Unquestionably, the weirdest moment of news coverage of the newest Supreme Court nomination came on CBS, where the unveiling of nominee John Roberts was anchored by ... another John Roberts, the CBS White House reporter.
The CBS veteran, previously known in Canada by his disc-jockey name, J.D. Roberts, responded with admirable humor and humility at that strange junction, quipping that after four years on the White House beat, "I couldn't imagine the name 'John Roberts' and the phrase 'widely admired for his intellect, his sound judgment and his personal decency' being used in the same time zone, let alone the same sentence."
But permit me a flight of fancy and imagine how much fun we would have if we could have confirmation hearings for the other John Roberts before he could take the anchor chair at CBS, as he has made clear he desires. Self-important journalists would huff and puff at the very idea of screening journalists in such a fashion, but think about the joys of turnabout as fair play.
How would CBS's John Roberts hold up under questioning? Some critics are chastising John Roberts the jurist for a lack of a "paper trail" of positions. The exact opposite could be said of John Roberts, reporter.
Ten days before Bush was inaugurated, CBS's Roberts was pressing spokesman Ari Fleischer about John Ashcroft: "I could understand that as a legislator, your political ideology would fit well into your job description, but as somebody who is charged with executing the laws that are on the books, is it prudent for their ideology to be at odds with some of those laws?" But the ideology of CBS is constantly at odds with the current cast of Washington, and it's considered rude to question whether they should be trusted to offer the people a product called "news."
Reporters sniff at judicial nominees as they deny having strong ideological convictions in their confirmation hearings. Remember the horrified reactions when Clarence Thomas said he'd never really discussed Roe v. Wade with his fellow law school students? Nobody wanted to seem naive and say they believed that. But don't reporters as an everyday matter deny their biases despite long paper trails behind them?
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