Patterico's Pontifications


Jonathan Turley Column: Silly — and Wrong

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 6:10 pm

Jonathan Turley has an op-ed about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in this morning’s Los Angeles Times. The op-ed turns out to be not only silly, but factually wrong to boot.

Turley claims:

[I]n a meeting last week, [Judge John G.] Roberts briefly lifted the carefully maintained curtain over his personal views. In so doing, he raised a question that could not only undermine the White House strategy for confirmation but could raise a question of his fitness to serve as the 109th Supreme Court justice.

The exchange occurred during one of Roberts’ informal discussions with senators last week. According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion. (Pope Benedict XVI is often cited as holding this strict view of the merging of a person’s faith and public duties).

Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.

It was the first unscripted answer in the most carefully scripted nomination in history. It was also the wrong answer.

According to Durbin’s office, it also didn’t happen. Turley had his facts wrong. A Reuters story (h/t: reader Golden Lover) reports that Durbin’s office has denied the claim made in Turley’s article:

Turley wrote that two people who attended the meeting said Roberts was asked by Durbin what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considered immoral.

“Roberts … answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself,” Turley wrote.

Durbin’s office had no immediate comment, but later in the day a spokesman said the column was wrong.

It seems that editors did not bother to fact-check the assertion that was the entire premise of Turley’s piece.

Which leads to an interesting contrast. The guidelines for running an “Outside the Tent” piece, which is critical of the paper, state the following:

These pieces must deal with facts and be supported by evidence. Reasoned opinion is fine. Please don’t repeat rumors or offer speculation on matters that can’t readily be verified with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Evidently the L.A. Times imposes a higher standard for criticism of the paper than it does for criticism of John Roberts.

In any event, Turley’s op-ed was silly to begin with. The reasons are set forth in the extended entry.


Tell John Carroll Why Circulation Has Gone Down

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:18 am

[I am going to bump this post to the top through Monday. There are new posts below it. — P]

John Carroll, outgoing editor of the L.A. Times, says that he is leaving largely due to the paper’s decline in circulation. However, he says:

I believe content had nothing to do with the circulation decline; if anything, the decline was mitigated by our content.

(Via L.A. Observed.)

Carroll, of course, is the guy who defended the timing of the hit piece on Arnold Schwarzenegger, which reportedly cost the paper 10,000 subscriptions.

Back in February, I asked these questions:

Do you read the L.A. Times? If so, why? If not, why not?

If you have cancelled your subscription, tell us why.

What bugs you about the paper? Is there anything about it that you do like?

I got 89 comments — most of them from people who had canceled their subscriptions due to their perception that the paper slants the news to fit a leftist perspective.

If you have not contributed to that thread, please do so now. Don’t leave comments on this post. Click on this link and tell John Carroll why you do (or don’t) read the L.A. Times.

(Thanks to reader Patricia for the idea.)

UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link. I hope any new readers of hers will bookmark the main page and return often.

And make sure you click on the link above and leave a comment for John Carroll!

Readers’ Rep Responds Again Re “White Men” Whiteout

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:17 am

The L.A. Times‘s Readers’ Representative, Jamie Gold, has corresponded with me further regarding the white-out of the word “white” from the phrase “white men” in an article about Bush’s search for a Supreme Court nominee. (Previous posts here and here.)

There appears to be no real change from the last time she wrote me. She still says that the “white men” phrase wasn’t a mistake, and that it wasn’t changed because someone thought it was wrong. But she still has no answer on why it did happen. And it doesn’t appear that the answer will be forthcoming.


Roberts: A Federalist Society “Fixture” After All?

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:17 am

Maybe the L.A. Times doesn’t need to correct its statement that John Roberts was a “fixture” in the Federalist Society after all?? (This is tongue-in-cheek — but read on . . .)

The Washington Post reports today:

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has repeatedly said that he has no memory of belonging to the Federalist Society, but his name appears in the influential, conservative legal organization’s 1997-1998 leadership directory.

Further down in the article, we see that there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Roberts’s claim not to be a member may still be accurate:

Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard A. Leo said that either he or another official of the organization recruited Roberts for the committee. Roberts’s task was to serve “as a point of contact within the firm to let people know what is going on” with the organization. “It doesn’t meet, it doesn’t do a whole lot. The only thing we expect of them is to make sure people in the firm know about us,” Leo said.

Membership in the sense of paying dues was not required as a condition of inclusion in a listing of the society’s leadership, Leo said. He declined to say whether Roberts had ever paid dues, citing a policy of keeping membership information confidential.

Beyond the question of whether he paid dues is the question of whether he really spent time with Federalist Society members:

“What matters is whether he hung out with them and not whether he signed the form or wrote the dues check,” said David Garrow, a law professor at Emory University. “What’s important is the intellectual immersion.”

As to this question, a previous Washington Post story indicated that he didn’t really “hang out with them much.”

Upon reflection, some Federalist Society members conceded that they had never actually seen Roberts at meet-and-greets such as the society’s annual black-tie dinner.

“That’s a good question, let me think. Now that you mention it — no,” was former Bush Justice Department official Viet Dinh’s response when asked if he had ever spotted Roberts at any Federalist events.

Ultimately, I predict that this will prove to be a big to-do over nothing. There is nothing wrong with being a Federalist Society member. I’m a member myself. And at this point, we can’t say that Roberts’s denial of membership is not credible. But it certainly would have been better if he had remembered to inform the White House of this listing in the leadership directory. [UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh, in the comments, makes the point that Roberts could have been a contact for his firm without even realizing that doing so made him a member of the steering committee. Today’s WaPo article has evidence to support that theory; another steering committee member quoted in the article was unaware of his status as such until informed of it by the reporter.]

I still don’t think Roberts was a “fixture” in the Federalist Society. But this muddies the waters enough that the L.A. Times will no doubt use it as an excuse not to correct their editorial saying he was.

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