Why have the New York Times and Rachel Maddow misled the millions who read and watch them? On June 8th the New York Times, America's newspaper of record, published an editorial titled "Keeping Politics Safe for the Rich." In it, the Times said the Supreme Court had issued an unsigned order, in effect overruling an Arizona campaign finance law that sought to provide public money to candidates to offset any advantage rich people might enjoy by paying for their own campaigns and not using public funds. The editorial's title tells the whole story -- "Keeping Politics Safe for the Rich."
Then, the always intelligent, smart and savvy and usually 100% credible Rachel Maddow, of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, fiercely attacked the "Roberts Court" for doing just what the New York Times said it had. Rachel, in that special way she has, which gets me every time, leaned her lovely face slightly into the camera, smiled knowingly and had the Court's order pasted on the screen next to her. I watch The Rachel Maddow Show on a spectacular 55" High-Definition TV. It's great. Rachel looked really nice. But the paste-up of the Supreme Court order was strangely blurred. It didn't matter. Rachel was telling us what it said. No, she didn't read it -- not word for word. She told us what it did. After all, it's a Supreme Court order. It does something. Rachel Maddow said it reversed the Arizona law. It prevented public funding to equalize the campaigns of those candidates who couldn't afford to spend unlimited amounts of their own money to run for public office. In case you watched, and in case you believed Rachel, here is the Supreme Court order in full. It's very short. Read it yourself.
(ORDER LIST: 560 U.S.) TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 2010 ORDER IN PENDING CASE 09A1163 MCCOMISH, JOHN, ET AL. V. BENNETT, AZ SEC. OF STATE, ET AL. The application to vacate the stay of the District Court's injunction and to stay the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in case No. 10-15165 presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is granted pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.
It's not at all what Rachel said it was. It's not what the New York Times said it was. The order says it was "presented to Justice Kennedy" and that he "referred" the matter to the Court. So, it's not a completely anonymous or unsigned order. We know who is responsible.
The order doesn't reverse anything. The case is not dismissed or remanded to another court. The only action evidenced by this Supreme Court order is a stay has been granted to allow the litigants to submit a petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari -- which means an application asking the Court to hear the case on appeal. The Supreme Court has not decided the case. In fact, if the Court refuses to grant certiorari and does not hear this case, the very order the New York Times and Rachel Maddow are screaming about will, in the words of the order itself, "terminate immediately." If that happens the law in Arizona will go into effect as scheduled.
If the Supreme Court decides to hear this Arizona case, no one can say what the Court's final decision will be -- not even the New York Times, although it speculates anyway. Rachel Maddow presented it as if the Court had already ruled on the case, which you now know is untrue because you've just read the order and you know better. The Times may wriggle out of this since it didn't actually say something happened that hasn't yet. But its editorial implication and its title are crystal clear.
Rachel Maddow cannot get off so easy. Only two explanations remain for Rachel's bad behavior. One is, she's just another TV entertainer, another pretty face in long line of million-dollar talking heads. She shows up, gets her make-up on and she performs her "show" for the camera. Unsaid, is that she hasn't a clue what the program's about and perhaps doesn't care very much. After all, it's show business and it's her living we're talking about. It's only "acting" isn't it? Second is she read the order. She knows perfectly well what it says. But she had a reason to do what she did, the way she did it.
I don't want to believe the first possibility. Don't ask me why. I don't know Rachel Maddow and I never will. But I kinda like her. I think she's cool. And, I admit it -- I usually agree with her. But I really don't want to believe the second because its so fundamentally dishonest, deceptive and downright creepy that it makes me a little queasy. Does my TV heroine think I'm too busy or just too trusting to find the Court order? And why, I have to ask myself, did she make it so impossible to read when it was pasted up on the screen right next to her countenance? Maybe you can tell me. Why has the New York Times and Rachel Maddow misled us?