Patterico's Pontifications

5/12/2005

CBS Distorts Ken Starr Comments About Filibusters of Judicial Nominees

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:19 pm

CBS has seriously distorted comments made by Ken Starr about filibusters. (Via Power Line.)

Monday night, Starr appeared in a CBS News segment regarding the current controversy over filibusters and the nuclear option. You can watch the video here.

The CBS News report quoted Starr as saying: “This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.” Viewed in context, Starr appeared to be referring to the Republicans’ proposal to employ the “nuclear option” and do away with the filibuster.

But it turns out that Starr was actually criticizing Senators who vote against a qualified judicial nominee for reasons relating to the nominee’s judicial philosophy — in other words, what Democrats are currently doing to President Bush’s nominees.

CBS took a quote criticizing the current practice of Democrats, and transmogrified it into a criticism of a proposed plan of action by Republicans.

Starr has circulated an e-mail in which he says his quotes were distorted. Ramesh Ponnuru quotes Starr’s e-mail as saying:

In the piece that I have now seen, and which I gather is being lavishly quoted, CBS employed two snippets. The “radical departure” snippet was specifically addressed — although this is not evidenced whatever from the clip — to the practice of invoking judicial philos[o]phy as a ground[] for voting against a qualified nominee of integrity and experience. I said in sharp language that that practice was wrong. I contrasted the current practice . . . with what occurred during Ruth Ginsburg’s nomination process, as numerous Republicans voted (rightly) to confirm a former ACLU staff lawyer. They disagreed with her positions as a lawyer, but they voted (again, rightly) to confirm her. Why? Because elections, like ideas, have consequences. . . . In the interview, I did indeed suggest, and have suggested elsewhere, that caution and prudence be exercised (Burkean that I am) in shifting/modifying rules (that’s the second snippet), but I likewise made clear that the “filibuster” represents an entirely new use (and misuse) of a venerable tradition. . . .

[O]ur friends are way off base in assuming that the CBS snippets, as used, represent (a) my views, or (b) what I in fact said.

To be fair, Borger did tell viewers that “Starr thinks all judges should be allowed a vote, even if they’re Democrats.” But that line does not correct the clear misimpression created by the segment: that Starr called the Republican’s nuclear option a “radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions” as well as “an assault on the judicial branch of government.” Starr never said that, and CBS News should apologize for suggesting that he did.

P.S. The extended entry has something I haven’t seen on any other blog — a transcript of the segment, edited by me for accuracy:

BOB SCHIEFFER, anchor:

In Washington, an epic battle that has been threatened for months now may be coming to a head: the Republican threat to try to change Senate rules and do away with filibusters to make it easier to confirm some of the president’s judicial appointments. It sounds like inside baseball, but it could have a dramatic impact on everything from abortion and same-sex marriage to the death penalty. Here’s Gloria Borger with our report.

Sen. Charles Schumer: It’s an arrogance, an abuse of power.

GLORIA BORGER reporting:

As far as political fights go, this could be one for the history books.

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist: They should get an up-or-down vote.

BORGER: The Senate showdown is over judges. Republicans, who want to get the president’s nominees confirmed, are threatening to end the age-old filibuster, where any senator can threaten to stop any vote just by continuously talking. Right now it takes 60 votes to cut him off. The Democrats call that unconstitutional, an assault on the system of checks and balances.

But this fight goes way beyond Senate rules. This is a monumental battle about the future of the courts. Just who gets to sit on the Supreme Court? And should we appoint justices who want to rule on everything from abortion to gay marriage to civil rights?

That’s why many conservatives consider the fight over judges their political Armageddon. But conservative icon and former federal Judge Ken Starr says it’s gotten out of control.

Mr. KENNETH STARR (Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law): This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.

BORGER: Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky case against President Clinton, tells CBS News that the Republican plan to end the filibuster may be unwise.

Mr. STARR: It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.

BORGER: Still, Starr thinks all judges should be allowed a vote, even if they’re Democrats.

During the Clinton years…

Mr. STARR: Exactly.

BORGER: …lots of those nominees were blocked by Republicans in committee, you’ll recall.

Mr. STARR: Exactly.

BORGER: Right.

Mr. STARR: And I don’t think that’s particularly admirable either.

BORGER: Now both sides realize they have a lot at stake here, so watch for talk of a possible compromise. They know that the polls show that partisan wrangling is not what the voters want, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well, seeing Ken Starr, of all people, coming out on what looks like the opposite side of many on the conservative–in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, tells me that both sides here may be looking for some way out of this showdown that’s coming. Do you get that sense, Gloria?

BORGER: I do get that sense. The polls are showing that the voters really want this wrangling to stop. I think Ken Starr is saying that those on the far right and those on the far left have both gone overboard; that a president ought to get the right to pick his judges, and we ought to move beyond where we were when we had the Justice Bork fight in the ’80s, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you very much, Gloria.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus says he’s not so sure this is a distortion. I respond in this post.

Bottom line: I am not claiming (as Kaus appears to think I do) that Starr supports the nuclear option, or that the second snippet was taken out of context. It appears that Starr has reservations about the nuclear option. My beef is that the “radical, radical” language had nothing to do with his reservations about the nuclear option; it related to his disapproval of using ideology as a reason to vote against a qualified judicial nominee.

