Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NYT: Todd S. Purdum "cupping" the story

His face never scowled. His level tone seldom varied. He answered questions he found useful to his cause and avoided those he did not. Above all, Judge John G. Roberts Jr. explained his views and defended his honor with the force and fluidity of an advocate who has argued often before tougher judges than those he faced on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The above is from Todd S. Purdum's "With Goal Clear, Nominee Is Profile in Caution" in this morning's New York Times. What can you say in response to that other than, "For the love of God, please wash that sweaty jock before the fumes do permanent damage!" (Perhaps it's too late? Or, to be Purdum about it, "Perhaps.")

We'll leave aside that Purdum's describing a wax work with a robotic speaking device and instead zero on "explained his views . . . with the force and fludity . . ." Purdum's been hanging in the D.C. circles too long if he thinks any explanation was offered. How many times did Roberts (wrongly) hide behind Ruth Bader Ginsburg's skirt?

Purdum neglects to tell you, but he does offer this:

He listened. He smiled. He nodded.

Purdum half-listened. He smiled. He jotted. All the while wondering why those around kept hissing, "What's that smell!"

From the pen and jock fumes of Purdum:

At one point, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, repeatedly interrupted Judge Roberts's explanation of a 20-year-old civil rights case, complaining, "His answers are misleading."
The committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, drew laughter when he declared: "Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. They may be misleading, but they are his answers."

This isn't a "news analysis," thankfully. (Purdum must have just been wearing a musty jock strap and not a true atheletic cup.) If it were, it might have to consider how "amusing" that exchange was. (Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Adam Liptak, in a slap to Purdum?, exclude it from their "light moments" in today's "Roberts Fields Questions on Privacy and Precedents." Apparently, they weren't downwind of Purdum.) It's snorts & giggles for those suffering too long from insider access. It's not all that funny considering the topic being addressed. (Purdum also seems to lack a grasp of, or be aware of, cases such as Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc., Webster, et al. He's not the only one failing to grasp, or at least comment on, the actual post Roe v. Wade history but since he feels the need to weigh in, it should be noted that he, like many others, seems aware only of Roe and Casey.)

Purdum's cover his own ass by including the following:

At other moments, he seemed pained to have to rebut charges that he was insensitive to women. He assured Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, that his long-ago question about "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good" was a joke about lawyers, not wives.
"That's a common joke that goes back to Shakespeare," Judge Roberts said, his face lightly flushed. "It has nothing to do with homemakers. The notion that that was my view is totally inconsistent and rebutted by my life. I married a lawyer. I was raised with three sisters who work outside the home. I have a daughter for whom I will insist at every turn that she has equal citizenship rights with her brother."

For those with shorter memories, Purdum wrote of that "joke" before. The notion that it is speaking to lawyers and not women is put to question by his other "jokes" about women. But maybe, for instance, one was just a "common joke that goes back to Shakespeare" as well. After all, one of the most notorious scenes from Shakespeare is the balconey scene from Romeo & Juliet where Romeo states that "A rose by any other name . . ." and Juliet responds with a cutting critique of Marx.

But then you don't own (and enjoy) the stink of your own jock by taking on "pesky" issues like "the women's problem" apparently.

In short, he was Delphic, and his supporters and critics each ended the day saying his performance had hardened their enthusiasm or their doubts.

He was "Delphic." (Used to mean "ambiguous.") That's in Purdum's concluding paragraph. But in his opening, Purdum tells us Roberts "explained his views." Which was it? The fumes have gotten to Purdum. Apparently his mother never told him not to reach down there in public but we'll suggest that he at least stop sniffing his fingers after -- it's really effecting the writing.

Fortunately, some of the things Purdum neglets to tell you (as Shirley points out), Christine does in "Roberts' 'Acerbic Pen' Explained During Hearings" (Ms. Musing):

Roberts' defense was predictable. Yet as Dahlia Lithwick pointed out last month, "Roberts honestly seemed to think that humor or disdain were the only appropriate ways to think about gender. [...] The record seems to make it quite clear that Roberts -- with his "perceived/purported/alleged" discrimination trope -- simply didn't believe that gender problems were worthy of his serious consideration or scrutiny."
As for the report by the National Association of Women Lawyers, Roberts is correct about the compliments, but
take a look at what else the Association's Committee for the Evaluation of Supreme Court nominees had to say:
The available record raises questions about Judge Roberts's view of the role of federal courts in ensuring equality of treatment for women and protecting women's rights. As a lawyer and judge, based on interviews the Committee conducted, Judge Roberts has treated individual women lawyers fairly and with respect [...]
The Committee's review of Judge Roberts's writings and public statements, however, has raised concerns about the impact of Judge Roberts's judicial philosophy in three broad areas essential to women's rights: (1) the use of state and federal power, (2) laws that have a substantial impact on women, and (3) federal laws intended to protect against discrimination based on sex.
The NAWL Committee
submitted recommended questions to the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking more information about Roberts' judicial philosophy and approaches to women's rights. It must have been frustrating to hear Roberts selectively quoting their remarks without providing much by way of answers.

