Wednesday's evening news shows and Thursday's morning programs continued to minimize or leave out important moments of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings. ABC's Good Morning America, for instance, has offered only 67 seconds of coverage over three days. Today and The Early Show each provided a single ten second news brief on Thursday.
It's not as though the second day of testimony lacked interesting developments. The New York Times on July 1 reported the intense questioning by Senator Orrin Hatch on an abortion memo written by then-Clinton White House Counsel Kagan.
Hatch demanded, "Did you write that memo?...But did you write it? Is it your memo?"
A look over Franken's shoulder reveals his talent. On his pad is a sketch of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Not bad. Suitable for framing.Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams relayed, sans Pelley's “suitable for framing” puffery:
Well, if you have ever wondered what Senators do during committee hearings when they're not talking? Here's what one of them does. Senator Al Franken drew this depiction of fellow committee member Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a pencil drawing on United States Senate stationery. Franken said he would give the signed original to Sessions.
In tune with the reverberations of the network morning shows' echo chamber, correspondents like CNN's Dana Bash and anchors like MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday praised Kagan for her ability to inject humor into otherwise "hollow and vapid" hearings and charm hostile Republican senators into docility.
"But just on a color note, what struck me, Candy, has been the way Elena Kagan has tried to use a sense of humor to really disarm the senators, particularly Republicans," noted Bash.
Maddow's guest, Dahlia Lithwick of the liberal Slate magazine, gushed over Kagan's "gut-wrenching" sense of humor, her masterful ability to balance "seriousness and levity and humor," and her "disarming and charming and kind of likeable" personality.
"A likeable liberal. Dear me, I know," quipped Maddow.
The White House has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent the press corps from having meaningful access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Such measures are hardly unprecedented, though they stand in stark contrast to then-candidate Barack Obama's message of openness and press transparency.
But now the White House has outdone itself in media opacity. It apparently blocked a New York Times reporter from sitting in on Kagan's brother Irving's constitutional law class at Hunter College High School. Yes, that's right. The White House is now trying to determine who can or cannot sit in a school class for teenagers.
According to watchdog group Judicial Watch, White Hosue Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest intervened after hearing of Times reporter Sharon Otterman's intention to sit in on one class. "I'm definitely not comfortable with this at this point," Earnest told Kagan, according to documents it obtained from the school.
On Tuesday's Rick's List, CNN's Jessica Yellin harkened back to her college days at Harvard as she defended Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan against charges by conservatives that she is anti-military: "When I was at Harvard, a full decade before she was dean of the law school, there was already institutional opposition to 'don't ask, don't tell'....it steeps the whole university."
Yellin, actually, was a key left-wing student agitator during her time at the university, as revealed in several interviews with The Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard. She was labeled a "prominent feminist activist in her own right" in a June 10, 1993 profile of Sheila Allen, her first-year roommate and self-proclaimed "dyke of the Class of '93." The then-student certainly earned this label, as she helped resurrect Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Choice after a "relatively inactive period," was a women's studies major, and, in an April 10, 1992 interview, bemoaned how Harvard was apparently opposed to her feminist agenda: "For people interested in women's issues or gender studies, this is an overtly hostile environment."
In a May 1, 1992 article, Yellin expressed how the acquittal of the four police officers involved in the controversial Rodney King arrest was "the most blatant evidence of the indelible racism... in this country."
All three morning shows on Wednesday made sure to tout the "lively" sense of humor of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, this as ABC continued to ignore the hearings. Over two days, Good Morning America has devoted a scant 67 seconds to Barack Obama's nominee.
After a news brief featuring Kagan cracking jokes at her hearings, former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos gushed, "...If this Supreme Court thing doesn't work out, she's got another career in stand-up." [Audio available here.]
Guest host Elizabeth Vargas hyperbolically asserted that Saturday Night Live couldn't "be as funny as Elena Kagan was!"
