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CyberAlert -- 07/02/2002 -- "Lot of Merit" to Pledge Ruling

"Lot of Merit" to Pledge Ruling; 9th Only "Relatively Liberal"; "Judges United by Dedication to the Constitution"; 50 Percent Chinese Tax Rate "Only Fair"

1) "There was actually a lot of doctrinal merit in what the majority said," New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse declared Friday night on PBS of the anti-Pledge of Allegiance ruling. Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr argued on CNN that "you could say the judge was right in the very strictest sense of the Constitution." USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro rejoiced: "Doesn't it make you proud to pledge allegiance to a nation in which unpopular minorities like atheists can have their day in court?"

2) USA Today's court labeling. The U.S. Supreme Court is "conservative" while the often-reversed 9th Circuit Court is only "relatively liberal." And, in a review of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's 30 years on the Supreme Court, Joan Biskupic couldn't decided whether Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is "moderate" or "conservative."

3) A local headline over a Los Angeles Times puff piece on the two judges who ruled the Pledge of Allegiance's "under God" portion to be unconstitutional and a third federal judge in California who ruled that the government is not giving due process to groups it has classified as terrorist: "Judges United by Dedication to the Constitution." The subhead: "All Three Value Individual Rights."

4) Since the Chinese government "had taken care of" basketball player Yao Ming "from childhood," CNN reporter Jaime Florcruz contended from Beijing, "it's only fair that he gives back to the state" by paying a 50 percent tax rate.

5) As read by ten Airmen from Holloman Air Force Base, Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons I Joined the Air Force."


1

Not everyone was aghast at the 9th Circuit Court ruling last week that the "under God" portion of the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. Naturally, those not dismayed are members of the Washington press corps.

"There was actually a lot of doctrinal merit in what the majority said," New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse declared Friday night on PBS's Washington Week. The next morning, on CNN's Saturday Edition, CNN Pentagon reporter Barbra Starr argued that "in a strict sense you could say the judge was right in the very strictest sense of the Constitution." Starr worried that the public did not respect the court: "The question in my mind is then, does this mean if the American public has no appetite for it, then it is not the law?"

Meanwhile, in Friday's USA Today, its only news section columnist, Walter Shapiro, celebrated the ruling: "Doesn't it make you proud to pledge allegiance to a nation in which unpopular minorities like atheists can have their day in court?" In his June 28 "Hype & Glory" column, Shapiro, a former Carter administration official, proposed mid-way through his piece about adverse reaction to the ruling:
"OK, most of you probably still think this was a ludicrous decision. But maybe you can accept the notion that there is something admirable about an independent judiciary that lets judges interpret the law heedless of the political consequences. It is virtually certain this decision will be reversed. (Indeed, Goodwin put his ruling on indefinite hold Thursday.) But doesn't it make you proud to pledge allegiance to a nation in which unpopular minorities like atheists can have their day in court?"

Not really. More like embarrassed that such judges could hold such important positions.

For Shapiro's column in full: http://usatoday.com/usatonline/20020628/4234026s.htm

On the June 28 Washington Week on PBS, in a quote tracked down for me by the MRC's Jessica Anderson and/or others working at the MRC this week, New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse stood up for the constitutional appropriateness of the opinion:
"As to what the opinion was about, I may be the only person in the country that kind of sees both sides of this. I mean, I think, you know, if you're going to join that issue, there was actually a lot of doctrinal merit on what the majority said. It's an issue that you have to scratch your head and say, 'OK, was it necessary to join the issue?' And that's what I'm not too sure."

The next morning, on CNN's Saturday Edition, CNN Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr fretted about how public revulsion for the ruling may overrule reason. She argued, as listed on the CNN transcripts page for the weekly show in which women reporters sit around talking about the issues of the day:
"What's going on here this week is it an issue of political emotion again. Whether the judge was right or wrong -- perhaps in a strict sense you could say the judge was right in the very strictest sense of the Constitution. But clearly, what seems to be happening is there's no appetite for this in the American public, with the American public right now. And the question in my mind is then, does this mean if the American public has no appetite for it, then it is not the law?"

Starr soon added: "And I think what we should remember is that it's half a century old, but it was put into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 at the height of the Cold War to challenge the, quote, 'Godless communists.' So it was actually put into the Pledge of Allegiance as a point of political emotion."
Suzanne Malveaux contributed from the White House: "By the U.S. Congress."
Starr: "Exactly."
Kelli Arena: "But that was the time, that was the time then to raise the issue. You want to bring it to court, bring it to court in the 1950s. This is-"
Starr: "Except, Kelli, the-"
Arena: "-half a century later."
Starr: "-American society was not quite as religiously and politically diverse as it is in the United States today, a half a century later. There is great religious diversity in this country. And there may be people that have quite a different view than the U.S. Congress."

But a lot more with a view quite a bit different than espoused by Starr.

2

USA Today's court labeling. The U.S. Supreme Court is "conservative" while the often-reversed 9th Circuit Court is only "relatively liberal." And, in a review on Friday of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's 30 years on the Supreme Court, Joan Biskupic couldn't decided whether Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is "moderate" or "conservative."

Biskupic noted that during the just-ending term, the "middle-ground coalition, usually led by Sandra Day O'Connor, carried the day." But twice later in the piece Biskupic tagged O'Connor as "conservative."

-- The conclusion to a front page story in the June 27 USA Today by Martin Kasindorf, on the court ruling that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional:
"Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe predicted that the conservative Supreme Court will reverse the relatively liberal 9th Circuit court."

