John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court certainly qualified as Big News at both Time and Newsweek, which delivered all-hands-on-deck profiles for this week's issue. (In all, 20 Newsweek and Time reporters contributed to the articles.)
Fawning, glowing, congratulatory, adulatory, Sycophantic. Take your pick, the stories are so over the top they have to be read to be believed, with the only real question being should Fred Thompson—Roberts' WH-appointed handler--have received ghostwriting credit? I mean, how could Thompson possibly top Newsweek's almost comical portrait of Roberts as a too-good-to-be-true "centrist" who's "enormously self-confident" but "not arrogant or showy." An "unpretentious" "regular guy" with a "wicket wit" who "mows his own lawn." (Newsweek conveniently omits the name of the high school John "Regular Guy" Roberts attended; La Lumiere.) According to the weekly he's loyal to church, family, school and "most importantly" (wait for it…) "to the law."
The Time piece isn't quite so embarrassing, although editors there think nuggets that Roberts is ambidextrous on the racquet ball court and plays Candyland with his kids qualify as insight. The piece ends with the completely baseless speculation that liberals might come to love Roberts as a Supreme Court justice.
There's nothing wrong with the press toasting a man's life accomplishments, and certainly Roberts has had many. But aren't Time and Newsweek supposed to be news magazine, helping to put events in context? Their Roberts profiles lacked any.
For instance, combined, the two features run 6,390 words, with over two dozen people quoted. Here's how many quotes there are from people even politely questioning the Roberts nomination: 0.
Meanwhile, will Newsweek and Time both run corrections next week for their erroneous reporting that the nominee never joined the Federalist Society, the influential right-wing legal organization? That info was no doubt fed to the weeklies by the WH, which appears anxious (along with Newsweek and Time) to downplay any ideological streak that may run through Roberts or his work. But Monday's Washington Post reported Roberts name appeared in the Society's 1997-1998 leadership directory, listing him as a member of the steering committee of the secretive organization's Washington chapter. A WH spokesman explained Roberts had "no recollection" of joining the society.
Hmm, a political nominee playing dumb about sensitive subjects from his past. Perhaps by Beltway standards Roberts is a "regular guy" after all.