“For the first time, Americans got to see the woman President Obama called a ‘trailblazer’ in action,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer trumpeted Tuesday night before Jonathan Karl framed his story on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s hearing around how “a confirmation hearing isn't usually a laughing matter, but if we learned one thing about Elena Kagan today, it's that she has a sense of humor.” Like NBC, Karl featured Kagan joking about how she was probably at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day.
The three broadcast network evening newscasts, as well as CNN and FNC, highlighted Senator Jeff Sessions pressing Kagan on her treatment of military recruiters. Karl used the exchange to praise Kagan: “We also learned that Elena Kagan can take a punch. As when Republican Jeff Sessions slammed her decision as Harvard Law dean to ban military recruiters from the school's career office....She made no apologies for taking a strong stand against the military's ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ policy.”
CBS’s Jan Crawford declared Kagan “held her own, she was confident, showed flashes of wit, but she didn't break a lot of new ground,” while NBC’s Pete Williams touted how “she displayed flashes of humor.” (CNN expressed concern Kagan wasn’t liberal enough: “Some of her answers on hot-button issues may not please all of her fellow Democrats.” More below.)
Well, Matthews showed up in even finer form today. Describing Kagan as a liberal Obama prototype from the "high academia" of the Ivy League, Matthews proceeded to frame her opponent, Sen. Jeff Sessions, as the voice of the Confederacy.
Remarking that the hearing has become like a "red state-blue state" battle, Matthews claimed that "listening to Jeff Sessions is to listen to the, really, the Confederacy; to listen to, really the conservative view of the Deep South."
Matthews also oddly added that Republicans want to make Kagan into a "voodoo doll" (repeating himself from the night before), an image associated more readily with New Orleans, Louisiana, than Sessions' boyhood town of Hybart, Alabama.
A liberal panel led by MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews injected sexism into the Kagan confirmation hearings on Tuesday morning, suggesting that Republican senators should curtail the tenacity of their questioning because the Supreme Court nominee happens to be a woman.
Invoking the Clarence Thomas hearings, which focused on the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of making inappropriate sexual comments, Matthews asked, "Am I wrong in hearing flashes here of the Anita Hill testimony way back when in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings?"
Despite the absence of a sexual scandal, Matthews persisted with the bizarre analogy: "Are we past the sensitivity about a male member of the Senate grilling a female?"
The "Hardball" host failed to clarify exactly who in 2010 is sensitive about male senators posing tough but legitimate questions to a woman nominated to the nation's highest court.
Democrats described her as a brilliant thinker with what Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York called "unprecedented practical experience."Stolberg had expressed the same feelings about Kagan the day before, roughly two minutes into the Monday edition of TimesCast, a brief news preview that airs every weekday at nytimes.com.
Kagan is so "brilliant," gushed Stolberg, that she didn't even need help from White House staffers in preparing to face her Republican critics. Stolberg was confident the GOP would "have a tough time" confronting the "very funny and warm and witty" Kagan.
They will try to paint her as a partisan, as a political lawyer, as someone who is more interested in a politically driven agenda than in applying the law in an even-handed way to judicial cases. And they'll take her to task for never having been a judge. But I think they'll have a tough time.
Good Morning America devoted only a single news brief early in the 7AM ET hour to the hearings as news reader JuJu Chang noted how Kagan "will be questioned by Republicans who say she is too liberal and too political." Chang added: "Kagan promised to take a modest approach to judging."
On Today, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell offered only a brief 7:09AM report on the hearings: "Weeks after her nomination, seated in silence for hours, finally Elena Kagan gets to make her case....[she] describes herself as a daughter of the American dream." O'Donnell described the arguments from both sides of the aisle: "No surprise, Democrats praised her intellect and the chance to broaden the Supreme Court....Saying they would be respectful, Republicans did not hesitate to get tough. From abortion rights to immigration, they found various ways to call her liberal." In an 8:04AM news brief, news reader Natalie Morales declared: "Republicans portrayed Kagan as a liberal activist with no judicial experience. Kagan promised an even-handed approach to the law."