Is Justice Breyer Really Dumb About Tools?

A classic form of media bias is this: if someone the liberal media considers to be a dummy (Sarah Palin, or for an older example, Dan Quayle) says something that suggests serious confusion, it's a big gaffe story sent directly to the desks of Leno and Letterman. But if we put the same words in the mouth of say, a liberal Supreme Court justice the media considers a genius, then no one blinks. At National Review's Bench Memos, Matthew Franck offered an example: 

First I read it in the New York Times this morning, but it didn't hit me. Then my coffee kicked in, and by the time I was reading the Washington Post, I was awake enough to say "huh?" It seems that [Tuesday], during oral argument at the Supreme Court--the context is unimportant--Justice Stephen Breyer said that if a certain course of reasoning were to be adopted, "we are not just throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of government contracting; we're throwing the whole monkey."

It's quite possible that Breyer was trying to be a Supreme Court cutup. But would a Palin get the chance to be a wise-cracker? Or wouldn't every reporter conclude she didn't know what a monkey wrench was? As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal asked: "Think about this. One of the most powerful men in America -- a man entrusted to interpret words in ways that often have life-and-death consequences -- apparently doesn't know what a wrench is. He thinks it's part of an animal's anatomy. Does anyone else find this more disturbing than funny?"

Judiciary Washington Post New York Times Stephen Breyer
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