Supreme Labeling Imbalance
Sundays lead story involves the new Supreme Court vacancy left by the surprise retirement of Justice Sandra Day OConnor. Conservative Groups Rally Against Gonzales as Justice, by Adam Nagourney, Todd Purdum and David Kirkpatrick spins into a labeling frenzy, with 23 instances of the term conservative (not including two in headlines) in the 1,900-word story. One particularly pungent example: And Paul M. Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer and chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, said he had told administration officials that nominating Mr. Gonzales, whose views on abortion are considered suspect by religious conservatives, would fracture the president's conservative backers.
For the full story, click here:
Supreme Labeling Imbalance, Take II
More loaded labels in the wake of Justice Sandra Day OConnors surprise retirement: David Rosenbaum and Lynette Clemetson (with additional reporting from David Kirkpatrick) file Sundays In Fight to Confirm New Justice, Two Field Generals Rally Their Troops Again.
Within the story itself, the conservative/liberal labeling is tilted 7-1, even though both sides get equal coverage (a subhead does mention a liberal coalition, but a huge photo topping the article is of workers at the unlabeled liberal group People for the American Way mailing packets to supporters urging them to help prevent a right-wing replacement for Justice Sandra Day OConnor).
Among the unbalanced lines which identify conservatives but not liberals: A few blocks away on M Street downtown, [PFAW president Ralph] Neas had been in his office since 6 a.m. He had joined People for the American Way, a group founded by the Hollywood producer Norman Lear as a political antidote to the conservative Christian movement, in 2000.
For more of Rosenbaum and Clemetson on OConnors retirement, click here:
Taking the Edge off the Inflammatory Al Sharpton
The Times uses the recent beating of three black men by whites in Queens to fawn over Al Sharptons alleged newfound respectability in Saturdays banner Metro story by Patrick Healy and Sam Roberts, Like Sharpton Himself, City and Its Fears Have Calmed Since 86.
They begin: They came to the Rev. Al Sharpton by telephone and in person - New York politicians looking for advice and reassurance about the latest racial attack in Howard Beach, Queens. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the night the news broke, and the men talked about the city's response. Others, like the Democratic candidates angling to replace Mr. Bloomberg, were looking for more direct cues. Fernando Ferrer, for instance, read Mr. Sharpton his prepared statement and welcomed advice.Mr. Sharpton, who 20 years ago was the provocative force stirring the uproar that followed the 1986 Howard Beach killing, is now possessed of a different power to drive events.Mr. Sharpton's stature, and emerging status as an arbiter of racial disputes rather than a protagonist, is not the only thing that is different from the earlier attack, and that set of differences - a mayor who draws support from minorities, and a city with far less crime of all kinds, including bias attacks - may well influence how long, and how loudly, the latest Howard Beach drama plays out.
As usual, the Times makes no reference to the details of Sharptons inflammatory statements, and Saturdays article does not even mention race-baiting incidents such as the Tawana Brawley hoax and his white interloper rantings about a racially divided landlord-tenant dispute involving a Harlem clothing store that ended when a protestor set the store on fire, killing seven.
Instead, the Times puts white politicians on the defensive with vague accusations of racial insensitivity: The political tone of the city has also changed. In 1986, Mayor Koch, still reeling from municipal corruption scandals that happened under his watch, denounced the Howard Beach assailants as a lynch mob. But to some blacks, his oratory was overcompensating for perceived insensitivity to minorities. Any overtures by the mayor to blacks were undercut by his mandate to reduce spending - epitomized by his closing of Sydenham Hospital in Harlem. Mr. Koch, at times, seemed to embody the polarization that characterized disputes ranging from school decentralization, low-income housing and police brutality.
The reporters later contribute this nugget of dubious history: [Former Mayor David] Dinkins, who was mayor when tensions escalated into violence between blacks and Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, credited [current NYC mayor Mike] Bloomberg with the improved climate."
Thats a strange way to look at the Crown Heights riots, since the Hasidic Jews did not instigate the violence, which happened over a few days in August 1991 after a car in the entourage of a Jewish rabbinical group accidentally hit a young black boy in the poor, racially mixed neighborhood of Crown Heights. As the Times reported back in 2001, a young Hasidic scholar from Australia, Yankel Rosenbaum was fatally stabbed three hours later, caught by a mob racing through the streets shouting Jew, Jew. The 2001 article also noted: For two more days and nights hundreds of black teenagers rampaged unchecked, burning police cars, looting, hurling bottles and beating people. Blacks and Jews clashed as the police stood by.
For the rest of the Sharpton story, click here:
Jehls Baleful Supreme Court Warning
Douglas Jehl fires a warning shot across Bushs bow Saturday regarding the picking of a nominee to replace surprise retiree Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor: Prove yourself pragmatic and flexible by not nomination a much further rightward kind of justice.
Jehl insists: At the White House, the moment presents Mr. Bush with an opportunity to define at last, more than four years into his presidency, whether he is a pragmatic, flexible conservative, as he has portrayed himself in two campaigns, or a more ideological one, determined to move the court much further rightward. It is a juncture officials have been planning for.
For the full Jehl on initial reaction to the Supreme Court vacancy, click here:
Who Needs Doctrinaire Assertions When Interpreting the Constitution?
Saturdays front page delivered an unwittingly revealing comment from Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse in her news analysis of the shock retirement of Justice Sandra Day OConnor. Greenhouse says approvingly: If you are a lawyer with a case at the court, pitch your arguments to her. If your issue is affirmative action, or religion, or federalism, or redistricting, or abortion, or constitutional due process in any of its many manifestations, you can assume that the fate of that issue is in her hands. Don't bother with doctrinaire assertions and bright-line rules.
But shouldnt constitutional doctrine matter when it comes to interpreting the Constitution?
To read the rest of Greenhouses analysis, click here: