Sotomayor Flashback #2 of 3: On 2nd Night, CBS Decided Sotomayor No Liberal: 'Can't Be Easily Defined by Political Labels'
Re-posted from Wednesday
night, May 27, 2009:
A baffled CBS. The CBS Evening News, which in 2005 had no doubt about how John Roberts and Samuel Alito were dangerous conservatives, expressed bewilderment Wednesday evening over where Obama's Supreme Court nominee stands. "Pundits usually label judges as either liberal or conservative, but that won't be easy with Judge Sotomayor," Katie Couric propounded in setting up a piece from Wyatt Andrews, who concluded:
President Obama, then, has found a judge with 17 years experience but no clear ideology on discrimination, gay rights, or abortion and who can't be easily defined by political labels.
At least not by the
CBS newscast, which back in 2005 asserted Roberts would move "the court
further to the right" and fretted over the Alito pick "tilting the
Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction for years to come."
Audio: MP3 clip (50 secs)
Andrews began by conveying liberal concerns:
"Sonia Sotomayor has been a very unpredictable judge. For example, pro-abortion
rights groups worried aloud today that the President - who
promised an abortion rights nominee - never asked Sotomayor, who is
Catholic, where she stands." Following two soundbites from the
President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Andrews framed the
debate through a left-wing rhetorical prism as he noted conservatives
"worry...she will always favor minorities" while liberals say
"she will be a liberal, using the law to help real people." He then
relayed how Tom Goldstein, "who runs a neutral Supreme
Court blog, says they are all wrong."
A story on the NBC Nightly News also approached Sotomayor from the left, the very far-left as Pete Williams conveyed the worry of a group on the extreme left: "Though her nomination has widespread support among liberal legal scholars, some say it's not yet clear that she's prepared to take on the court's most conservative justices." Viewers then heard from National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn: "I would like to see a very strong liberal voice to counteract Scalia and Roberts, and I hope that she does become that strong liberal voice."
More on the CBS Evening News in 2005: John Roberts, as anchor, wanted to know of his namesake: "Has President Bush attempted to move the court further to the right with this pick?"
A few months later when Bush selected Alito, CBS reporter John Roberts (now with CNN) filed a story on the newscast, anchored by Bob Schieffer, in which he ominously warned: "If confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction for years to come."
From the Wednesday, May 27 CBS Evening News, following a story on "proud" Hispanics and how the selection has put Republicans in a bind:
KATIE COURIC: Now pundits usually label judges as either liberal or conservative, but that won't be easy with Judge Sotomayor. Wyatt Andrews takes a closer look at her paper trail.
WYATT ANDREWS: Behind the applause for her personal achievements, it turns out Sonia Sotomayor has been a very unpredictable judge. For example, pro-abortion rights groups worried aloud today that the President- who promised an abortion rights nominee - never asked Sotomayor, who is Catholic, where she stands.
NANCY NORTHRUP, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: We simply don't know Judge Sotomayor's view on the bedrock constitutional case of Roe versus Wade.
ANDREWS: At the Center for Reproductive Rights, the judge is widely presumed to favor abortion rights. But in 2002, she allowed the Bush administration to block federal funds for abortions overseas. "The the government," she wrote, "is free to favor the anti-abortion position."
NORTHRUP: We were sorry that we lost it, but Judge Sotomayor felt that she was tied in by precedent.
ANDREWS: There is a race going on now in Washington to slap some political label on the judge. Conservative groups worry that the judge's own words - "that a wise Latina woman" can "reach a better conclusion than a white male" - proved she will always favor minorities.
TV AD: Equal justice under law, or under attack?
ANDREWS: But liberal groups are pushing her personal story-
AUDIO OF BARACK OBAMA IN A TV AD: I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law.
ANDREWS: -to suggest that she will be a liberal, using the law to help real people. Tom Goldstein, who runs a neutral Supreme Court blog, says they are all wrong.
TOM GOLDSTEIN, SCOTUSBLOG.COM: Her rulings don't just run down the left side of the aisle.
ANDREWS: Goldstein, who has studied all 400 of Sotomayor's opinions, says she leans liberal but has often ruled against minorities and for employers in cases of discrimination.
GOLDSTEIN: So there's a real air of mystery about some of the big hot-button social issues we all care about.
ANDREWS: President Obama, then, has found a judge with 17 years experience but no clear ideology on discrimination, gay rights, or abortion and who can't be easily defined by political labels. Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, at the Supreme Court.
- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.