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.”
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.