SATURDAY, MAY 7, 2022
Our blue tribe's fellow citizens: How did Samuel Alito get on the Supreme Court in the first place?
We mean that as a basic historical question, not as a denigration of Alito. In one major respect, the answer to that question is perfectly clear.
Samuel Alito got on the Court after he was nominated by President George W. Bush. In January 2006, the nomination was confirmed by the Senate in a 58-42 vote, with four Democrats voting for confirmation.
(The four Democrats were Robert Byrd, West Virginia; Ben Nelson, Nebraska; Kent Conrad, North Dakota; Tim Johnson, South Dakota. By now, it's virtually impossible for Democrats to win Senat seats in those states, Joe Manchin notwithstanding.)
In short, Alito got on the Court because George W. Bush reached the White House. In the end, the behaviors which put Bush in the White House are the behaviors which explain why Alito is on the Court.
In that sense, Lawrence O'Donnell's twenty-month silence—his twenty-month lack of rage—put Alito where he is. We especially recall his Hardball appearance of May 5, 2000, when he described the way the mainstream press—but especially the New York Times—had adjusted its behavior in the course of waging its war against Candidate Gore.
This past Thursday night, O'Donnell said he was "enraged" by Alito's draft opinion. Back in May 2000, he showed no sign of being enraged as he told Chris Matthews about the way the mainstream press, and the Times in particular, had begun to adjust its coverage of Candidate Gore.
The things he said to Matthews that night were unusually accurate and unusually revealing. But he showed no sign of being "enraged" by the journalistic conduct he was describing. He showed no sign of being disturbed by such absurd press behavior at all.
Alas! For twenty months during Campaign 2000, what happened in the mainstream press corps stayed in the mainstream press corps! One mainstream journalist after another professed bewilderment at the hostile coverage being directed at Gore, but no one seemed to be able to explain it.
In the instance under review, Gore was challenging Candidate Bush's new proposal to privatize part of Social Security. Astonishingly, Gore was instantly assailed, by cable pundits and by the New York Times itself, for daring to adopt such a nasty "scare tactic."
The criticisms of Gore made exactly zero sense. But they came hard and fast from the mainstream press, not from the right-wing machine.
Along came O'Donnell, a man of many subsequent enragements. As he spoke with Matthews that night, he showed no sign of being deeply concerned by the press corps' behavior at all.
It's hard to recreate the context of this remarkable press corps episode. For one account of O'Donnell's Hardball appearance, you can click here. For a real-time citation of O'Donnell's appearance, you can just click this.
(For a fuller account of the Times' reporting and the ancillary punditry, click here. O'Donnell described the start of this strange behavior, but he was moved to none of his trademark rage, not by that and not by all the rest of the ludicrous coverage of that fateful campaign.)
The mainstream press—and especially the New York Times—was waging a war against Gore. To this day, people like O'Donnell have never discussed this relentless press corps behavior, but Lawrence is eager to show his rage at the draft opinion from the Justice whose elevation to the Court he himself helped to create.
In that beginning was this end! It's easy to scream about Alito in the current context. But as we're directed to scream about the Alitos, the years of behavior by the O'Donnells remain undescribed and undiscussed, right to this very day—and their behavior during Campaign 2000 explains Alito's presence on the Court.
Time and energy willing, we may discuss this matter in more detail next week. Simply put, Alito sits on the Court today because of the raft of "liberal" pundits who refused to bark about the way Campaign 2000 was reported by the upper-end mainstream press corps.
In that beginning was this end. This does explain how we've reached this place—and your favorite TV stars are never going to tell you.
Many cultures, many views: We're a very large, continental nation—one which encompasses many different cultures and many different cultural views.
In this morning's New York Times, three reporters describe the views of Hispanic voters in Texas, and especially in South Texas, concerning abortion rights. We recommend the entire report, but we direct your attention to this passage:
DOBBINS ET AL (5/7/22): ...2018 data from the Public Religion Research Institute found that Hispanics in Texas are less likely than other Americans to say they believe abortion should be legal in all cases, with 53 percent saying it should be illegal in most or all cases. Gallup’s Values and Beliefs poll last year found that low-income voters are also more likely to identify themselves as “pro life,” a trend that has held steady for several years and could be a factor in Mr. Cuellar’s largely working-class district. But in a poll from the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin released last June, 54 percent of Hispanics said they were opposed to a ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Uh-oh! In that poll from the Texas Politics Project, 34 percent of Hispanic respondents said they would favor a ban on abortion if Roe was overturned! Simply put, not everyone who adopts this view is the snarling, "angry white male" our tribe's pundits love to focus their own anger on.
Those "pro life" Hispanic voters are our fellow citizens too. Their cultural views may differ from yours on the question of abortion rights.
Under present arrangements, we're encouraged to loathe such people. Is there a way to approach the world without indulging such ancient instincts?
(For extra credit only: Whatever happened to such soothing rhetoric as "safe, legal and rare?" Compare and contrast. Discuss. What is a winning strategy?)