Rod e-mails to note what's coming up on Democracy Now!:

Wed, September 14: Coverage of Day 2 of the confirmation hearing of John Roberts to be the nation's 17th supreme court justice.

Ruth asks that we remind everyone that the Roberts' hearings are being covered live on Pacifica. From Pacifica:

The Pacifica Radio Network is Bringing You The John Roberts Senate Hearing for Nomination to The United States Supreme Court Live! [listen here]
WBAI's Deepa Fernandes teams with Mitch Jeserich from Free Speech Radio News and Pacifica National Affairs correspondent, Larry Bensky, to bring you the controversial nomination Hearing of John Roberts for United States Supreme Court, Live. Each day will include commentary and analysis from guest experts.
We'll find out why environmental groups,
women's reproductive rights organizations and human rights communities along with others (see, including former President Bill Clinton, Senator Patrick Leahy, and many more people, are concerned about this nomination and what it means for the future of our nation.

Ruth's been very impressed with the coverage (I have as well) and notes that they stayed with the hearings well into prime time last night, while some (of the few) covering it, cut away long before it was over. She also says she hopes Deepa's able to find time for a critique that was planned before they learned that thirty minutes was being lopped off the schedule for today. (It's a feminist critique, Ruth reports, and I'd like to hear that as well.)

If you're fortunate enough to listen over the airwaves (via one of the five Pacfica stations or an affiliate), please do. If you're not, please consider listening online at either at the main Pacifica web site or at one of the five stations:

KPFA (94.1 FM in Berkeley)
listen to KPFA online or visit
KPFK (90.7 FM in Los Angeles)

listen to KPFK online or visit
KPFT (90.1 FM in Houston)

listen to KPFT online or visit
WBAI (99.5 FM in New York)

listen to WBAI online or visit
WPFW (89.3 FM in Washington DC)

listen to WPFW online or visit

(Or via one of their Affiliate Stations.)

Last night, Ava and I promised Gina & Krista we'd repost our review here since ABC News is altering the public record, so here's "TV Review: Barbara and Colin remake The Way We Were"
(The Third Estate Sunday Review):

