CNN is running a package by reporter Jim Acosta that is full of baseless conservative spin about Sonia Sotomayor.
First, conservative Wendy Long is shown on-camera claiming that Sotomayor is "very much a liberal judicial activist." Long doesn't explain what that means, give any examples, or explain why it would be a bad thing. Nor is she asked to do so. Nor does anyone point out that, by one study, Clarence Thomas is the most "activist" member of the Supreme Court. Long is simply allowed to offer a baseless and empty talking point.
Then, Acosta presents "Exhibit A" in the Right's case against Sotomayor: a video clip of the judge saying the court of appeals is where policy is made. Acosta notes "Sotomayor's critics say that's judicial activism. In other words, legislating from the bench." Acosta does not, however, note that those same critics are in favor of judicial activism - as long as the judges in question are conservatives. More importantly, the clip - and the conservative arguments Acosta passes on - take Sotomayor's comment out of context. In reality, she was simply explaining the difference between district and appeals courts. But Acosta didn't include that explanation, much less make clear that it is the truth, and the conservative complaints are misleading.
Here's The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb:
Does anyone dispute that Sotomayor has been the recipient of preferential treatment for most of her life? She played a role in the hiring of a dean at Princeton -- how many alums got that kind of treatment while they were undergraduates?
Well, gee, I don't know. How many alums won Princeton's highest academic prize? Goldfarb seems to think that being among a select few is synonymous with getting preferential treatment. It isn't. Maybe Sotomayor was chosen to serve on the advisory board on the strength of her academic accomplishments. Or maybe the fact that she -- according to Goldfarb -- "launch[ed] a public campaign" to influence Princeton's hiring had a little something to do with it. In other words, maybe she earned it. But that thought apparently hasn't crossed Goldfarb's mind; he thinks the only possible explanation is that she was a woman and a minority.
(And if Goldfarb thinks that in 1974, Sotomayor's white male classmates had less influence via their wealthy and connected parents over Princeton's administration than did Sotomayor and he fellow Latinas, he's delusional.)
Then Goldfarb argues that Sotomayor "appears to have received preferential treatment" because a law firm recruiting Yalies apologized for "insensitive and regrettable" questions asked of Sotomayor.
See, if a law firm asks a student who won Princeton University's highest academic prize whether she would have gotten into Yale if she wasn't Puerto Rican, then apologizes for the question, that means -- according to Michael Goldfarb -- the student is getting preferential treatment.
Karl Rove - the genius who sent his candidate to an un-winnable state in the closing days of the closest presidential race in American history - isn't sure Sonia Sotomayor is smart.
Rove explains: "I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools."
You might assume Rove was referring to a certain former boss of his who attended Yale and Harvard Business School. But, as Think Progress notes, Rove has previously pointed to George W. Bush's graduation from those schools as evidence of his intelligence.
So, let's get this straight: George W. Bush got into Yale because his rich daddy and his Senator granddaddy both went there. While at Yale, Bush compiled an unspectacular academic record. Karl Rove says that's evidence Bush is smart. Sonia Sotomayor went from the projects of the South Bronx to Princeton University, where she won the school's highest academic prize. Karl Rove says that doesn't mean she's smart.
I'm starting to think nobody should ever listen to anything Karl Rove has to say.
Here's Cillizza at washingtonpost.com:
If the ultimate goal for Republicans is to defeat Obama in 2012, then the Sotomayor pick presents them with a golden opportunity to cast the president as a traditional liberal -- far from the post-partisan figure he was able to present to the American public in the 2008 election.
A couple problems here. Cillizza provides no evidence to back up the claim that the Sotomayor pick would allow Republicans to portray Obama as a "traditional liberal." (i.e. There's no indication that's how voters see the nomination.) But more importantly, Cillizza doesn't indicate why that would be a problem. I realize Republicans assume that Americans would never elect a liberal president, but why does Cillizza simply accept that GOP premise? Why does he claim that, "Re-defining Obama as a liberal is, without question, Republicans best path to the White House."
The fact is that 2008 polling indicated that voters viewed Obama as a liberal when they awarded him an electoral landslide election over John McCain. According to an October 2008, Pew Research Center poll, a majority of swing voters viewed Obama as "liberal" (Obama was seen as about as far to the left as John McCain is to the right), and a clear majority of those voters sided with Obama's agenda.
And excuse me, but didn't the entire GOP campaign in 2008 revolve around the fact that Obama was supposedly the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate? Republicans hammered Obama for months as being a liberal, but Cillizza seems to think voters were blind to the candidate's progressive agenda.
Voters weren't somehow fooled during the campaign. They understood Obama represented the liberal candidate and, in overwhelming numbers, they selected him over the conservative one. Cillizza, embracing the center-right myth about American politics, seems to push the idea that if Republicans, between now and 2012, can successfully paint Obama as a liberal than they could seriously dent his chances for re-election.
There's just no proof of that.
But it has long been clear that Stuart Taylor should not be taken seriously.
See, in 1996, Taylor wrote a buzz-generating article for American Lawyer arguing that Paula Jones had a strong case against Bill Clinton.
In fact, it was obvious that Paula Jones had no case against Bill Clinton. Not because it was obvious Jones was lying, but because -- as Judge Susan Webber Wright ultimately ruled -- even if everything Jones said was true, she had no "genuine issues" worthy of trial. Jones hadn't even alleged any tangible harm that she suffered as a result of Clinton's alleged advances.
