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Caveat lector

MAULING THE MAOISTS! Thomas said the Ninth Circuit judged correctly. But so what? Mr. O trashed them anyway:

TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2004

MAULING THE MAOISTS: Someone should have carded Michael Newdow before he got his Supreme Court hearing last March. In yesterday’s “decision” about the pledge of allegiance, five justices belatedly said that Newdow lacked standing to bring his complaint about the words “under God.” But Justice Thomas disagreed— and discussed the merits of Newdow’s claim. Linda Greenhouse explains what he said in today’s New York Times:

GREENHOUSE: While both Justice O’Connor and Chief Justice Rehnquist found the pledge constitutional under the Supreme Court's existing precedents, Justice Thomas took a different approach. The court's church-state precedents made the pledge unconstitutional and those precedents should be re-examined, he said.
Say what? According to Thomas, Newdow had correctly claimed that Supreme Court precedents make “under God” impermissible. Of course, this means that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled correctly when it found for Newdow in March 2003. In today’s Post, Charles Lane gives the same account of Thomas’ opinion:
LANE: Even some conservative legal analysts called the 9th Circuit’s ruling a plausible reading of the Supreme Court’s precedents. Indeed, in his concurring opinion yesterday, Thomas said that the 1992 ruling “would require us to strike down the pledge policy,” which is why, he said, the 1992 precedent should be overruled.
Let’s say it again: According to Thomas, the much-maligned Ninth Circuit ruled correctly when it held for Newdow last year. That doesn’t mean that Thomas is right, of course. But it means the Ninth Circuit reached a decision that even a conservative Justice can love.

But so what? Pseudo-con talk has long been based on screaming and bad-faith avoidance of facts. Last night, on his increasingly crackpot program, Bill O’Reilly played viewers for fools once again. The Ninth Circuit has long been a favorite O’Reilly demon. So he demonized the Ninth once again:

O’REILLY (6/14/04): [Sorry—we’re still awaiting our e-mailed $10 transcript. It looks like Fox may not have paid its Nexis bill. More tomorrow if that’s true.]
Justice Thomas, of course, is deeply conservative. He said the Ninth Circuit ruling had been correct. But viewers of the O’Reilly Factor wouldn’t have to bother with that. Mr. O kept trashing the court, without mentioning what Thomas had said.

Of course, trashing this court in the ugliest terms is one of Mr. O’s trademarks. In March 2003, he called them “pinheads” when they ruled for Newdow. Six months later, he said, “This court is insane...The Ninth Circuit court wants a secular quasi-socialistic country where all private conduct is acceptable.” (“The Factor is one of the few media outlets that will define this crucial situation for you,” he boasted.) The court “is dangerous and un-American,” he opined a bit later that month. In December 2003, O’Reilly said the Newdow ruling was “another insane decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.” In January, he said that “those people are Maoists.” In February, he called the Ninth Circuit “the nation’s most dangerous court,” a group that was “trying to change this country using anti-democratic methods.” Just last week, he told Ed Meese that “the Ninth Circuit has now taken on basically a coup d’etat in this country to undermine every law they don’t like.” Why, Bill even borrowed a phrase from the French! And he’s running a boycott on them!

Not all the invective we have listed dealt with the court’s “under God” decision. But yesterday, Justice Thomas said the Ninth Circuit had ruled correctly in that case. O’Reilly’s reaction was what you’d expect. He didn’t tell viewers what Thomas had said, and kept trashing the Ninth Circuit anyway.

Yes, Mr. O’R can let it rip when “Maoist” judges get under his skin. But there’s a kinder, gentler Mr. O too. On March 1, Newt Gingrich complained to Bill about the Ninth Circuit’s pledge decision. In response, a thoughtful host voiced deep concern about the invective “the left” likes to use:

O’REILLY (3/1/04): I’m glad you brought that up because if you disagree with people about their positions in the culture war, you are immediately branded by the left as a bigot, which is what they’re doing now. If you oppose gay marriage, you’re a bigot, a homophobe. If you’re against gangsta rap, you’re a rapist, OK?

