A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
Sometimes it’s tough to be a news junkie. This week has been one of those times.
Because I could care less about Jon and Kate and their progeny, I’m stuck absorbing every nuance and insignificant detail of the life and times of Supreme Court nominee and Federal Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Now I know which parts of the pig she considers most tasty. Thank you, New York Daily News.
Not that I’m trying to elicit empathy or anything. It appears that word is politically off limits for the time being. Thank you, New York Times.
Speaking of the gray lady, The New York Times has a whole topics page devoted to Sotomayor’s confirmation battle. Yes, it’s a battle, and it’s so totally dramatic. If you actually read the print version of the NYT, this should come as no surprise. Earlier this week, there was at least one day where I counted five straight pages devoted exclusively to Sotomayor coverage.
What did surprise me about The New York Times’ Sotomayor coverage was their front page story today headlined “Nominee’s Links With Advocates Fuel Her Critics.” It should have been headlined, “New York Times Article Fuels Right Wing Groups’ Fundraising Efforts.” The story seemed to be about a Republican furor over Sotomayor’s previous work on the board of a Puerto Rican legal defense fund. But there were no “fueled critics” in the article. In fact, the writers all but recommend that the right wing use their article as a talking point (emphasis mine):
Ms. Sotomayor’s involvement with the defense fund has so far received scant attention. But her critics, including some Republican senators who will vote on her nomination, have questioned whether she has let her ethnicity, life experiences and public advocacy creep into her decisions as a judge. It seems inevitable, then, that her tenure with the defense fund will be scrutinized during her confirmation hearings.
What is going on here? Is The New York Times in league with conservative think tanks such as the Judicial Confirmation Network?
No, but rest assured that the right wing and the corporatist media are scratching each others’ backs by perpetuating the Sotomayor story. The media needs a juicy political story while Congress is in recess, and right-wing organizations need money. The answer to both these needs (for now, at least) is Sotomayor. The right wingers appear in articles at a time when lawmakers are being tight-lipped in advance of very public hearings. The media quotes them, and this moves some readers to visit the organizations’ Web sites and sign their petitions, driving dollars and exposure.
That’s not to say the media and advocacy groups are playing exclusively separated roles in their symbiotic relationship perpetuating the Sotomayor story either. David Sarasohn, associate editor at the Oregonian wrote yesterday about the intersection of conservative media and right-wing organizations:
For radio talkers, for organizers of conservative advocacy groups, for people cultivating their right-wing mailing lists, Barack Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is already a boom… Meanwhile, operators of conservative lobbying groups hear the ka-ching of cash registers.
The proof that this is about the conservative movement and not Sotomayor is that the campaign started before she was even nominated. From an article in the National Journal:
An aggressive fundraising group that targeted moderate GOP lawmakers earlier this year has issued a stern warning to Senate Republicans who might vote for President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
In a letter sent Wednesday, the National Republican Trust PAC cautioned the senators they may become targets of the group’s advertising campaigns if they fail to “stay true to your Republican conservative values and beliefs as you anticipate potential nominees put before you by this Administration.” …
Scott Wheeler, the PAC’s executive director, said he is prepared to unleash the same resources on Republicans who do not oppose Obama’s as-yet-unnamed court pick.
And where do you think they’ll be going to replenish said resources? That’s right; from the conservatives being whipped up into a frenzy by alarmist media coverage. From a Congressional Quarterly article (also published before Sotomayor was nominated) headlined, “Supreme Court Vacancy Means Cash for Conservative Interest Groups,” emphasis mine:
“This is a nuclear weapon for the conservatives out there,” said Dan Morgan, a veteran conservative fundraiser who founded Morgan, Meredith and Associates. “When you do fundraising, there’s an emotional component in this and boy the emotion is there magnified times 100.”
Abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, school prayer and property rights all converge at the justices’ white marble den across from the U.S. Capitol. That should all add up to a lot of money for conservatives who fear that “activist” jurists will liberalize America’s laws — even if the liberal-conservative balance on the court isn’t likely to shift — according to fundraising experts.
“Although Souter may be a more difficult case to make as his voting record is center-left, it does open the door for discussion of who, and how left a replacement, President Obama may choose,” said Linus Catignani, a partner at LCM Strategies who raised money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. “It also gives clarity to the power of the presidency and generates lots of chatter regarding the fact that Obama may make up to four replacements in short order. That obviously paints a very scary picture for many conservatives.”
Think Progress notes that many senators have indicated they may not have the reason or political will to actually block Sotomayor’s nomination, even with pressure from right-wing groups.
The beautiful thing about it (for conservatives) is they don’t have to. Since the GOP is in the minority, Republicans can decide not to even raise the specter of a filibuster, but still vote against Sotomayor’s confirmation for the record. Therefore, Republican lawmakers can’t be criticized from the left/center as silly obstructionists, but they also can’t be attacked by the far right for being liberal baby-killers. Furthermore, the conservative groups who are “threatening” lawmakers now don’t have to waste their money going after their friends for being pragmatic.
Which means everybody wins! Arianna Huffington GETS TO USE HER WELL-WORN CAPS LOCK AGAIN. Rush gets a ratings boost and Newt gets more Twitter followers. Michael Steele gets to play his new favorite role of the reasonable guy. The Judicial Confirmation Network, the Committee for Justice, the American Center for Law and Justice and the Ethics and Public Policy Center will expand their media platforms and coffers in order to wage a real battle in the next Supreme Court fight, which may actually end up affecting the ideological balance of the court. Same goes for anti-abortion groups and other conservative bellwethers. And the mainstream media has an assignment so easy they can literally call it in; the controversy comes pre-packaged!
Everybody’s happy but me, that is. Excuse me while I search the BBC’s Web site for “empathy.”
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS