Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rosen Responds

Rosen has this response in today's New Republic, to the criticism over his gossip-mongering hatchet job of Sonia Sotomayor on Monday. Excerpts:

Many people have mischaracterized my argument, and I can understand why. The headline--"The Case Against Sotomayor"--promised something much stronger than I intended to deliver. As soon as the piece was published, I regretted the headline, which I hadn't seen in advance. The piece was not meant to be a definitive "case against" Judge Sotomayor's candidacy. It was intended to convey questions about her judicial temperament that sources had expressed to me in the preceding weeks. That's why I concluded the piece not by suggesting that Sotomayor was unqualified for the Supreme Court, but by suggesting that "given the stakes, the president should obviously satisfy himself that he has a complete picture before taking a gamble."

Readers have asked for more information about my sources. A few weeks ago, I received phone calls from eminent liberal scholars I know and trust. These scholars closely follow Sotomayor's work and expressed questions about her temperament. They did not have axes to grid or personal agendas; they are Democrats who want President Obama to appoint the most effective liberal Supreme Court justices possible and were concerned Sotomayor might not meet that high standard. They put me in touch with others in the same situation--mostly former Second Circuit clerks and prosecutors who have argued before her--and nearly all of them expressed the same view, with exceptions I noted in the piece. None of these people would have talked to me without the promise of anonymity: some still argue before the judge, and others continue to interact with her...Anonymous comments aren't ideal, but there was no other way, in this situation, to get people to share candid questions about judicial temperament.

Rosen then goes on to walk back his criticism a little bit, but he clearly has no remorse over using entirely anonymous sources whose credibility and intentions we are supposed to accept merely at his word, to portray Sotomayor as not-that-bright and not-that-nice. I could say more, but it hardly begins to approach this roasting from Glenn Greenwald:

What really happened here is now manifest -- and typical. A couple of Rosen's secret friends don't like Sonia Sotomayor and called him to encourage him to smear her in the pages of The New Republic. Rather than do the work to determine if these "questions" about her abilities had merit -- by, say, conducting a thorough survey of her key judicial opinions the way a conscientious law professor might -- he instead set out dutifully to undertake the mission assigned to him by these "eminent legal scholars" by calling the people they handpicked for him, who then eagerly attacked Sotomayor. Rosen then mindlessly wrote it all down -- including facts that were either false (the footnote) or highly distorted (Judge Cabranes' New York Times statement about Sotomayor, which was clearly a compliment, not a criticism), and then sent it to TNR, which slapped a provocative and (by Rosen's account) misleading headline on it and then happily published it. That Rosen himself was a chief champion of John Roberts, and had already expressed concerns that Obama might take diversity into account when appointing someone to the Supreme Court, undoubtedly made Rosen more than happy to be chosen to carry out this dirty task against someone who is most assuredly not part of his circle.

In other words, Rosen did what the modern journalist of the Respectable Intellectual Center does by definition: he wrote down what Serious People told him to say, agreed to protect their identity, and then published their very purposeful chatter without doing any real work to verify, investigate or scrutinize it. As a result, a woman who spent the last four decades of her life using her talents and intellect and working extremely hard to reach amazing heights in the face of great obstacles is now widely viewed as an intellectually deficient, stunted, egotistical affirmative-action beneficiary who has no business being on the Supreme Court -- all thanks to the slimy work of Jeffrey Rosen, his cowardly friends of the Respectable Intellectual Center, and The New Republic.

So, mission accomplished, Rosen?

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