Carol Platt Liebau: A Little Press Projection?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Little Press Projection?

Howard Kurtz writes about the "Democratic dilemma" in deciding whether to oppose Roberts, noting that one of the questions confronting the Democrats is "If by some turn of events the Democrats managed to block Roberts, how likely is it that Bush would name someone more conservative?" (incidentally, also part of the calculus set forth yesterday in my weekly column).

But Kurtz also quotes an interesting point from Oxblog:

Now why has the media decided to give John Roberts the kid glove treatment? It's not because he went to Harvard College and Harvard Law. After all, Bush has degrees from Harvard and Yale. What matters a lot more is that Roberts graduated summa cum laude and was the managing editor of law review. He's not just an Ivy Leaguer -- he's the kind of Ivy Leaguer that journalists and pundits wish their children could be. In other words, Roberts is supposedly the kind of Ivy Leaguer who thinks in a way that fellow Ivy Leaguers readily understand and heartily praise -- whereas Bush doesn't.

As I say, the point is interesting -- but it's wrong. The distinction between the way the press treats Bush and the way it treats Roberts has nothing to do with gradations of academic merit -- summas and managing editorships. It has to do with conservatism . . . the fact that Bush is an outspoken conservative, whereas Roberts has been a very diffident one -- so diffident, in fact, that no one can find any written expression of his views.

This happy state of affairs allows the press to project its own (more liberal) views onto the nominee, and glorify the Ivy League pedigree without having to endure irritatingly "retrograde" views. And if you don't believe me, watch to see how many times the term "pragmatic" is used in conjunction with Judge Roberts' name (see, for example, here and here and here and even here).

If you're still not convinced, just imagine the reception that today's Democrats and press would offer Justice Antonin Scalia (Georgetown University valedictorian & summa cum laude; Harvard Law School, editor of The Harvard Law Review, magna cum laude, Sheldon Fellow).


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