Time whitewashed Progress for America; ignored Republican eagerness for Alito confirmation battle

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In an article for the November 14 edition of Time magazine, staff writer Daniel Eisenberg identified Progress for America (PFA) and People for the American Way (PFAW) as two "[a]ctivist groups" weighing in on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. But while Eisenberg described PFAW as a "liberal group," he identified Progress for America simply as an "organization," despite PFA's self-described intention to forward a "conservative legislative agenda" and its strong ties to the Bush administration.

Additionally, Eisenberg claimed that Democrats were disappointed with Alito's nomination because "Alito is far from the partisan flamethrower Democrats were itching to fight over" and went on to write that it will be "pretty hard" for Democrats to "demonize" Alito. Eisenberg, however, ignored the fact that conservatives and members of the Bush White House were reportedly eager to start a fight over the nomination as a way to rally support for the president.

In his article, Eisenberg wrote: "Soon after the choice of Alito was announced, the organization Progress for America launched a $425,000 one-week media campaign in support of the nominee. The liberal group People for the American Way is starting a slow rollout of its own spate of anti-Alito commercials, the fastest it has ever started a campaign after the selection of a new nominee." As Media Matters for America has noted, PFA is staunchly conservative, and many of its members have close connections to the Bush administration. The organization's self-described mission is to "advance a conservative legislative agenda to reform Social Security, confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, overhaul the tax code and end lawsuit abuse." Tony Feather, who founded PFA in 2001, was the political director of the 2000 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign. An August 25, 2002, Washington Post article called Feather "a close ally of [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove." A number of PFA's employees have connections to DCI Group, a "public and government affairs firm" that was linked to the dishonest smear campaign by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during the 2004 presidential race.

Eisenberg's assertion that Democrats were "itching" to fight Bush's Supreme Court nominee ignores remarks by Republicans and conservative activists indicating they eagerly anticipate a fight as a way of shoring up conservative support for Bush following the failed nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers and other recent problems. The November 14 edition of U.S. News & World Report quoted a "Bush aide" saying: "The fight over how conservative he [Alito] is is a fight we want to have." U.S. News went on to report that "some GOP strategists believe that a spirited debate over Alito's conservative credentials and past decisions on hot-button issues like abortion will sharply point up party differences -- and help in the 2006 election." According to a November 1 Washington Post article:

Republican Vin Weber, a former representative from Minnesota, said a major fight with Democrats was inevitable after the Miers withdrawal and that Bush was wise to find a nominee who would be received enthusiastically by party conservatives. In the long run, he predicted, the fight would help Republicans more than Democrats.

"The Democrats don't need rallying right now and the Republicans do," he said.

On October 31, former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote in his National Review Online "Diary": "There may be a fight over this nomination, but it is a fight that will unite conservatives in support of the president and his fine choice. And in the end, it is a fight that conservatives will win."

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