It’s been 10 days since the Supreme Court decision in NFIB v. Sebelius was handed down. Countless articles and blogs have been written about it since. Me? I’m still slowly slogging my way through the dang thing. At least I’m finally into the Dissent — the good one. (Anyone following my tweets yesterday has a pretty good sense of my distaste for the one penned by Justice Ginsburg.)
I knew I would eventually want to write about the decision, but questioned what I could possibly add to the discussion, especially a week-and-a-half later. After recovering from my initial shock, I went into Spockean Analytical mode — coming to an understanding of how the ultimate decision could be technically and jurisprudentially sound, even if it galled me. I felt the need to defend against the cries of “judicial activism,” first and foremost because the phrase gets bandied about so frequently that it seems to have become the catch-all descriptor for “decisions I don’t like,” rather than retaining any objective meaning. Second, I truly don’t believe Roberts’ decision is an example of judicial activism. I see it as rather the opposite — judicial restraint in the extreme. Perhaps so extreme that it circled back around and began gnawing on its own tail.
Much will be made in the coming months and years of this decision — what it means for the ACA, for the Court, for the coming election and for our own role in fumbling this political football. At some point, I hope to wander back through my notes on the decision and compose a thorough, thoughtful piece on it, which 2 or 3 people might be charitable enough to read.
For now, however, I wanted to share something I read this morning. As some of my readers may be aware, I have become a bit of a SCOTUSblog junkie. So much so that I ventured out onto a limb last week and requested an interview with SCOTUSblog contributor and 50+ year veteran of SCOTUS reporting Lyle Denniston. Mr. Denniston graciously assented to my request, and I hope to have a piece up on that by this time next week.
In the meantime, I’ve been gobbling up most of the new content the blog has been posting — it truly is a fantastic resource for those with more than a passing interest in the SCOTUS. So anyway, this morning I read this piece by Tom Goldstein, detailing a second-by-second account of the decision’s release and the media’s reporting of it. It’s a lengthy read, but I found it fascinating and sincerely encourage you to sit down and spend some time with it. Ultimately, it provides a thorough analysis of the media coverage, including a very frank look at mistakes made by two major networks in their haste to report on this momentous decision.
About half-way through the piece, I stumbled across this little nugget which really caught my attention:
“Unfortunately, neither network is paying attention to the wire services. In addition to Bloomberg’s early report that the mandate had been upheld, the other three principal wires that cover the Court – Reuters, AP, and Dow Jones – have issued similar alerts in rapid succession. When AP’s Mark Sherman reports by phone that the mandate is constitutional, his editors look up and see the first CNN banner reporting the opposite. But they trust their reporter, and move the story. The bureau breaks into spontaneous cheers.” (bold mine)
Now…why would a wire service be cheering over a Supreme Court decision? Clearly, the folks at the bureau were happy the mandate was upheld. I highly doubt it was because they were part of the uninsured masses who now purportedly would have fantastic coverage at affordable prices. Could it be because the mandate’s being upheld counts as a “win” for the Obama Administration? Surely not. This is a wire service. They’re objective reporters. They simply report the news sans bias. Right? Riiiiiiggghhhttt….
Not long ago, my 10 year old, aware of my
obsession keen interest in politics and media began asking me questions about them. She wanted to know how she could learn more about them, what news services and websites she could read to better educate herself. We discussed it at length, and in the course of doing so, I felt compelled to share with her something it took me almost 33 years to realize: Every piece of information you will ever consume comes from a biased source. There is no such thing as an objective source. Sources are human. Humans have biases. The ones who squawk the loudest about their objectivity tend to be the most biased. Over time, you will come to find some sources more reliable than others. But never take anything you read or hear simply at face value. Always — trust, but verify.
I think she got it. She seemed to, anyway. I suppose it’s a little too early to hand her a copy of Bernie Goldberg’s Bias, but for all the times I feel like a giant parental failure, it was nice to realize I may have given her the gift of discernment.