I have just a couple of observations about the London terror attacks, about which much excellent coverage is available elsewhere.
One is that we are reminded again, as we were after 9/11, that news organizations can be aggressive, serious and comprehensive when it comes to breaking news stories of the most serious sort. For once, you could watch cable yesterday and encounter no missing white women, no shark attacks, no Michael Jackson, no Tom Cruise.
Second, watching cell-phone video of the aftermath, taken by ordinary Londoners, makes clear we are in a new era of citizen media in which ordinary folks can gather far more raw information than professional journalists.
Finally, anyone who has gotten on an Amtrak train (let along a subway) in recent years knows that security is a joke. You don't have to show ID and you can bring on as many unexamined bags as you want. Perhaps these horrible attacks in Britain force us to get serious about train safety.
Now, turning to the battle for Sandra Day's seat, this question leaps out above the rest:
Is Roe in danger?
In the coming shoutfest over the Supreme Court, you'll be hearing plenty about the danger to abortion that Bush's pick could pose -- or, from the other side, how the nominee could help overturn the landmark 1973 ruling.
But is that really true?
Would the high court, even with a clear conservative majority, make it a crime for a woman to get an abortion? Would the court leave it up to the states? Are pro-life politicians really ready to live up to their rhetoric and vote to ban abortion, or would the fear of a voter backlash be too great?
No one knows for sure, obviously, but the interest groups obviously have an interest in pumping up the issue, and the press loves a good high-stakes fight, not one in which it deflates the importance in advance.
In Slate, William Saletan | http://slate.msn.com/id/2122012/, the author of a book on abortion politics, downplays the notion of dramatic change:
"In the three decades since Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers have marched, prayed, and licked envelopes in the hope that a pro-life president might change the Supreme Court. Friday morning, they got their wish: Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced she would retire. Pro-lifers rushed to their computers to declare . . . defeat. If an anti-Roe justice replaced O'Connor, 'there would still be a pro-Roe majority' on the court, said the National Right to Life Committee. 'Replacing her will not challenge Roe's core,' agreed the Committee for Justice. 'Abortion Would Still be Legal in 43 States Even if Roe Overturned,' added Americans United for Life.
"It's a strange message: Abortion kills babies -- but don't worry, Roe and legal abortion are secure. Why the reassurance? Because pro-lifers know that if the public thinks abortion might be criminalized again, a lot of voters will start to worry less about Osama bin Laden and more about Tom DeLay. Some pro-life politicians will lose their jobs. Others will defect and beg for reelection. Pro-lifers know these things will happen, because they happened the last time voters panicked over Roe. That was in 1989, when George H. W. Bush was president. Not until three years later, when O'Connor and her colleagues reaffirmed Roe, did the backlash subside.
"Some of my Slate colleagues think George W. Bush can't risk a replay of what happened to his dad. They think he needs to nominate a moderate to O'Connor's seat -- most likely, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- to avoid a political explosion over Roe. I disagree. I think Bush has something to gain and little to lose by replacing O'Connor with an anti-Roe justice, because abortion isn't just an up-or-down issue. It's an issue of incremental restrictions. On the restrictions, the public tends to agree with Bush. And while Roe isn't directly at stake in this court appointment, some of the restrictions are . . .
"Look at the polls. Do you want Roe overturned? Two-thirds say no. Should partial-birth abortion be illegal? Two-thirds say yes. Should teenage girls have to notify their parents before getting an abortion? Four-fifths say yes."
Ann Althouse | http://althouse.blogspot.com/2005/07/laura-factor.html cites what she calls the Laura Factor:
"Why is Bush homing in on Alberto Gonzales for the Supreme Court appointment, despite all the noisemaking by social conservatives who worry that he might not be pro-life? Maybe it's the Laura factor. Don't you think Laura Bush is telling him that he can't put someone on the Court who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?"
In American Prospect, Columbia law professor Michael Dorf | http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=9934, is far more pessimistic about Roe:
"Given Republicans' margin in the Senate, their party leadership's willingness to eliminate the judicial filibuster, and the uncertainty over whether the compromise agreement among centrist senators will hold, liberals should also begin making contingent plans for a post-Roe future.