So, it isn't just that Taylor was wrong in his assessment of Jones' case, it's that he was spectacularly wrong. Taylor thought Jones had a strong case; the judge ruled that Jones had no case whatsoever. That even if everything she said was true (even the things that contradicted each other) she simply did not have a valid lawsuit.
So why on earth would anyone ever trust Stuart Taylor's judgment?
Now, let's add a couple more facts to the mix: while he was touting Paula Jones' non-existent case against the president, he was referring to Clinton aides as his "cronies," suggesting a certain lack of impartiality. Worse, Taylor was negotiating for a job in Ken Starr's office while appearing on television and in print to offer supposedly neutral assessments of Starr's investigation.
So why on earth would anyone ever trust Stuart Taylor's impartiality?
UPDATE: Adam Serwer dismantles Taylor's assessment of Sotomayor. Here's a taste:
What people like Taylor find so offensive about Sotomayor's statement is that it properly exposes the perspective of white, Christian heterosexual men as specific to their experience, rather than the omniscient eye of G-d they're used to presenting it as. Does anyone seriously believe Dred Scott or Plessy v. Fergueson would have been upheld by any court that had the remotest idea of what it was like to be black or a slave? Or similarly that the court would have held in Minor v. Happersett that being a citizen didn't mean you had a right to vote if you were a woman? Do we really believe that judges in these cases were "simply upholding the law" in the absence of the cultural and social prejudices of their times?
Go read the rest.
From Mark Krikorian's May 27 post on the National Review Online's The Corner:
It Sticks in My Craw [Mark Krikorian]
Most e-mailers were with me on the post on the pronunciation of Judge Sotomayor's name (and a couple griped about the whole Latina/Latino thing - English dropped gender in nouns, what, 1,000 years ago?). But a couple said we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers, including one who pronounces her name "freed" even though it's spelled "fried," like fried rice. (I think Cathy Seipp of blessed memory did the reverse - "sipe" instead of "seep.") Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.
For instance, in Armenian, the emphasis is on the second syllable in my surname, just as in English, but it has three syllables, not four (the "ian" is one syllable) - but that's not how you'd say it in English (the "ian" means the same thing as in English - think Washingtonian or Jeffersonian). Likewise in Russian, you put the emphasis in my name on the final syllable and turn the "o" into a schwa, and they're free to do so because that's the way it works in their language. And should we put Asian surnames first in English just because that's the way they do it in Asia? When speaking of people in Asia, okay, but not people of Asian origin here, where Mao Tse-tung would properly have been changed to Tse-tung Mao. Likewise with the Mexican practice of including your mother's maiden name as your last name, after your father's surname.
This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options -- the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.
When Glenn Beck blogs:
Right now, it's the bottom of the ninth and we are down to our last out and our last strike. Will our government take strike three looking? Or, will they wake up and save the day with a heroic three pointer on a penalty shot?
And this was in the Journal's news pages, not even the anti-Sotomayor opinion pages. In general the Journal's Sotomayor reporting today is just awful, at least the political coverage of the pick. The Journal's analysis of her legal career is more insightful.
Here's a passage from the Journal's A1 news story:
Conservative opponents questioned the usefulness of "empathy" as a qualification. They will have ammunition as they seek to paint Ms. Sotomayor as a liberal activist and strong backer of affirmative action who would use the Supreme Court to make law, not interpret it. A video from Duke University in 2005 shows Ms. Sotomayor proclaiming the "court of appeals is where policy is made."
Reading right off GOP talking points, the Journal twice hypes the phony "empathy" card, pretending it's a very big deal. In fact, three times, because the newspaper devotes an entire, separate article to the issue. The Journal news team thinks its hugely significant that at some point Obama made a passing reference to "empathy" in terms of traits that would best suit a Supreme Court Justice. Interestingly though, the Journal never actually quotes Obama saying anything about empathy. Readers are just supposed to assume that Obama's made a big deal about it even though it's the GOP that's focused on the silly word game. (The Journal also plays dumb about the fact that Republican senators in the past have praised "empathy" while discussing possible SCOTUS picks.)
Nonetheless, the Murdoch's Journal dutifully plays along with the GOP's preferred narrative, not just with the "empathy" nonsense, but with the tape of Sotomayor at Duke saying the "court of appeals is where policy is made"? Without offering the slightest bit of context about the quote, the Journal states as fact that that quote will provide "ammunition" to her "conservative opponents."
This is simply the Journal bypassing actual journalism in favor of regurgitating GOP talking points. Not once but twice. Here's the newspaper's sidebar article:
[Critics] also circulated a YouTube video of a 2005 appearance at Duke University, where Ms. Sotomayor said that the "Court of Appeals is where policy is made." She joked that she shouldn't speak on tape, but went on to say the law percolated at the appellate-court level before its final interpretation by the Supreme Court.
The Journal makes no effort to provide any sort of context to the quote. The Journal also makes no effort to do what the Huffington Post recently did, which was interview legal scholars to see if Sotomayor's Duke quote was in any way controversial, let alone newsworthy.
Here's what the Huffpost found:
Eric Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University, was equally dismissive of this emerging conservative talking point. "She was saying something which is the absolute judicial equivalent of saying the sun rises each morning. It is not a controversial proposition at all that the overwhelming quantity of law making work in the federal system is done by the court of appeals... It is thoroughly uncontroversial to anyone other than a determined demagogue."
Apparently the Journal would rather not have that kind of context collide with the rather shaky GOP talking points it presents as news.