The Sotomayor Media Maelstrom: When Flooding the Zone Is Too Much


Okay, we’re all interested in President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and all of the excitement and debate her confirmation will stir up. We liked reading about her all day yesterday, discovering her perceived strengths and weaknesses and learning what issues will come up during that process. But today it’s just getting to feel like too much. Not because democracy in action is ever boring, but because the media has lost its head. Gawker this morning rightly points out that the Post managed to completely contradict itself by trumpeting Obama’s pick on the cover in order to sell more copies to newsstand subscribers — and then slamming her on the interior with its usual knee-jerk right-wing editorial stance. And the coverage elsewhere is similarly crazed and contradictory. We’re not talking about the opinion press, because that’s obviously going to center on debate. In the case of some pundits, though, like Elisabeth Hasselbeck — who voiced excitement over Sotomayor yesterday before she received the GOP talking points on the issue, and who now is full of complaints — the debate is with one’s self.

Here are some examples of the speculative, opposing reports:

The Washington Post on the riskiness of Obama’s pick:
President “Obama chose the most controversial of his potential nominees to the Supreme Court.”
Politico on the riskiness of Obama’s pick:
“Obama is picking a fight he has already won.”

Politico on the opposition being prepared by the GOP:
“Conservatives plan to cast Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a left-wing activist judge who is occasionally blinded by her own feelings and personal politics.”
The Washington Times on the opposition being prepared by the GOP:
Republicans kept relatively quiet Tuesday, promising to offer her a fair hearing.”

The Washington Post on the risks Republicans run in not vehemently opposing Sotomayor:
“Sidestepping a court battle could be deflating to the party’s base and hurt efforts to rally conservatives going forward.”
The Boston Globe on the risks Republicans run in vehemently opposing her:
“If they fight to defeat her and lose, they could appear weak, inhibiting their bargaining power on legislation on healthcare and finance policy. And while gunning for Sotomayor might please conservatives, it could also anger Hispanic voters, whom the GOP needs to rebuild.”

U.S. News on the media’s response:
The media sees Sotomayor as political winner
The Columbia Journalism Review on the media’s response:
“It’s too early to characterize the coverage as even-handed on the one hand or overly sensationalist on the other.”

The truth is, each of those quotes was cherry-picked from various articles that actually had the above contradictions written into themselves. But in the endless need to speculate and lay claim to one eventuality or another, we just end up with too much meaningless coverage on a political story that is surprisingly, almost refreshingly, simple.