"At first blush, that future does not appear utterly bleak. In the immediate aftermath of a decision overturning Roe, the legality of abortion would be up to the states. We could expect that, in general, abortion would remain legal in clearly blue states like California and New York but would be prohibited in clearly red states like Texas and Louisiana.
"But even this scenario may be unduly optimistic. Today's Republican Party pays at most lip service to the notion of limited national power. The Justice Department was all too eager to interpret federal statutes to override Oregon's law permitting physician aid in dying and California's medical marijuana law. Likewise, Congress (including many Democrats) brushed aside the obvious federalism objections to its extraordinary intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.
"Thus it is not alarmist to predict that within weeks -- if not days or hours -- of a Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade, Congress would enact legislation outlawing most abortions nationwide. At that point, the fate of legal abortion would depend on the justices' views about the limits of congressional power."
Arianna Huffington | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/featuredposts.html#a003694 finds herself in the sort-of-for-Gonzales camp:
"That's right, Dobson and Bauer and Schlafly and Perkins, and groups like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America have been so focused on sticking a knife through Gonzales' Supreme Court chances that hearing their collective pining for 'another Scalia or Thomas', and reading rants like the National Review's 'conservatives would be appalled and demoralized by a Gonzales appointment,' I actually had a brain freeze moment where, I'm ashamed to admit, I thought: Gee, I hope Bush picks the man who thinks the Geneva Conventions are 'quaint'. . . .
"What a difference a few months and a heaping helping of 'the president owes us!' rhetoric from the radical right can make. After all, it was only February when Gonzales was facing confirmation as Attorney General and progressives were trying hard to keep him from the top cop slot. What a horrible message to send to the world, I thought back then, replacing the holy rolling Ashcroft with the guy who helped come up with the Gitmo dodge as a way of sidestepping U.S. courts. And yet there I was the other day, sipping my morning Starbucks and wondering if I could ever make peace with the idea of him getting a lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful positions in our government. All it took for this momentary sea change was a cold, hard look at the line up of other potential nominees being bandied about by the right. It reads like a black-robed Murderer's Row -- only with this bunch, it's the civil liberty gains of the last 70 years that will be snuffed out."
Ditto for Kos | http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/7/6/224537/6889:
"True, we could go ballistic if Gonzales is the nominee, especially given his love of torture, but he's about as close a shot to another Souter that we'll get under this administration. Precisely the reason the Far Right hates him is the reason I'd be willing to give him a pass."
The Post's Charles Lane | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/06/AR2005070602014.html looks at what Al actually said at his confirmation hearing:
"'My judgment,' Gonzales concluded, 'is that the court has had an opportunity -- ample opportunities -- to look at this issue. It has declined to do so. And as far as I'm concerned, it is the law of the land and I will enforce it.'
"Indeed, this formulation sounded slightly less ambivalent than Gonzales's answer to an interviewer from U.S. News & World Report in March 2001, when he said: 'All I'll say about it is, how I feel about it personally may differ with how I feel about it legally. . . . It's the law of the land.'"
Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/788ejmav.asp, who worked for Ed Meese, calls on Gonzales to fall on his sword:
"Surely he knows how conservatives see him; and surely he knows that it does the president no political good to make a nomination to the High Court--especially if it is the only one Bush gets to make--that dispirits conservatives, who form his strongest base of support. Surely, too, Gonzales can check his own ambition in deference to the president he serves. The attorney general would be doing the president a huge favor if, as chief counselor on judicial selection, he advised Bush that he has many good candidates to choose among in naming O'Connor's successor, and that his own name should be taken off the list."
Is the AG lobbying for the job? Check out this Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050707-122145-7243r.htm piece:
"Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been making the rounds of conservative groups in Washington lately, but key leaders remain opposed to putting him on the Supreme Court. . . .