Remakes usually suck. That's a lesson ABC's 20/20 learned Friday when they starred Barbara Walters and Colin Powell in a remake of The Way We Were.
Walters lacks the star power of Barbra Streisand. So Katie's passion has been tempered (we're being polite). At the crux of the film were the questions of what is truth, what is right? They carry that over from Arthur Laurents' screenplay. But Walters lacks the dedication to convincingly play someone determined in pursuit of truth -- which appears to result in the character Katie, more or less, being written out of her own film. Call this remake The Way It Was.
Powell, like Robert Redford, is shown early on military drag. He models well, he just lacks Redford's ability to convincingly play a man torn between doing what others want and what he knows is right. They did keep the plot point of Hubbell's betrayal. Probably had to because without the testimony that destroys Hubbell, you have no story.
They've updated the testimony. Instead of naming names during the McCarthy period, Powell lies to the United Nations and the world. What they miss is the heart breaking scene when Streisand explains to Redford that people are their beliefs. Probably too much a laugh getter if it came out of Walters' mouth. But if they were worried about unintended laughs, someone should have spoken to Walters about the three strands of red, worry beads she's wearing.
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"
Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.
Walters: How painful is it?
Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.
Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?
Possibly. Such as when Powell informs Walters that the fault lies with the intelligence community -- with those who knew but didn't come forward. Unfortunately for Powell, FAIR's Steven R. Weisman (in "Powell Calls His U.N. Speech a Lasting Blot on His Record ") steered everyone to a Los Angels Times' article from July 15, 2004 which reported:
Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.
Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts.
Well movies always rewrite some details to make the characters more sympathetic and, presumably, that happened in this remake as well.
Having dismissed the need for facts, the "reluctant warrior" Powell now wants to weigh in on the invasion/occupation. Powell explains that we can't "cut and run" with regards to Iraq. We have to stay. He offers that "I'm not a quitter" himself -- amidst his stay the course nonsense. All this from the former Secretrary of State.
If it's so damn important that we "accomplish" over there, that we "stay the course," are the words really convincing coming out the mouth of the cut and run Secretary of State? Seems to us if you believe in this war as much as you say you do, and believe in staying the course, you . . . stay the course in your job. Powell didn't. There are the Rules for Powell and there are the rules for the rest of us.
Take Cindy Sheehan. She's a grieving parent and he feels sorry for her. Walters actually wakes up for this moment. And, in one of the few times prior to Powell's wife being brought on, she actually looks him in the eye while delivering her line.
Walters: But if you feel the war is just -- that's a different feeling than if you feel the war is is not.
Powell: Well, of course, for the person that is effected, it is. If they don't feel the war is just, they will always feel it as a deep personal loss.
Unlike Powell, we'd argue that regardless of beliefs on this war, the loss is a "deep, personal loss" for most, possibly all, who've lost family members. Maybe if he sent fat-boy Michael over there, he could find out for himself what it feels like? Till then, by his remarks, he's not anyone effected. How nice that must be.
But is the war just?
It's not a moral issue for Powell. He's already informed Walters of that. He lied. Well if he had to lie, forget the pre-emptive war debate for a moment, if he had to lie, what does that say about the war? Seems to us that a just war wouldn't be a war that required you pulling one over on the public to get support for.
It wasn't a moral issue, Powell states, going to war. Then what does it matter that he lied?
If it's not a moral issue, then what does it matter?
Powell's mea culpa is not only unconvincing, it's illogical. He's glad Saddam Hussein's gone. So why's he concerned with his "blot?" He's completely unconcerned that we're in a war that's based on lies. "I'm glad" he says. Sure he admits that he lied (by proxy -- it's others faults, you understand, nameless people in the intel community), but there's no moral concern. He's only worried about the slug line that now accompanies his name. The "blot." The tag 'liar, liar.'
Colin Powell lied to the United Nations. Not by proxy, he lied. His testimony. A testimony he made the decision to give. Despite objections from people in the department he headed. His accountability pose is hollow and unconvincing. Shrugs? "What are you going to do?" shrugs? That and the shiftiness during the exchange (he can't sit still during the exchange) back up his words. This isn't any big deal to him, that he lied and we went to war. He's just concerned that he's a known liar. For the rest of his life.
This is how he wants to be remembered:
"A good public servant somebody who truly believes in his country. . . . Somebody who cared, somebody who served."
Yeah well, Nixon wanted to be remembered a certain way as well. Liar's the way many remember him now. Liar's the way many will remember Colin Powell. Belief in your country doesn't allow you to lie to your country. Belief in your Bully Boy does. That's something this adminstration fails to grasp. They all think they're working for the Bully Boy. Powell makes statements to that effect. He's full of many things including his "service" to the Bully Boy.The administration is supposed to be working for the country. Presidents come and go. The nation is what is supposed to matter. Belief in your country would mean you tell the peoplethe truth.
Somebody who served?
He didn't serve the country. He betrayed it. He didn't live up to his office. He didn't live up to the public trust. He didn't live up to the principles of democracy. He lied. He lied. He lied.
We won't put the glossy spin on it that Walters did. We're not looking at Powell through the blind eyes of love.
As the film, er news segment, winds down, the makers decide to go another way. In the original The Way We Were, the child of Katie & Hubbell is seen only fleetingly. In the remake, she actually has lines. As military and infotainment merge, their by-product, the remake tell us, is Elizabeth Vargas. Child Vargas is left to make one of those uncomfortable points that children always make, "Colin Powell doesn't seem to be haunted by this blot on his career." Walters all but brushes a lock from Powell's forehead as she attempts to make Vargas see father Powell in a more flattering, and far less realistic, light:
Well, you know, he is a, he is a fine soldier, he has a fine family, he has respect, and this is a man who never wanted the Glory Road.
The music fails to swell. Possibly because Walters is no singer and they rightly spare us her rendition of "The Way We Were." With apologies to Alan and Marilyn Bergman, we'll post the lyrics to the song Walters obviously wanted to sing:

In the place of real reporting.
Mushy soft focus moments
Not The Way It Was.

Unasked questions
Of the facts that are well known.
Facts that never will be buried
Of The Way It Was.

Can it be that spin can triumph fact
If we carefully rewrite each line.
If he had the choice to do it all again
He would -- he could.

May be full of lies and yet
If we push hard enough
Others will simply forget.

So it's the spin
We will hold onto
Whenever we discuss
The Way It Was.
The Way It Was.

Remember to check your inboxes for the latest gina & krista round-robin. Gina and Kirsta will be doing a daily, mini-version (they call it "mini," I don't) for each day of the hearing. Discussing the hearings tonight (and published in their round-robin tomorrow morning) will be
Elaine, Ruth, Rebecca, Keesha, Beth, Mike, Jess and Kat. Fingers crossed, Betty as well.
Gina and Krista will continue to moderate. (Ava and I will participate every day they're doing the mini-round robin. And any other time they ask.) Last night, in a joint entry, Ava and I noted the great work (and hard work) that Gina and Krista are doing and we'll note it again now.

The e-mail address for this site is rel="tag">Todd Purdum rel="tag">The Common Ills
Note: Typos corrected by Ava.