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Bias or Ignorance?

Linda Greenhouse's NY Times column on the latest Supreme Court term is a great example of why so many conservatives accuse that paper of bias. Note this paragraph:

In the term that marked the chief justice's 30th anniversary on the bench, the court moved far toward accomplishing his long-term goals, lowering the barrier between church and state and elevating states' rights through expanding the concept of sovereign immunity.
Notice how Rehnquist is portrayed in this simple, revealing paragraph. There is no indication at all that Rehnquist might be motivated by an originalist theory of constitutional adjudication, and that his primary "goal" might be to return the Supreme Court to a more interpretivist (versus liberal activist) body. Instead, he's simply pursuing conservative policy goals through whatever means necessary.

Greenhouse might actually believe this, in which case she isn't biased, but simply ignorant. In her worldview -- and that of the NY Times editors more broadly -- surely a theory of constitutional interpretation is just a sham for what conservatives really want to do with policy (you know, turn every school into a conservative Christian seminary, roll back civil rights, encourage back-alley abortions, etc). I mean, SURELY that's the case, right?

One just wishes, on occasion, liberal critics at a great paper would actually take the conservative case seriously. Understand it as it understands itself, and THEN engage in criticism. The conservative case would be better for it, as would the liberal case.

And for gawd's sake, please PLEASE do not use the term "states' rights." States don't have rights. States have powers. PEOPLE have rights. I know it's popular among liberals AND conservatives to use the term "states' rights" but please -- STOP. It's incorrect.

What is sad is that this had the makings of a good column. A short discussion on Rehnquist's theory of originalism should not have been that difficult. And the rest of the column could have focused on the opinions Rehnquist penned himself, as well as to whom he assigned opinion writing, and how all of that promoted his efforts to remake jurisprudence.

But it was easier to repeat liberal canards for the NY Times editors and audience, who really should know them by now! And an opportunity for a truly thoughtful column was missed.

[Posted at 12:35 CST on 07/03/02] [Link]

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