The Post Gets it Right, and Wrong

By July 3, 2005General

Today’s lead editorial in the Washington Post, entitled, “Not a Campaign“, gets it mostly right in arguing that the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, while critically important, is not a Presidential campaign and ought not be treated like one.

Allow us to quote liberally (how else would one quote the Post….?) from the editorial:

SECONDS AFTER President Bush announces his choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — whenever that happens and whoever the nominee is — liberal interest groups will release a blast of e-mails promising a “rollback” of American liberties if the person is confirmed. Conservative groups, at the same moment, will blitz with e-mails proclaiming the nominee a modern John Marshall. Ads will appear on television. Journalists will be hit with distorted “reports” attacking or defending the nominee’s “record,” as groups release their opposition research or their defensive spin. Both camps, in short, will unleash the huge sums they have raised in what will be, for all intents and purposes, a political campaign — a political campaign, unfortunately, for an office that is meant to be not merely apolitical but actively insulated from politics.

In the long run, the war over the courts — which teaches both judges and the public at large to view the courts simply as political institutions — threatens judicial independence and the integrity of American justice

So we take this moment, when nobody knows how excellent or terrible the next nominee will be, to emphasize that a judicial nomination is not a political campaign and should not be treated as one

Finally, the Post concludes:

But somehow, the serious discussion needs to take place even in an atmosphere that so disfavors it…Those Americans who still believe in the Third Branch need to endeavor to tune those special interests out.

OK, so far so good. So what’s he rub? The rub is that obviously the editorial writers of the Washington Post don’t read the front page of the Washington Post. A sampling of headlines from the past two days:

— “O’Connor to Leave High Court: Fierce Battle Expected Over Her Successor”

— “A Legacy of Abortion”

— “Groups Adjust as Battlefield Shifts”

— “Activists Gear Up for Nominee Fight”

— “The Right’s Moment, Years in the Making”

Hmmmm….. not really the cool, dispassionate, level-headed approach counseled by the Post editorial writers.

When all is said and done, we agree with the “good son” editorial writers here, and take issue with the “bad son” front page howlers. “The only legitimate source of the power of the Supreme Court”, writes the “good son” Post, “is the premise that interpreting the law is not the same as creating it, that the task of judging…is not a political function.” We couldn’t agree more.

But at the end of the day, the Post can’t have it both ways. We only hope that the cooler heads at the Post and elsewhere who believe this ought not be conducted like a Presidential campaign — complete with attack ads and character assassination — prevail over the hotheads who live only to create conflict, to stir the pot in the hopes of — dare we say it? — selling more newspapers.

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