17 Responses to “CBS Distorts Ken Starr Comments About Filibusters of Judicial Nominees”

  1. DOWDIFICATION COMES TO CBS NEWS
    This is just loathsome. It appears clear that there was a deliberate effort to edit the statements made by Dean Starr in order to have him appear to support a position that was completely antithetical to his genuine beliefs. Once…

    Pejmanesque (2ae9b5)

  2. I actually don’t think it’s clear that it was an intentional distortion. It’s quite possible that 1) Starr’s comments were not clear in the unedited interview (e.g. a complex question and an imprecise answer); and/or 2) they were not clear to an editor who only viewed a portion of the interview; or 3) the mindset of the editor was such that he just naturally assumed that Starr was talking about the rule change, not the filibuster, as he scanned the tape for juicy quotes.

    Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by stupidity.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  3. I listen to a local CBS news radio station for their traffic reports.
    Yesterday they had a ‘reporter’ ‘reporting’ on Voinovich and last week when he said that he wanted to look into allegations on Bolton. In the report the ‘reporter’ said that Voinovich had made the allegations. Voinovich had said that the allegations troubled him, but never did he make any allegations himself. This ‘reporter’ totally misrepresented what had been said.
    The MSM has let Bush Derangement Syndrome send them around the bend. It’s not pretty to watch.

    Veeshir (d4339d)

  4. Just The Facts I
    A couple of pieces worth reading. Patterico discusses what’s got liberals’ undies in a bunch over Appeals Court nominee Priscilla Owen.

    Joust The Facts (af7df9)

  5. Kevin Murphy (comment above) is wrong. CBS could remove all doubt by making the video available. Why won’t they, Kevin? What are they hiding?

    politicaobscura (9df65d)

  6. Dan Rather believed he had the goods on Bush. It turned out that he was stupid and wrong. This however, is a deliberate distortion of Judge Staee’s statement and sentiment in order to support CBS’Ss position. If this is not a criminal offense, it should be. Don’t let this one die.

    Glenn Beebe (ed5905)

  7. INTER-BLOG-A-TORY TRAVEL
    CBS DISTORTS STARRS COMMENTS: CBS took a quote criticizing the current practice of Democrats,and transmogrified it into a criticism of a proposed plan of action by Republicans. Thanks….and, No Thanks: When was the last time you thanked your doctor?…

    Lifelike Pundits (34b7e1)

  8. obscura–

    How am I wrong in saying that it isn’t clear that they did this intentionally, or that Starr’s interview response might not be as clear as Starr thinks it was?

    While the second *might* be answered with a video, the first won’t be unless they have a video of them planning to lie.

    And in either case, why ask me why they don’t release it? HTF would I know? Maybe it’s because they never release raw videos?

    In any event, there are lots of explanations for this other than intention, running the gamut from innocent mistake to political conspiracy — one really won’t know.

    I do think that CBS needs to issue a clarification, given that one of their on-screen sources disputes their portrayal of him.

    [It may be worth noting that I haven’t claimed that this was intentional. — Patterico]

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  9. Kevin writes:

    While the second *might* be answered with a video, the first won’t be unless they have a video of them planning to lie.

    How can you so confidently assert that it “won’t be” answered when you haven’t see the video? You suggested as a possibility that “Starr’s comments were not clear in the unedited interview (e.g. a complex question and an imprecise answer). . . ”
    We’ll allow you your hypothesis, but please remember that it is just that — your hypothesis! There’s no way you can be sure that Starr’s comments were indeed “imprecise” until you’ve seen/heard the precise question and full answer! It may well be very clear in the original (though CBS seems bent on our not having any opportunity to determine that!)

    Bruhaha (917acb)

  10. CBS twists the news again
    A CBS report, which can be viewed here, show Ken Starr criticizing Senate Republicans for trying to prevent Senate Democrats…

    JackLewis.net (807fbc)

  11. The CBS report on Starr’s comments, and the wide commentary that followed the report, was troubling because it seemed so out of character for Starr. Thanks for clearing it up, particularly with Starr’s e-mail.

    It was also interesting to see in the transcript that Gloria Borger repeated the partisan argument that Republicans “are threatening to end the age-old filibuster, where any senator can threaten to stop any vote just by continuously talking.” What they’re really dealing with is filibusters designed to deny judicial nominees an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, which is much narrower and more reasonable.

    Looks like there hasn’t been much change at CBS since Dan Rather finally got his comeuppance.

    Tom Carter (a67db1)

  12. As someone who does audio and video editing, we are always very careful to ask oursevles how the listener/watcher might perceive what we put forth. Believe me, in a corporation like CBS, there are a bunch of smart people that review these edits to make sure that they convey the exact message intended.
    CBS-up to it’s old tricks again!

    rightfielder (272b05)

  13. I don’t see how the comment is manipulated to make it look like he is attacking Republicans.

    paul (b9aeab)

  14. I don’t see how the comment is manipulated to make it look like he is attacking Republicans.

    The AP did.

    Patterico (756436)

  15. […] Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News specs Newsmax.com CBS Distorts Palin Interview Patterico’s Pontifications CBS Distorts Ken Starr Comments About Filibusters of Judicial Nomin… —- So what is your point. You honestly belief your own BS that only FOX twists the new and polls […]

    Who's to blame for the finacial crisis? - Page 3 - YardLimits.com (cb4def)

  16. […] Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News specs Newsmax.com CBS Distorts Palin Interview Patterico’s Pontifications CBS Distorts Ken Starr Comments About Filibusters of Judicial Nomin… —- So what is your point. You honestly belief your own BS that only FOX twists the new and polls […]

    Who's to blame for the finacial crisis? - Page 3 - YardLimits.com (cb4def)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.2325 secs.