics inevitably pander to the most liberal Democratic viewers and present Republicans and conservatives in the least flattering of terms.
Uh, when, exactly, was Chris Matthews' Hardball a "straight political news program"? When has anything about Matthews ever been "straight"?
When he was insisting that "everybody" likes George W. Bush, except "the real whack jobs"? (Bush's approval ratings at the time were in the 30s.)
When he was comparing Bush to Atticus Finch?
When he said Bush "glimmers" with "sunny nobility"? Or when he gushed over Bush's "mission accomplished" stunt, revealing what could only be described as a crush on the president?
When he derided Democratic critics of Bush's handling of Iraq as "carpers and complainers"?
Or when he ridiculed Barack Obama for ordering orange juice in a diner and said Obama's bowling was insufficiently "macho"? When he called Obama an elitist who had trouble connecting with "regular people" -- by which he meant "white people"?
Or when he called Hillary Clinton a "She Devil" and said she was "witchy"? Or when he said of Clinton, "I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for"?
Or when he spent two years absolutely trashing Al Gore, helping to hand the presidency to George W. Bush? Or when he turned over his airwaves to Gennifer Flowers, allowing her to accuse President Clinton of murder?
Is that when his was a "straight political news program"?
One last question: What does it say about Rothenberg that he is only now concerned that Matthews is not an impartial, balanced observer?
His disdain for the female, Hispanic nominee continues to seep out, even though the serious Beltway press considers Taylor to be a beacon of legal reporting.
The latest smear: Taylor claims that in a 35-year-old letter that Sotomayor wrote to her college newspapers (this is the type of trivia Taylor focuses on for her 2009 confirmation), the nominee described Princeton University as "a genocidal dictatorship."
Those nutty words, of course, aren't Sotomayor's, but are Taylor's, who's flummoxed that anyone who attended the Ivy League school could possibly ever critique it, let alone a minority woman just a few years after Princeton opened its doors to co-eds. Taylor's annoyed that Sotomayor raised objections three-and-a-half decades ago about how Princeton dealt with (or didn't deal with) its Puerto Rican student population.
Shorter Taylor: Ungrateful!
But here's a sampling of the language Sotomayor used in her 1974 letter. Read it and keep in mind that Taylor claimed she practically compared Princeton to a "genocidal dictatorship":
It has been said that the universities of America are the vanguard of societal ideas and changes. Princeton University claims to foster the intellectual diversity, spirit, and thoughts that are necessary components in order to achieve this ideal. Yet words are transitory; it is the practice of the ideas you espouse that affect society and are permanent. Thus it is only when Princeton fulfills the goal of being a truly representative community that it can attempt to instill in society a respect for all people — regardless of race, color, sex or national origin.
Like we said, Taylor is just hacktacular.
Well, The Nation's Ari Melber argues that it is. He picks up on something we've been noting here on CF and at Media Matters in general for some time -- that the rudderless conservative movement is being led by folks like Rush Limbaugh.
For years, independent experts and strategists in both parties all agreed that conservative media was a crucial part of the Republican Party's resurgence. Talk radio mobilized the base, with Rush Limbaugh wielding influence that rivaled most GOP senators. Fox News framed national debates and turned party talking points into conventional wisdom. It worked so well, Democrats pined for their own echo chamber, plowing money into think tanks and political media efforts to imitate the GOP model. The message machine that helped put Republicans in power, however, now looks like an albatross for the opposition party.
Let's take a step back. There has not been a single hearing on Sotomayor's nomination, but Senate Republicans are already playing defense over the party's response to the nomination. But who speaks for the Republican Party? As every politico knows, the GOP's Supreme Court vision was hijacked by Limbaugh and Gingrich, two of the most visible pundits atop the conservative media machine. While the Republicans who wield actual power in this process - U.S. Senators and especially judiciary committee members – have to angle for a single TV appearance, Gingrich holds court with his paid platform on Fox. (Rush also dropped by there Wednesday). Gingrich amplifies his views with an online regiment that is downright millennial in its scope -- including "Second Life." His instantly infamous "Latina woman racist" tweet dominated several news cycles, and his blog post recanting it topped all online political news Wednesday, (according to the news aggregator Memeorandum). And now Limbaugh is backtracking as only he can, volunteering that he might support Sotomayor after all -- but he still thinks she is a racist. Apparently racism is not a disqualifying judicial quality for him.
From today's Washington Post online discussion:
Tucker Carlson: "Wise Latina" is such a trendy/phony/stupid formulation, too. What does it mean exactly?
"What does [wise latina] mean exactly?": It means she thinks she is wise, due in part to growing up a poor female minority. Why is that so hard to understand?
Tucker Carlson: Why does that make a person wiser than having grown up a middle-class Italian? Or a working class Greek? Or a rich Dane? The whole idea is so stupid it shocks me that people say things like that in public. I'd love to hear a real explanation of the theory.
Tucker Carlson knows perfectly well that Sotomayor was saying that, in discrimination cases, a minority who has experienced discrimination may have greater wisdom on the topic than a white male who has not. And he knows perfectly well that, whether you agree with Sotomayor or not, there is nothing particularly controversial about her contention. So rather than argue with it directly -- rather than arguing that he, a wealthy white man, understands discrimination every bit as well as a minority woman -- he pretends she was speaking more broadly than she was, and pretends that he really wants an explanation. He doesn't. He knows what she meant. He's just afraid to confront it directly.
Carlson's love affair with straw men and his commitment to disingenuous arguments is a shame, really. In many ways, he's more willing than most media figures to criticize his own "team." But it's impossible to take him seriously when he regularly behaves this way.
Ana Marie Cox, in today's washingtonpost.com discussion:
Successful judges tend to be good speakers and even better writers (Scalia probably writes the most entertaining decisions of the SCOTUS, tho Roberts is also good); Sotomayor's "Latina line" makes me think she's not performing at grade level on either.
Wow, that's a pretty harsh assessment. How did Ana Marie Cox reach her conclusion that Sonia Sotomayor's writing isn't at the "grade level" of a successful judge? Not by reading Sotomayor's writing:
That said: Like 99% of the people weighing in on her nom, I haven't read her all of stuff! Or most! Or any!
What "grade level" does suggesting someone's writing is subpar without actually, you know, reading it qualify you for? Third?
So, over the weekend Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) posted the following on his Twitter profile:
And when you are a nail you think everyone is out to hammer you? Thankfully, MSNBC was there to tone down the crazy and provide some copy-editing for the Senator. This is how they reported on his "tweet":
Perhaps MSNBC thought we couldn't handle Grassley's rantings unfiltered.
Just in case folks missed this Fox News clip from yesterday, it's quite extraordinary and deserves a view, especially the part where Jim Pinkerton basically suggests that if Obama wins re-election, he'll finally out himself as a Muslim.
I kid you not. That's the premise Pinkerton is pushing on national television; that Obama kept his Muslim roots hidden during the campaign, but that signs of it are starting to show now, and when he's safely elected he'll finally feel comfortable practicing Islam out the open.
Behold the 'mainstream' conservative movement in America!
BTW, also in the clip, Cal Thomas declares that he's embarrassed to say he's a journalist because the press won't question anything Obama does. Funny, we never thought of Thomas as a journalist in the first place; more like a human GOP talking point. And if Thomas can post all the columns he wrote between 2000 and 2008 that questioned anything Bush did, we'd sure like to give them a look.
Anxious to castigate Democrats for irresponsible leadership, WashPost editorial page editor Hiatt re-writes history and claims [emphasis added]:
For moderate voters clinging to some faith in government, the question over the past two decades of mostly two-party rule was: Can't Washington do anything?
Now, with one party pretty much in control, the question has become both more hopeful and more anxious: Will Washington do anything responsibly?
Hmm, as Matthew Yglesias notes:
It seems to me that we had "one party pretty much in control" in the opening months of 2001, as well as throughout the years 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. Has Hiatt forgotten about this? It honestly wasn't very long ago.