Patterico's Pontifications

5/13/2005

Response to Kaus re CBS Distortion of Starr Remarks

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:01 am



Mickey Kaus says he’s “not so sure” that CBS distorted Ken Starr’s remarks in that segment about filibusters that I discussed here.

I think Kaus misunderstands my complaint against CBS. There were two snippets from Starr in the CBS segment. Based on an e-mail circulated by Starr, I believe the first snippet was taken out of context. I agree that the second was not. Here are the two snippets again, in context:

BORGER (in a voice-over): 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 [voice-over]: 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.

The problem is not with that last quote, but with the context of the first one. Starr’s reservations about the nuclear option were cautiously expressed in the interview. But the piece makes it sound as though he called the nuclear option a “radical, radical departure” from our history and traditions and an “assault on the judicial branch of government.” This is a distortion, because Starr was not talking about the nuclear option in that quote; he was expressing his disapproval of using ideology as a reason to vote against a qualified judicial nominee. [UPDATE: Just so it’s clear, I base this conclusion on Starr’s public e-mail on the segment, which I referenced in my earlier post.]

Kaus seems to think the first snippet was placed in context:

Borger does wrench the first Starr sentence (“radical, radical”) into something approximating the context Starr says it was given in–not a discussion of the anti-filibuster “nuclear option,” but of the new, Bork-era practice of voting against “qualified” judges if you don’t like their judicial philosophy.

I disagree. Borger sets up Starr’s quote as a disagreement with conservatives, saying that “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.” The word “but” signals that what Starr is about to say is in conflict with conservatives’ view of the fight over judges. Moreover, Starr’s quotes both come in a short piece that is about the nuclear option, not about using judicial philosophy as a disqualifer.

I think that many casual viewers of the segment would conclude that Starr’s first quote related to Starr’s disagreement with the nuclear option. However, the potential for differing interpretations is why I was careful to put up a transcript and a link to the video; you can make up your own mind.

P.S. I assume that Starr is correct in characterizing the true context of the first snippet. If he’s wrong about that, CBS has the tape. All they have to do is release it.

UPDATE: Apparently Borger’s wrenching of the “radical, radical” line into context was too subtle for the AP, which said:

Kenneth Starr – an appeals court judge on the D.C. circuit from 1983-1989 – came out against the Republican plan to ban judicial filibusters on Monday. He told CBS Evening News that it is a “radical, radical departure from our history and our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.”

Ditto the editors of the Indianapolis Star. (Both links via Tom Maguire via Wizbang.)

UPDATE x2: In a new post, Kaus works to prove what we already knew: that Starr is not a fan of the nuclear option. How does that show that Starr was not misquoted in the first snippet??

What has muddied the waters is Limbaugh’s apparent statement that Starr was on the “same page” as other Republicans. That much was clearly untrue once you read his e-mail. But it doesn’t absolve CBS News — not by a longshot.

7 Responses to “Response to Kaus re CBS Distortion of Starr Remarks”

  1. […] 5:21 pm

    Don’t miss the update to the post below about CBS’s distortion of Ken Starr&#8 […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Update to CBS Post (0c6a63)

  2. This appeared immediately after the story broke. It’s an email from Star: “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 philosopy as a grounds 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.”

    Howard Veit (baba22)

  3. For me the giveaway was Bob Schieffer’s response that Starr was “apparently on the other side” regarding the use of the nuclear option. That is, Borger’s comments and choice of sound bites appeared to Schieffer to show Starr’s opposition to the nuclear option. However, that’s not Starr’s position. Since Schieffer got a wrong impression of Starr’s position, viewers in general also must have also gotten a wrong impression.

    David (7fbb2d)

  4. I recall watching the non-story that 60 Minutes II ran that resulted in Rathergate and noting that the Bush spokesman responses to their questions didn’t seem to relate to the questions being asked. Also interesting is that in the wake of Rathergate one of those who was recommended for discipline was the person that did the video edits. I think the two are directly related. The point being: this is par for the course at CBS. Determine the story then cut and paste video to back it up.

    Sweetie (f6fb72)

  5. I think the second quote is still out of context. CBS wants you to believe that Starr thinks the nuclear option is the it that will “… damage the institution of the Senate”. After re-reading Starr’s email, I think the it in question is the unprecedented Democratic judicial filibuster.

    Release the Tape!

    [I disagree. Starr said:

    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),

    I think Starr has reservations about the nuclear option, and here I also disagree with David, who says otherwise. But he didn’t express those reservations in the harsh language used in the first snippet. I do agree that CBS should release the tape. — Patterico]

    SaveFarris (8431ef)

  6. “I think Starr has reservations about the nuclear option, and here I also disagree with David, who says otherwise… – Patterico”

    Sorry to quibble, but I didn’t mean to deny that Starr might have reservations about the the nuclear option. I meant to deny that he flat-out opposed it, which is what Schieffer said was the “apparent” implication of Borger’s presentiation.

    David (7fbb2d)


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