In the minds of the national media elite, Alabama is a strange place that erupts in the news only when some backward action happens. Perhaps it's an abortion clinic bombing, a remembrance of past segregation and racist violence, or some rerun of the strange ways those Bible-thumpin' Christians act. Enlightened journalists no doubt still chortle at the memory of the 1960s singer-satirist Tom Lehrer worrying about when "Alabama gets the bomb."
The state's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, brought the national media circus to town by plopping a granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the middle of the state's top court building in 2001. What happened when the God-phobic liberal lawsuits seeking to remove "Roy's rock" came to a head in August was predictable. Secular liberal reporters found one side of the debate was extreme in its advocacy, and you already know what side it was.
The media centered on Judge Moore, who, in the interests of stoking a national discussion, pledged to refuse to uphold a federal court order to remove his monument. A leader? A courageous man? Forget it. ABC's Robin Roberts vaguely charged him with "trying to restore morality," as if that was a very threatening thing. On CNN, Aaron Brown lectured him: "Don't we also, all of us, stand for the rule of law? And, in this case, the rule of law has come from every federal court that has looked at this, and they have ruled against you. How in good conscience can a judge defy the court?"
Perhaps Roberts and Brown should take a moment of silence and ponder: At this point in the Lewinsky scandal five years ago, journalists were baying about how it was "all about sex" and had nothing to do with the president upholding the rule of law by being truthful under oath in a civil case. So much for "all of us" standing for the rule of law.
What was not deemed controversial in the eyes of the press was the role of the lawyers who sued to get these toxic Ten Commandments removed from public property. Some reports, in USA Today and in Eleanor Clift's column at Newsweek.com, actually honored the most high-profile plaintiff, lawyer Melinda Maddox, for heroically suffering through all sorts of ridicule and death threats from backward people. CBS reporter Mark Strassmann really took it to the extreme, proclaiming Maddox was offended "as a Catholic and as a lawyer."