Patterico's Pontifications


Linda Seebach on Hewitt’s Interview Demand

Filed under: Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 6:31 pm

I recently posted about Hugh Hewitt’s demand that journalists who wish to interview him about John Roberts do so on his radio show, live. I observed:

The latest reporter to decline his offer said she didn’t want the story “out there” before it ran in her paper. I have a different theory: she doesn’t want to lose her control over the way Hugh’s comments are portrayed to the public. I have discussed this issue in detail previously, in this post.

I added in a postscript:

Hugh could establish for us which theory is right by agreeing not to run the interview live, but insisting on taping and broadcasting the whole thing.

Linda Seebach, columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, has written me to explain why she would never take Hugh up on his offer. She has authorized me to post her e-mail — which is, I think, consistent with my postscript:

In the specific circumstances Hugh describes, I’d have to refuse his offer too. Transparency is not a problem. Anyone who interviews me is welcome to tape the interview. (In Colorado, he doesn’t even need to tell me he’s doing that.) People who come in for editorial board meetings do sometimes tape them, though we normally don’t unless we plan to publish a transcript.

Reporters are encouraged to tape interviews; some do, some don’t.

If someone invites me to be an on-the-air guest, that’s fine too; I think the first time I ever did that was in 1993, and I show up now and again on one of the public-affairs programs on local television. The editorial page editor does a fair amount of talk radio; the editor/publisher is interviewed all the time. We have no objection to being recorded.

But “live,” that is contemporaneously, is a sticking point if I am the one doing the reporting. We have competition, and if I am working on something the Denver Post does not know about, I sure don’t want them to find out because they can hear what questions I’m asking my sources before I publish.

And embargoes (e.g., “we’ll give you an interview today on the grounds that you won’t publish before our official press conference”) would be problematic because a big reporting project can take weeks or months. When the earliest interviews are done the publication date isn’t even known yet.

Well, I think that’s quite reasonable — and I think the key point is Seebach’s statement: “Transparency is not a problem. Anyone who interviews me is welcome to tape the interview.” It sounds as though, as long as Hugh were to promise not to broadcast the interview before the story ran, there should be no problem with his taping an interview and later playing it on his show.

One more point: Hugh’s demand comes in the context of journalists seeking to interview him about John Roberts. It’s hard to imagine that any journalist would refuse to be taped out of a concern that another journalist will find out they are doing background research on a Supreme Court nominee.

Any other journalists want to weigh in on this issue?

The Roberts Rorschach Test

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:13 am

John Roberts’s work for the Reagan Administration is apparently like a Rorschach test — you can see what you want to see.

An analysis by Knight-Ridder newspapers (h/t: How Appealing) looks at Roberts’s work in the White House counsel’s office, and sees evidence that Roberts is not a doctrinaire conservative:

WASHINGTON – As a legal adviser to President Reagan, Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. joined a scathing denunciation of abortion-clinic bombers and urged Reagan to stay out of an effort to post tributes to God in Kentucky schools.

Roberts’ advice, in documents Knight Ridder obtained before their public release later this month, might help him counter critics who portray him as a doctrinaire conservative. Abortion-rights groups and organizations that advocate a clear separation between church and state oppose his nomination.

. . . .

In the abortion-clinic case, Roberts was asked to respond to reports in 1986 that Reagan would consider granting presidential pardons to convicted bombers. . . . Roberts and his boss, deputy White House counsel Richard Hauser, suggested a strongly worded response that ruled out favors for clinic bombers.

“The president unequivocally condemns such acts of violence and believes that those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” their draft reply said. “No matter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence to achieve it are criminals. … Neither the cause that these misguided individuals mistakenly believed they were serving, nor the target of their violence, will in any way be considered to mitigate the seriousness of their offense against our laws.”

. . . .

In the Kentucky school case, Roberts advised Reagan to stay out of a 1985 effort to require teachers to post the national motto – “In God We Trust” – and the preamble to the state constitution in their classrooms. . . . He questioned the constitutionality of the proposal and concluded that “it would be inappropriate” for Reagan to endorse it.

By contrast, David Savage at the L.A. Times looks at Roberts’s record as a deputy Solicitor General and sees . . . a doctrinaire conservative. His article, titled With Starr, Roberts Pushed Reagan Agenda, opens this way:

WASHINGTON — For many years, the solicitor general was known as the “10th justice,” a trusted figure who advised the Supreme Court on the law and whose client was the United States.

But midway through the Reagan administration, the office took on a new role. The solicitor general became not just the government’s chief lawyer before the high court, but the point man for a conservative transformation in the law.

When John G. Roberts Jr., then 34, joined Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr as his top deputy in fall 1989, they were determined to make the Reagan Revolution a legal reality.

Roberts “was in that position as the principal political deputy to the solicitor general because he was simpatico with the administration,” said Washington lawyer Charles J. Cooper, a longtime friend of the Supreme Court nominee. “He agreed with the thrust of what the administration was doing.”

Together, Starr and Roberts pressed a strongly conservative legal agenda for 3 1/2 years.

They argued for limiting the scope of civil rights laws, ending race-based affirmative action, restoring some prayers to public schools and overruling Roe vs. Wade, the case that established a woman’s right to abortion.

They sought to make it harder for environmentalists to challenge the government in court. They intervened on the side of Operation Rescue to shield abortion protesters from being sued. And they joined Texas state lawyers in arguing that new evidence of a death row inmate’s “actual innocence” did not entitle him to reopen his case in federal court.

It’s doubtful that Roberts turned into a wild-eyed conservative between his time in the White House counsel’s office and his time working with Starr. The stories simply reflect radically different views of Roberts and his thinking.

By the way, Savage’s story appears to be an exercise in linking Roberts to Starr, whom Savage clearly believes is hugely unpopular due to his involvement in President Clinton’s impeachment. If you want a good drinking game, read the article and drink a beer every time Savage uses the words “Roberts” and “Starr” in the same sentence. If you count the headline, you’ll blow through a twelve-pack before you’re done.

Here’s another drinking game: read the L.A. Times every day and drink when you see an example of liberal bias.

Just kidding! I don’t recommend that! You’d be dead of alcohol poisoning within a week.

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