It is a rare and wonderful day when the New York Times gets something right.
Today is not one of those days.
When it comes to partisan or ideological media (which may be a redundant phrase), the New York Times has no peer (I omit MSNBC which is not a news organization with propagandist tendencies, but a propaganda organization with news tendencies). New York’s news yuck not only dervishly spins news items to the left, but often misses obvious realities and non-subtle facts. The Old Gray Lady lapses into senile dementia more often than articulating lucid thoughts.
In this week of Supreme Court pronouncements, the NYT’s recent survey of public sentiment and exposé of the court exposes some of the Times’ anti-intellectual analysis.
Assuming all the original beads remain on NYT abaci and that their survey tallies hold true, the Times notes a slide in public’s perception of the Supremes – that their approval rating has plummeted from 66% in the late 1980s to a mere 44% today (let’s ignore that this level is a higher approval rating than congress can hope to achieve before the second coming or that Obama can achieve before his non-existent second term). The Times asserts that plunging approval is a reflection of “Americans’ growing distrust in recent years of major institutions in general and the government in particular.”
The NYT’s diagnosis is akin to a doctor prescribing aspirin to treat pain arising from metastasized cancer. Both quacks view the symptom and not the underlying cause. In the 1980s public political awareness was as top-down as Soviet economic planning, and about as accurate. Being part of the now crippled Forth Estate, the Times is unwilling to admit their altered reality, that the media landscape changed with knowledge and perspective expanding beyond their control. Starting with talk radio and followed by the citizens’ media, growth in the distrust of government parallels the shrinkage of the Times’ journalistic tallywhacker. Growing distrust of the Supremes is merely a manifestation of a people who get their data, analysis and perspective from many sources instead of the incestuous news business.
Pluralism is a bitch, isn’t Ms. Abramson?
Digging themselves deeper, the Times then espouses “after the ideologically divided 5-to-4 decisions in Bush v. Gore, which determined the 2000 presidential election.” This equine flogging episode, lingering in the alleged minds of lefties everywhere, nears the pale if not actually leaping it with room to spare. The two core issues in the cited case – equal protection and mandated vote certification dates – were purely mechanical with no ideology involved. For the Times to perceive this decision as partisan shows a lack of basic con law capacity on the part of their “reporters.” Perhaps it is election year fire fanning on their part, but the Times’ statement falls on its own.
Following these two extensive errors, the Times then swerves off the road of knowledge by noting “the public is skeptical about life tenure for the justices.” I have to give them a pass on this one because it is common and wholly false that Supreme Court justices serve for life (though in practical terms it may be true). Perhaps the Times’ research department, which evidentially consists of a librarian and frequently stoned intern, couldn’t remain consciousness long enough to actually read the Constitution’s opening paragraph concerning the courts (Article III for those of you not working for the Times). “The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior.” This passage was a device for removing any judge under rather hazy guidelines, which we use when politically viable (though impeachment them occasionally causes ex-judges to be elected). This clause specifically notes that any of the Supremes can be hoisted out of office using the same system in which lower court judges are occasionally excommunicated.
That these facts elude Times reporters is unremarkable.
Perhaps the largest error the Times makes – the same one that the American political left is making in this election – is focusing on the presidential race. The Tea Party has its sights set on a more interesting game, and one that has longer lasting effects than who is the nation’s CEO. If successful, the Tea Party will reset the political landscape for a good eighteen years or more, constitutionally hobbling future administrations and resurrecting the odd notion that the Supreme Court must enforce the express written will of the American people.
No doubt the New York Times will misreport this after November 6th.