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August 26, 2005
What Day Will The Washington Post Announce Its Opposition?

The Washington Post resumes its double-barrelled shotgun approach to the nomination of John Roberts on page A02 of the paper today, running two reports critical of the Supreme Court nominee. The first, by Jim VandeHei, notes that the gay community has shrugged off the pro bono work done by Roberts to announce their opposition to his confirmation. The announcement comes with the hysteria thus far associated with almost all of the opposition to Roberts (emphases mine):

"For his entire adult life, John Roberts has been a disciple of and promoted a political and legal ideology that is antithetical to an America that embraces all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a statement. "I have no doubt he's an accomplished lawyer and an affable dinner companion, but that doesn't make him any less a mortal danger to equal rights for gay people, reproductive freedom and affirmative action."

Wow. I didn't realize that one could be an affable dinner companion while spending every moment of one's adult life as a mortal danger. No sooner than Foreman passed judgment on the entirety of Roberts' adult life than he backpedaled, giving Roberts credit for a few hours of adult life spent volunteering for the community for which he presents a mortal danger:

"We are mindful that Judge Roberts provided a few hours of pro bono help to the attorneys in Romer v. Evans -- a landmark case for our community," the organizations said. "Some have said that this work -- which consisted mostly of playing the role of a conservative justice -- demonstrates that Roberts is not personally anti-gay. This theory is not relevant to the important issue for our community: how Roberts would vote as a Supreme Court justice."

I agree with Foreman that this assistance to Romer did not add substantially to their effort and does not presage how he will vote on issues involving the gay agenda. However, his voluntary work to assist their preparation certainly demonstrates a lack of ill will towards their community and hardly paints a picture of the "mortal danger" over which Foreman hyperventilates. Frankly, I'm still not convinced that Roberts won't turn out to be so reliant on stare decisis that all of this wailing and gnashing of teeth will wind up being for nothing.

Despite the absolutely unsurprising development of gay-rights groups opposing Roberts, the Post puts this story on the second page. No one doubts that the announcement deserves a mention, but the prominence of its placement seems rather strange. At least VandeHei lets the story speak for itself without injecting his own analysis into its reporting. The same cannot be said for the companion report selected by the Post's editors to run on page A02 along with VandeHei's, this one from Jo Becker that slyly attempts to paint John Roberts as a Confederate-loving redneck based on a single literary reference:

A fastidious editor of other people's copy as well as his own, Roberts began with the words "Until about the time of the Civil War." Then, the Indiana native scratched out the words "Civil War" and replaced them with "War Between the States."

The handwritten document is one of tens of thousands of pages of Roberts files released over the past several weeks from his 1982-1986 tenure as an associate counsel to the president.

While it is true that the Civil War is also known as the War Between the States, the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the term is used mainly by southerners. Sam McSeveney, a history professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University who specialized in the Civil War, said that Roberts's choice of words was significant.

"Many people who are sympathetic to the Confederate position are more comfortable with the idea of a 'War Between the States,' " McSeveney explained. "People opposed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s would undoubtedly be more comfortable with the words he chose."

As a "fastidious editor", I often look for different phrasing and formulations to express myself and to avoid repetition in my writing. I use nicknames and synonyms to keep the prose interesting and also to familiarize myself and my audience to alternative terms. The phrase "The War Between The States" has never held any negative connotation in my experience. The phrase most often associated with Southern sympathies, again in my experience, has been "The War of Northern Aggression".

This piece reeks of bias. Becker and the Post want to paint Roberts as a racist without having the guts or the evidence to do so, and instead takes a single flourish of rhetoric -- out of 18,000 pages of documents! -- and instantly transforms him into a Confederate sympathizer. Becker's hit piece has absolutely no news value whatsoever, not only unqualified for page A02 of the Post but page ZZ100 of any local free weekly. If this demonstrates the editorial and reporting quality of the Washington Post, then the paper has hit harder times in the past month than anyone could have predicted.

White House spokesman Steve Schmidt responded to the Foreman announcement that liberal groups had long ago decided to oppose anyone that Bush nominated to the Supreme Court, and the only open question was the timing of the announcements. We wonder when the Post will start acting honestly and deliver their open announcement of opposition instead of issuing weak and despicable pieces like today's "news" from Jo Becker.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 26, 2005 6:18 AM

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