Supreme Court Fight

Now that there’s going to be an opening on the Supreme Court – and the inevitable political fight over a new nominee – it’s sad to think how much time is going to be wasted on labels and spin instead of thoughtful discussion. Every time this happens (and I covered a few nomination fights including those over Souter and Thomas), news media take the easy way out and do endless stories about whether Senator So-and-so was right when he said the nominee is too much of an “activist” (code word for liberal) and in danger of “legislating from the bench” (code words for voting liberal). It is much easier to write stories giving the back and forth of politicians’ statements than it is to write about who the nominee really is and how difficult it is to know what this nominee will really mean for the new Supreme Court. The truth is that it’s hard to tell how a future Justice will vote. Souter was picked by Bush 41 as a supposed “conservative” who could provide the pivotal fifth vote to overturn Roe, but then he voted to reaffirm Roe. In my experience as a CNN Supreme Court correspondent, editors and producers seem to have little interest in the Supreme Court until there is a replacement or an abortion case, and this does a disservice to the public. Because news media lack much interest in the Supreme Court except when it’s making big headlines, the public is almost totally ignorant of what really happens at the Court. One opinion poll showed that more people could name the Three Stooges than any member of the Court.

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