How to avoid reporting the obvious

marchforlifeSometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.

At least that was my reaction to the historical background section of reporter Scott Shane’s story in The New York Times titled “Ideology Serves as a Wild Card on Court Pick.”

Here’s the big idea. It seems that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. is, in fact, highly qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The problem is not legal, but political.

You see, it seems that battles over nominees have become rather partisan in recent decades. That’s right. Honest. Something mysterious happened not that long ago and the train came off the track. Ideology now plays an even greater role than it did in the bitter court battles of the FDR era and the Earl Warren court.

Let’s let Shane narrate this:

No nominee has been voted down since Robert H. Bork, President Ronald Reagan’s conservative nominee in 1987. … A statistical model developed by Professor [Lee] Epstein and her colleagues, which incorporates newspaper editorials and other sources, suggests that confirmations have steadily grown more polarized over ideology in recent decades. …

Ideology “exploded” after the Senate rejected Mr. Bork, Professor Epstein said. The bitterly contested confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas, who was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee, Anita F. Hill, played out before a rapt national television audience.

To some, the court’s role in settling the 2000 presidential election seemed to shatter once and for all any notion that it occupied some antiseptic zone untouched by politics.

Let’s see. What crucial judical earthquake is missing from this timeline?

What is the issue that is at the heart of this amazing era in which conservative presidents have had so much trouble getting nominees approved for the high court?

Here’s a hint: It was a case decided in 1973. It’s a case that’s even mentioned, in passing, later in the story for another reason.

I know, I know. But I still want to ask: Why did Shane and the Times copy desk leave out something so obvious?

P.S. Oh, that’s right. Offensive free speech about religion is another crucial issue — as this stronger story in the Times makes clear.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://auspiciousdragon.com/ holmegm

    Er, so you said on another story, anonymous. And in the same off-topic way …

    BTW, it is not news that politicians end up employing mercenaries, hiring as they do from the professional political class (ever see an episode of Yes Minister?). Your quote says much about the aide in question, and about you, but little about Delay or any demonized set of voters.

  • http://www.bluffton.edu/~bergerd/essays Dan Berger

    Did anyone else see the recent AP report of Jimmy Carter’s comments about a——n and the Democratic Party? There are no ghosts there–everything is out in the open–but it seems appropriate to bring up in the context of this post.


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