Only CBS’s Jan Crawford suggested the hearings were more than a ritual leading to Kagan’s inevitable confirmation: “When President Obama nominated her in May, her confirmation was considered a sure bet. But Republicans are emboldened by what they see as a weakened president and sense that support for Kagan in the country has dropped.”
Both Crawford and ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl included Republican criticisms of Kagan’s lack of experience and the hostility to the military she displayed at the Harvard Law School. As for NBC, they mentioned none of those issues, and only included a brief soundbite of Kagan promising to be “impartial.”
Here’s the entirety of NBC’s brief discussion of Monday’s hearing:
Did you know that calling attention to an area where a Supreme Court justice nominee is from, which happens to be a well-known bastion of liberalism, is bigoted?
If you didn't, you want to take a look at the wisdom of Salon.com's Joan Walsh. In her June 28 post "It's not even coded bigotry anymore," Walsh argued that references to SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan's Upper West Side of Manhattan roots are bigoted -since the neighborhood has Jewish features, references to it are anti-Semitic and as she puts it, "not even coded."
"That said, Republicans on the Senate Judicial Committee are trying to make the case she's outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence, by attacking her clerking for (and admiring) legal giant Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, while singling her out as a denizen of ‘Manhattan's Upper West Side' - you know, the neighborhood known for Zabar's and bagels and, well, Jews," Walsh wrote.
Walsh wasn't clear about what she thinks these Senate Republicans are trying to accomplish. Conventional wisdom suggests Kagan will be easily confirmed, but pointing out the neighborhood she is from, with documented evidence of having an ideological liberal leaning, is going to accomplish what?
From the morning to the evening Chris Matthews, during MSNBC's coverage of Elena Kagan's hearing on Monday, berated what he saw as GOP mistreatment of Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, calling their performance at times, a "brutal assault" and even evoking strange imagery of Kagan having pins stuck in her by Republicans. Early in the day the MSNBC host complained that Republican Senator Jeff Sessions engaged in "a brutal assault on this nomination" by calling her "pro-terrorist" and "anti-military." Matthews also claimed today's hearing reminded him of how Anita Hill was treated by Republicans during Clarence Thomas' hearings as he asked Democratic Senator Dick Durbin:
Some Republicans paid a heavy price for being tough with Anita Hill when she came to testify in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Have we gotten past that era of sensitivity about a bunch of guys going after a single woman here just bashing her?...Can these guys like Jeff Sessions just go at her like this without any fear of rebuke?
Then finally, in the evening, on Hardball, Matthews charged the GOP had turned Kagan "into a voodoo doll, and they keep putting pins in her, as a way of getting at President Obama."
The following exchanges are from live MSNBC coverage (as transcribed by MRC intern Matthew Hadro) of the Kagan hearings and the June 28 edition of Hardball:
MSNBC's Chris Matthews framed Sen. Jeff Sessions' criticism of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a "brutal assault," during MSNBC's live coverage of the Senate hearing Monday afternoon.
"It's a brutal assault on this nomination," Matthews complained about the Alabama Republican's remarks.
Matthews also seemed to cast Sessions as an unsophisticated country bumpkin challenging Kagan's prestigious Ivy League background.
"It's a strong cultural shot at her, and she does represent, if you will, academic excellence of the highest degree, coming from the best schools, dean of Harvard Law," Matthews crooned. "It's hard to get above that, to a person out in the country, from Alabama, like Jeff Sessions represents. That is probably a pretty rich target."
He accused Sessions of describing Kagan as pro-terrorist and tried to get liberal Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to say that Sessions' "assault" would whip up a storm.
Are the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings an occasion for media explanation...or celebration? The Washington Post Express tabloid ran this headline Monday: "Kagan's Big Day Finally Arrives." The copy underneath by AP reporter Nancy Benac sounds like a proud mother more than an objective journalist. She suggested "it may be her own words that best explain her success at charting an undeviating course to the front steps of the high court." She elaborated about Kagan's career, in sympathetic tones:
She's excelled by dint of hard work, smarts and what she describes as good "situation sense" - the ability to size up her surroundings and figure out what truly matters, as she put it during confirmation hearings for her last job, as President Barack Obama's solicitor general, the government's top lawyer.
It's what allowed Kagan to channel the thinking of legal giant Thurgood Marshall when she was a "27-year-old pipsqueak" clerk to the justice.
It's what allowed Kagan to navigate through the land mines of government policy on abortion, tobacco and other contentious issues as an adviser to President Bill Clinton.
