Daily Howler logo
FAR FROM HEAVEN! When will Liberal Oasis learn—that our big orgs are next door to perfect? // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2005

FAR FROM HEAVEN: We can all feel especially lucky. We’re lucky because, as it turns out, our big newspapers aren’t “pieces of crap” after all; in fact, they represent “the current state of the art in human perfectibility.” (Well, at least the New York Times does. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/20/05.) And if they weren’t the next best thing to perfection, think how bad their coverage would be—of Priscilla Owen, for example.

With that in mind, be sure to read this report in Liberal Oasis—a report critiquing Thursday’s profile of Owen in the Los Angeles Times. We chuckled to think that the folks at Oasis didn’t realize what Blogger Pangloss explained—that they’re only “enabling the right-wing agenda” when they pen such thoughtless critiques.

We all say silly things on occasion, and as we’ve noted, Kevin Drum does endless, superlative policy work. (By himself, he routinely produces more information than the entire staff of the challenged paper he describes as next to perfect.) But uh-oh! Drum’s “perfectibility” comment is precisely the type of silly soundbite that screams for eternal parodification. We’re trying—trying especially hard—to rein in our analysts’ demands.

LIMNING PHILLIPS: By the way, is former Texas Chief Justice Tom Phillips actually “seen as a moderate?” That’s what the Times profile said when it quoted Phillips vouching for Owen. (As the Oasis notes, all four sources in the Times profile spoke in favor of Owen.) To all appearances, Phillips is highly regarded in Texas, but is he actually seen as a moderate? Here’s how the Dallas Morning News limned it when Phillips, a Republican, announced his retirement. Pete Slover offered an “on the one hand, on the other hand” thumbnail:

SLOVER (4/30/04): The court turned all Republican during the judge's first decade in Austin. While justices never again faced the circuslike attention of the 60 Minutes exposé, their solidly conservative rulings generated fervent support and criticism.

"Tom Phillips has exemplified everything a judge should be: honest, diligent, evenhanded, committed to the efficient administration of justice, and fully dedicated to interpreting the law and leaving the lawmaking to legislators," said Bill Summers, president of a group that aims to curb litigation, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

On the other side, the director of a group that pans the court as anti-consumer offered grudging praise for Justice Phillips.

"He truly has worked for reform to change the judicial selection system, and he's just been unable to accomplish it," said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice. "He brought stability and scholarship to the court, but he did it in service of the big corporations who underwrite the campaigns of the justices."

Summers, a pro-business activist, had high praise for Phillips. McDonald, by contrast, said that Phillips had worked in service to big corporations. Slover called the Phillips court rulings “solidly conservative.”

At the Times, that means that Phillips is “seen as a moderate.” (And no, the Times didn’t mention his party.) But then, no one ever said our big papers are perfect—just that they come very close.