"As speculation swirled in recent weeks about a vacancy on the Supreme Court -- and the potential that Mr. Gonzales might be nominated -- the attorney general has met with numerous conservative organizations that have expressed reservations about him. Although several conservatives said privately that Mr. Gonzales appeared to be lobbying for support, no one agreed to say that on the record and several people said flatly that Mr. Gonzales' visits with conservatives are unrelated to the Supreme Court opening."
On to the Miller/Cooper case: Columbia Journalism Review's Brian Montopoli | http://www.cjrdaily.org/ questions Matt's reasoning in agreeing to testify:
"Cooper explained that he had not been swayed by the general waiver of confidentiality signed earlier by his source, since it had been obtained under duress. But is not the same true of the personal waiver Cooper received at the last minute? Since Time Inc. had already pulled the rug out from under its reporter, over his objection, by handing over documents naming that source, the source had nothing to gain from Cooper staying silent and going to jail.
"But he or she did have something to lose: It would have looked selfish and callous for the source to stand mute and let Cooper go to jail when his or her identity had already been revealed. So the source, backed into a corner by the federal prosecutor, did what made sense -- he or she freed Cooper from his obligation. It was a decision made under duress, just as surely as the decision to sign the general waiver of confidentiality was made under duress.
"In that sense, Cooper's reliance on the source's personal communication for his decision rings somewhat hollow. He still had the option of taking a stand for journalistic principle; he still could have refused to buckle under to a prosecutor seemingly dead set on establishing once and for all that journalists don't have the right to protect their sources from the government."
On the other hand, he should sit in jail for four months when the prosecutor knows who his source is and the source has released him from his pledge?
The NYT takes a look at its own Woman in the News, and Lorne Manly | http://nytimes.com/2005/07/07/politics/07reporter.html deals ably with some of the criticism of Judith Miller:
"Adam Clymer, a Times reporter from 1977 to 2003, said Ms. Miller had always been a hard-working and tough reporter. But her manner can be demanding and bossy, he added. 'She's not a diplomat.' Ms. Miller's friends and colleagues, while singing her praises as a journalist and loyal friend, say they understand some of the negative feelings toward her. So does Ms. Miller.
"'I do have sharp elbows,' she said. 'I do tend to be aggressive, and that does set people off.' But, she added, 'I don't think one can survive in places like Washington or The Times without being pushy.'
"Ms. Miller's polarizing personality, however, may also have led some to make her a symbol of the press's faulty reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Ms. Miller was not alone in writing about the intelligence community's belief that Iraq possessed an impressive and frightening arsenal of such weapons. . . .
"She said she was comfortable that she did the best she could under the circumstances. 'Was I wrong?' she asked. 'Sure, because my sources were wrong.'"
PressThink blogger Jay Rosen | http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/07/07/novk_ch.html calls for ostracizing another journalist in the case:
"I, for one, have had it with Robert Novak. And if all the journalists who are talking today about 'chilling effects' and individual conscience mean what they say, they will, as a matter of conscience and pride, start giving Novak himself the big chill.
"That means if you're a Washington columnist maybe you don't go on CNN with him-- until he explains. If you're a newspaper editor you consider suspending his column until he explains. If you're Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/US, you take him off the air until he decides to go on the air and explain. If you're John Barron, editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, you suspend him (with pay, I should think); and if Barron won't do it then publisher John Cruickshank should."
The case of Rush's records on abuse of painkillers has been kicking around all this time, and the Palm Beach Post | http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2005/07/07/s3b_limbaugh_0707.html has the latest:
"A judge handed some of Rush Limbaugh's medical records to prosecutors Wednesday in a blunt ending to the conservative talk-show king's battle to keep his medical records private and out of their hands.
"Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull III also returned a thicker stack of records to Limbaugh's lawyer, Roy Black, at a brief hearing in open court. . . .
"Black reviewed the files later Wednesday and issued a statement saying most of Limbaugh's records had been returned to him. 'This proves our point that the State's wholesale seizure of Mr. Limbaugh's medical records was improper,' Black wrote."