And it just goes down the list whereby the debate goes by the wayside, and the invective comes in, and that’s the big change I’ve seen.

Poor Bill! Big wet tears splashed down his cheeks as he pondered all the ugly name-calling. Last night, he indulged in this pass-time himself. But readers, couldn’t you hear his real message? Couldn’t you hear him? Hey, rubes!

NOTES ON THAT TEN-MONTH YEAR: We received an e-mail from a valued reader about the State Department’s ten-month year (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/04). We thought the missive was worth printing:

E-MAIL: The State Department deserves all the criticism it gets for messing up its terrorism report. However, the mistake could have been unintentional. I've seen that sort of thing occur in my years as an actuary.

For example, a company I worked for was owned by a conglomerate that insisted on reporting results a few days after the close of the quarter. However, it took us about 7 weeks of analysis to get the final results. Our solution was to close each quarter 7 weeks early. So, our “year end” results typically included data through November 10 or so.

Everything is possible, of course. And Powell said he would provide a report. But the absurdity of the ten-month year should have leaped out at any journalist. Russert and Stephanopoulos both let Powell give euphemistic descriptions of this absurdity. Is State inept, or is it corrupt? Russert especially tried to keep viewers from understanding that this was their choice.

From the annals of unanimous verdicts

LIONS WITH LAMBS: Here at THE HOWLER, we’re always pleased when we can agree with our Manchester mega-drinking-buddy, Mickey Kaus. This week, we’re happy because we get to agree about the Times’ Jodi Wilgoren. How bad is the Times’ Kerry scribe? Wilgoren’s so bad, Mickey now judges, that even John Kerry deserves better! Here’s Kaus’ take on the vacuous “profile” which appeared on page one of Sunday’s Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/04):

KAUS: And what does Wilgoren come up with after her “observations on the campaign trail over several months, combined with interviews with politicians and aides who spend time by his side”? Kerry polishes his speeches. He talks a lot on the phone. He went to an aide's wedding! Wow! That’s journalistic gold. ... P.S.: If these are “authentic insights,” I’ll take the “one dimensional portraits of Mr. Kerry as war hero or waffler proffered by the two sides’ television advertisements” any day. One dimension is better than, you know, zero dimensions! Knowing whether Kerry waffles is a lot more illuminating than knowing he talks on the phone. The question Wilgoren's piece raises: Is Kerry really this flat and charmless or is Wilgoren just this weak a profiler? My guess: Even Kerry isn’t as deadly as Wilgoren unintentionally makes him out to be.
Let’s face it. When Kaus speaks up in defense of Kerry, the apocalypse has come and gone and more cataclysmic events are approaching. But even Kaus feels forced to complain about Wilgoren’s work.

But then, it’s just as we’ve said for the past several years; your “press corps” is empty, all the way to the floor. They like to talk about hobbies and hair because nothing else really engages them. Yes, they truly are Stepford Scribes. For example, why do they talk— and talk; and talk— about potential VP selections? Evan Thomas explained that on Imus:

THOMAS (6/14/04): Look, frankly, I don’t think the public really gives a— this is really a media phenomenon. This is to fill the time between now and the conventions and the election. I don’t think the public pays any attention to this kind of stuff...I mean, I’ve written more wrong-headed vice president stories in the 25 years I’ve been doing this! They’re always wrong, and I don’t think anybody cares. It’s sort of the perfect combination.
Why do the Stepfords waste your time with vacuous “profiles” and VP speculations? Easy— to fill the time between now and the conventions! Of course, the space that was wasted on Wilgoren’s piece could have been spent on something worthwhile— on an effort to sort out the various claims being made in those endless TV ads, for example. But our Stepford Reporters are Xanaxed and Paxiled, or maybe they’re just lugging chips in their heads. Such tedious matters don’t seem to engage them; as Thomas acknowledged, they’re just killing time.

Readers, let’s tell it like it is, just the way we did in the 60s. When Mickey Kaus starts slamming Wilgoren, the Times should accept a unanimous verdict. The paper should simply just start leaving blank space where its Stepford-like work would have gone.