On CBS's Early Show, legal correspondent Jan Crawford touted Kagan as "an intellectual heavyweight and consensus builder." Crawford noted how Republicans had "several lines of attack" against Kagan and would "try to paint her as a liberal activist." Crawford herself recently described Kagan as having "stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left."
On ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman did a fawning segment on Kagan in the 8AM ET hour, describing the former Dean as "intellectual" and "full of personal charm" during her tenure at Harvard. Shipman claimed that Kagan had "a determination to be open-minded," despite banning military recruiters from the university's campus over the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. On that issue, Shipman explained that despite Kagan's decision being unpopular "among student military vets....Iraq War veteran Kurt White says they were won over by Kagan's persistent outreach, another example of her political skills." Shipman failed to mention that White would be testifying on Kagan's behalf during the confirmation hearings.
During ABC's live special coverage of Roberts's nomination on July 19, 2005, then This Week host and former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos declared: "This is a very conservative man with a strong paper trail that proves it." NPR's Nina Totenberg could hardly contain her urge to label, using the word "conservative" several times during a July 23 appearance on Inside Washington: "John Roberts is a really conservative guy...he's a conservative Catholic....[President Bush] has given conservatives a hardline conservative."
The same labeling followed Alito's nomination months later. CBS's Bob Schieffer opened the October 31 Evening News by proclaiming: “Conservatives wanted a conservative on the Supreme Court, and said the President ought to risk a fight in the Senate to get one. Their wishes have been fulfilled.” Later that evening, on a special 7PM ET hour edition of CNN's The Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer described: "...there is a new nomination and new controversy. A battle shapes up as the president picks a staunch conservative who could help reshape the U.S. Supreme Court."
But a Media Research Center analysis of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts in the six weeks since Kagan was nominated shows the broadcast networks have failed to cover the “fight,” and have ignored most of the controversies that could lead to suspenseful hearings next week.
MRC analysts found that the broadcast network evening newscasts aired just eleven stories about Kagan since her May 10 nomination (six on CBS, three on ABC and two on NBC), plus another three brief items read by the anchor. All but one of those stories appeared during the first week after Kagan’s selection; only the CBS Evening News, in a June 3 report, has bothered to cover any of the thousands of pages of Kagan documents released in recent weeks.
Borrowing a line from one of her Harvard colleagues, the Washington Post entitled its June 10 front-page profile of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, "Her work is her life is her work."*
But the 60-paragraph story by staff writers Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker shed barely any light on the judicial philosophy that Kagan's life work demonstrates. Instead, Gerhart and Rucker presented a gauzy profile that rehashed the usual trivia -- Kagan loves poker and the opera -- while painting Kagan as a workaholic who still has time to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to friends in distress:
She has arrived at the age of 50 in a blaze of accomplishment. But her achievements can obscure how relatively narrow her world has been.
Crawford says the White House reaction to her report “has been astonishing....Their reaction has been to push back so strongly on allegations, as they would put it, that she’s a liberal. Like there’s something wrong with that, like it’s a smear to say their nominee is a liberal.”
To Crawford, Team Obama’s strategy reeks of phoniness: “They’re putting enormous pressure on Elena Kagan who, as you said, is qualified. She’s an intellectual superstar. They’re putting pressure on her to portray herself in these hearings as something other than what she is. They’re thinking short-term politically and not long-term for the Court and the law and liberal judicial philosophy.”
The dictionary from which Sherman is working must have interesting definitions of "unsentimental" and "compassionate."
See for yourself in the first four paragraphs of the AP writer's report on what is known thus far from the documents provided by the Clinton Library relating to Ms. Kagan:
This is probably what a lot of people suspected, but couldn't tie it all of it together until documents and memos from President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan were made available to the public - that she is beyond a shadow of a doubt liberal.
Still, the White House has insisted Kagan's judicial philosophy doesn't line up ideologically - that she is neither liberal nor conservative. But according to documents unearthed by CBS Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford, Kagan holds some very liberal views.
"These documents have her squarely within mainstream liberal thought," Crawford said on the June 6 broadcast of CBS's "Face the Nation." "She's worried about the conservative Supreme Court undoing rulings that would give a woman a right to an abortion. She's worried about gun rights saying she's not sympathetic to an individual's right to own a handgun. She's concerned about conservative rulings scaling back rights of criminals. That's basic mainstream liberal thought."