Last summer, following the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, I rejected conservatives' use of the term “bork” to describe the misrepresentation of a candidate or appointee in the media. I wrote that use of the right's favorite verb was ridiculous namely because the chief criticisms of Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork were legit. Further, I also presented a verb for use in place of the term:
To accept that definition is to assume that Bork was the victim of “misrepresentation in the media,” which by conservative standards means the media failed to buy their spin. To the right, facts, like the media, have an indisputable liberal bias.
So what then is it called when the right succeeds in spinning the conservative media, resulting in misleading and incomplete coverage of a judicial nominee?
Since her nomination, conservatives have pushed baseless and even false accusations against Sotomayor: namely that she's made racist statements, and that her decisions are outside the judicial mainstream.
It's clear the conservative press has little interest in ascertaining the veracity of right-wing smears against Sotomayor before advancing them.
Far from the fictional underpinnings of the verb “bork,” Judge Sotomayor has been the victim of journalistic malpractice. I guess you could say she's been “sotomayored.”
With news breaking today that Justice John Paul Stevens, who turns 90 in 11 days, will be retiring at the end of the High Court's current term, we're likely to see President Obama's nominee to fill the Stevens' seat greeted by the conservative media with the same level of hysterical misrepresentation and misinformation that it offered up when Sotomayor upon her nomination and confirmation.
According to the Associated Press, the current short-list for the post includes, “Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland, 57, in Washington and Diane Wood, 59, in Chicago.” In truth, to the right-wing noise machine it matters little who Obama ends up choosing. His next nominee will undoubtedly be “sotomayored” as well.
As Media Matters noted last May:
According to reports in The New York Times and Politico, conservatives and Republicans have said they intend to use the confirmation process to “help refill depleted coffers and galvanize a movement demoralized by Republican electoral defeats” ; “build the conservative movement” ; provide “a massive teaching moment for America” ; “prepare the great debate with a view toward Senate elections in 2010 and the presidency” ; and “hurt conservative Democrats” -- all motivations that have nothing to do with criteria senators should consider in exercising their constitutional responsibility to provide “advice and consent” on judicial nominations. Indeed, conservative activist and law professor Robert George reportedly acknowledged, “For [the conservative base], this is about the future of the Republican Party, not who is going to sit on the Supreme Court,” and another conservative activist, Manuel Miranda, reportedly said of the confirmation process: “It isn't just about the nominee.”
It's time for reporters covering this developing news and anyone who cares about the direction of the bench to get caught up to speed on the various myths and falsehoods surrounding the Supreme Court:
- MYTH: Liberals -- but not conservatives -- engage in “judicial activism”
- MYTH: Diversifying the court would be inconsistent with nominating justices based on merit
- MYTH: Obama suggested he will nominate someone who shows “empathy” rather than a commitment to the law
- MYTH: Obama said it was a “tragedy” that the Supreme Court had not pursued the “redistribution of wealth”
- MYTH: The GOP has taken a consistent position on the appropriateness of judicial filibusters
- MYTH: Dems attacked Alito's ethnicity, suggested he went easy on the mob
- MYTH: Dems invoked a “religious test” for Bush's nominees