-- The fifth paragraph of Joan Biskupic's June 28 USA Today story headlined, "After 30 Years, Chief Sees a Court More Like Him":
"Rehnquist dissented in some key cases in which the court's middle-ground coalition, usually led by Sandra Day O'Connor, carried the day."

But 11 paragraphs later, Biskupic wrote: "...the court's decision in the case of a Virginia murderer who claimed that he had received inadequate counsel because his lawyer previously represented the murder victim. The conservative justices -- Rehnquist, O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas -- formed the majority that said such a conflict of interest is permissible as long as there is no evidence that it harmed the lawyer's representation."

And six paragraphs after that: "Fourteen years later, President Reagan promoted him to chief justice, and Rehnquist became only the third sitting associate justice in U.S. history to be elevated to the center chair. At the time, Reagan was stocking the court with other conservatives, beginning with O'Connor in 1981."

For the entirety of Biskupic's article: http://usatoday.com/usatonline/20020628/4233976s.htm

1981 was about the last year anyone had any excuse to confuse O'Connor with a conservative.

3

Taking the bias and making it so much more. Saturday's Los Angeles Times featured a puff piece on the two judges who ruled the Pledge of Allegiance's "under God" portion to be unconstitutional and a third federal judge in California who ruled that the government is not giving due process to groups it has classified as terrorist.

The headline over the June 29 story: "3 Federal Judges in California Swim Against a Fervent National Tide." The subhead: "Jurists in controversial Pledge of Allegiance and terror group rulings have long been fierce champions of the rights of individuals."

But demonstrating how local newspaper editors around the nation are sometimes even more liberal than those at the big national dailies, by the time that story ran the next day in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor the June 30 headline proclaimed: "Judges United by Dedication to the Constitution." The subhead: "All Three Value Individual Rights."

An excerpt from the top of the story by Los Angeles Times reporters Maura Dolan and David Rosenzweig:

One is a moderate Republican appointed to the bench by President Nixon. Another is a liberal Democrat married to the director of the Southern California chapter of the ACLU. The third, who spent part of his youth in a World War II internment camp, is a Democrat who was appointed by a Republican. The three California-based federal judges are from disparate backgrounds, but all defied the national mood of patriotism and security fears in the past week with controversial rulings on the Pledge of Allegiance and terrorism. All three time and again have taken strong stands protecting individual rights over the objections of government -- and indeed, the majority of individuals.

Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, a moderate Republican, and Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt, a liberal Democrat, joined together on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday in a wildly unpopular ruling that declared the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Constitution because it contains the words "under God."

A few days earlier, Los Angeles U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi, a Democrat appointed by former President Ford, ruled that the process by which the government classifies groups as terrorist in nature deprives the organizations of their constitutional rights. The rulings come at a time when many Americans fear more terrorist attacks and feel an urge to display their patriotism with American flags on their homes, businesses and cars.

Those who know the three jurists said they were not surprised they made highly sensitive legal calls that were likely to offend. Although different in temperament and philosophy, the three judges are known for their fierce independence. Each has decades of experience on the bench....

END of Excerpt

Recall seeing any similar media tributes to the "fierce independence" of judges who made rulings which pleased conservatives and angered liberals?

4

It's "only fair" for the Chinese government to take half of what a Chinese basketball player will earn in the NBA. Since the Chinese government "had taken care of him from childhood," CNN reporter Jaime Florcruz contended from Beijing, "it's only fair that he gives back to the state."

Like the guy had any choice in the matter.

MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught Florcruz's rationale which came after a taped piece he filed for the June 26 NewsNight about basketball star Yao Ming, who was drafted first in the NBA playoffs by the Houston Rockets. Florcruz noted that he will be required to give half of his NBA earnings to the Chinese government.

Following the taped piece, NewsNight fill-in anchor Anderson Cooper asked Florcruz, who appeared live from Beijing: "I can't believe he's got to give half of his earnings basically to the Chinese government?"
Florcruz replied: "Yes, he is. Well, that's scandalous in most countries. But for most Chinese, they can accept the fact that the state, the government, had taken care of him from childhood. And it's about -- it's only fair that he gives back to the state, to the country. So it's not a totally scandalous thing here."

Of course, pre-Reagan the U.S. confiscated up to 70 percent of a high-income person's earnings.

5

From the June 27 Late Show with David Letterman, as read by ten Airmen from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, home of the F-117 Night Hawk stealth fighter, the "Top Ten Reasons I Joined the Air Force." Late Show Web page: www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow//

10. "G-forces can be very slimming"
(Senior Airman Seth Macy)

9. "I felt obligated after my high school class voted me 'Most Likely To Join The Air Force'"
(Senior Airman Latoya Williams)

8. "You know how on commercial flights, people in first class get fresh-baked cookies? In the Air Force, we all get cookies"
(Staff Sergeant Robin Walker)

7. "Green is my color"
(Technical Sergeant Johnnie Kee)

6. "It drives the chicks wild when I dab a little jet fuel behind my ears"
(Major James Johnson)

5. "I'm sorry. Number 5 is classified"
(Staff Sergeant Patricia Daniel)

4. "You can't break the sound barrier working at Kinko's"
(Captain Steve Ankerstar)

3. "I like this sound...[makes jet plane sound]"
(Airman First Class Christopher Bellofatto)

2. "They're only supposed to be for emergencies, but damn, those ejection seats are fun"
(Staff Sergeant Adrian Keys)

1. "I thought I was joining Oprah's Book Club"
(Staff Sergeant George Balderrama)

-- Brent Baker, hiding out on the shores of New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee


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