Patterico's Pontifications


Joan Didion on Terri Schiavo

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 11:52 pm

Joan Didion has a long article about Terri Schiavo in the New York Review of Books. Anyone unfamiliar with the case should read this lengthy and detailed article. It is a great place to learn the facts the media has largely hidden from you.

It is hard to excerpt — you really should read it all. I’ll quote only a couple of passages that shatter myths you have heard about the case, including many repeated by commenters to this and similar sites:


It’s a “New Low” for New York Times Editors

Filed under: Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 3:19 pm

The New York Times today editorializes:

The judicial nominations debate reached a new low this week when a Republican senator compared his Democratic colleagues to Hitler.

A “new low”?? Evidently the editors haven’t been reading their own paper again. The paper ran an AP story on March 3 which reported that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd had compared his Republican colleagues to Hitler. Here’s the relevant language, from Byrd’s web site:

Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.

“Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.”

And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

Conservative bloggers have almost unanimously condemned Santorum’s ridiculous Nazi comparison. But for New York Times editors, it’s only a “new low” when a Republican does it.

Good Confirmation Links

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 3:02 pm

A couple of good confirmation links:

A quiz that describes a candidate who really sounds out of the mainstream — yet was overwhelmingly confirmed.

Ann Althouse says the Framers actually “considered requiring a supermajority vote in the Senate to reject the President’s judicial nominees.”

Go check ’em out.

L.A. Times Takes Reid’s Side on Filibuster Controversy

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 2:55 pm

In debate over the last few days, Senate Republicans and Democrats have disagreed over whether the controversy over the “nuclear option” is really such a big deal. And the Los Angeles Times “news” pages are reliably right there with the Democrats.

Democrats portray the controversy as an impending crisis, which will turn the Senate into a rancorous institution like the House of Representatives. In a typical comment, Sen. Carl Levin argues:

Using an arbitrary way — presiding officer ruling by fiat — will produce a deeply embittered and divided Senate because it tears at the heart of the way we operate.

Republicans counter that the “nuclear option” is not really such an unprecedented move. For example, Sen. Jon Kyl has argued that the Democrats have engaged in “careless talk” and “hysteria” regarding the nuclear option. Sen. Kyl notes past instances when Senate rules have been changed to respond to the obstruction of a partisan minority, and observes:

Mr. President, what did not happen as a result of these earlier exercises of the constitutional option?

First, the Senate did not collapse or become “like the House” – the perennial (and somewhat condescending) fear of many Senators.

Which position do you figure the Los Angeles Times takes in a news analysis today? Try guessing from the headline: Rancor of the House Seeps Into the Senate.

Harry Reid couldn’t have been more pleased if one of his own staffers had written the piece, which begins:

The rancorous Capitol debate over confirmation of federal judges is not just a power struggle between Republicans and Democrats. It also is a pivotal moment for the Senate as an institution.

If a showdown over President Bush’s nominees goes forward as planned next week, it would mark one more significant step in the Senate’s transformation from a clubby bastion of bipartisanship into a free-wheeling political arena as raucous as the House of Representatives.

But if a group of moderates manages to come up with a compromise to avert the showdown, they will reassert the Senate’s traditional role as one of the few institutions in Washington still capable of governing by consensus.

This portrayal of the controversy, which is common among the media nowadays, is exactly the portrayal the Democrats seek. The issue is simple: Democrats want to retain the filibuster for judicial nominees. Republicans want to eliminate it. Since Democrats have said that any “compromise” must allow them to retain the filibuster, any “compromise” that they will accept will be a victory for them. Thus, it is in the Democrats’ best interests to have any potential “compromise” treated as desirable, and a possible “showdown” treated as something to be avoided.

Using terms like “extraordinary circumstances” will have no real meaning, since they will simply claim that any conservative nomination (e.g. Priscilla Owen) is an extraordinary circumstance. Get the Democrats to draw up a specific list of nominees who would be acceptable for the Supreme Court, for example, and you’ll find that it does not include any nomination President Bush is likely to make. So compromise equals Democrat victory.

But stories like today’s Times story present the issue as though a compromise will be a victory for the Senate and the country — and consequently, the employing of the nuclear option will be harmful to both.

It must be great to be a Democrat and know that, no matter how outrageous your position, the media’s got your back.

Returning the Blue Slip Rule

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:33 pm

Kevin Drum repeats a proposal that he has made before:

[A]llow Democrats to use all the same rules that Republicans have made such copious use of over the past few decades in order to stall judicial nominations and prevent them from coming before the full Senate for an up or down vote. That means rules like anonymous holds, blue slips, and minority consent to report out nominees.

I agree with Drum on blue slips and (if I understand them correctly) anonymous holds — for this term only, after which such rules should never be used again. I disagree about minority consent to report out nominees, because Democrats were the ones to benefit from that rule during most of the Clinton years. Let me explain my thinking:


Power Line on How the New York Times is Different From Bloggers

Filed under: Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 11:25 am

Power Line reports on a New York Times “Editors’ Note” from today, which reads:

An article on May 6 described a demonstration at Princeton University against the proposal by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader and a Princeton graduate and board member, to bar filibusters on judicial nominees. The writer, a freelance contributor who is a Princeton student, did not disclose to The Times that before she was assigned the article, she had participated in the demonstration. The Times does not ordinarily allow its writers to cover events in which they have taken part, and the paper’s staff and contributors are not permitted to join rallies or demonstrations on divisive issues. The writer says she was unaware of these policies.

And what steps did the New York Times take to ensure that this college student and freelance writer knew about these policies? Does it come as a shock to the NYT that a Princeton student might have taken part in such a demonstration??

Let’s hope that the Times takes this as a wake-up call that, in the future, it needs to make those policies clear to freelance writers.

Power Line’s comments:

We all know it’s a good thing that august institutions like the New York Times adhere to time-honored standards of rigor and objectivity. As opposed to us bloggers, who are often suspected of being partisans.

. . . .

Note how the demonstration in question was against a Republican, and the undisclosed demostrator is someone who shares the Times’ editorial position.

Rest assured that if we ever report on a demonstration in which we participated, we’ll mention that fact.

Same here.

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