Man Without Qualities

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Calame's Demon

A prior post noted that New York Times public editor Byron Calame puts his finger on a big problem with the mainstream media generally:

I find it disturbing that any Times editor would come so close to implying - almost in a tit-for-tat sense - that ... bad behavior essentially entitles the paper to rely on assumptions...

That sinister sense that Mr. Calame identifies, that almost in a tit-for-tat sense bad behavior essentially entitles the paper to rely on assumptions is certainly disturbing ... even demonic. Call it Calame's Demon. And Calame's Demon is very busy, indeed, in the halls of the mainstream media. Consider these pearls from an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times:

TOM DELAY HAS BEEN so intellectually dishonest for so long that news that he may have been criminally dishonest hardly comes as a surprise. ... DeLay's troubles also continue something of a tradition, dating at least to former Democratic Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, of ethical lapses among those in the leadership of the House. ... Yet DeLay is more than the sum of his ethical lapses. He also has a long history of hypocrisy. ... But the real problem isn't what DeLay may have done, it's what he stands for.
Mr. Delay is not my favorite member of Congress, for a number of reasons. But his current troubles certainly do not include a demonstration or finding by anyone of the ethical lapses in his indictment - still less that those "troubles" continue any "tradition" of ethical lapses. The editorial was largely written by Calame's Demon.

While the Times' express pre-trial conviction of Mr. Delay would do credit to Alice in Wonderland, it is not the only mark of Calame's Demon in this editorial - which reflects much of mainstream media's reaction to Mr. Delay's indictment. One might also ponder what is missing in the editorial: the presumption of innocence, that the ethics violations for which Mr. Delay has actually been sanctioned in the past are trivial (in contrast to the lurid accusations his critics have made) and any discussion of the evidence supporting the indictment or whether the indictment is likely a politically motivated abuse, rendered up in canonical Texas style.

In fact, the indictment very likely is a Texas Democratic, abuse: The prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, also had Texas Republican U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison indicted in 1993. She was acquitted in February 1994 when Mr. Earle, disheartened by the judge's pre-trial rulings, refused to present the case. If Mr. Earle is engaging in abuse, why does the Times cheer on the destruction of one of the highest members of the federal government by a state officer acting with corrupt motivation? Because Calame's Demon whispers in the journalist's ear: "Go ahead, Delay has a long history of hypocrisy! What he stands for justifies what you are doing!"

Would the Times cheer with the same gusto if, say, a Republican prosecutor caused Justice Souter to recuse himself from the Supreme Court by indicting him for conspiring to cause Weare, N.H. to corruptly condemn his home at an above-market price? After all, many people consider the Kelo decision that Justice Souter joined to drip with hypocrisy and to be a much more egregious abuse of power than anything of which Mr. Delay has ever been accused. The mere fact that Justice Souter's act is legal should be of no matter to the Times, since today's editorial is at pains to point out: But the real scandal in Washington ... isn't what's illegal, it's what's legal. What if such an indictment against Justice Souter were supported by no better evidence than this Texas prosecutor has mustered against Mr. Delay and the prosecutor had a history of political recklessness (as this does this Texas man)? The quality of the evidence and the probable motivation of the prosecutors don't matter to the Times' discussion today. Why should they matter with respect to any other case?

Perhaps the Times would find itself guided by the hand of Calame's Demon to write, long before any trial had taken place and in complete disregard of the quality of the evidence known and the likely motivation of the prosecutor:
Souter's troubles also continue something of a tradition, dating at least to former justice Abe Fortas, of ethical lapses among those on the Supreme Court. The real problem isn't what Souter may have done, it's what he stands for.
As in Delay's case, Calame's Demon often nests securely among the branches of New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 Supreme Court decision that revolutionized American libel law. The Los Angeles Times has probably libeled Mr. Delay in today's editorial, but the paper does not fear because under Sullivan public officials suing for libel have to prove that the statements they complain of were made with "actual malice" - that is, that the statements were published with at least reckless disregard as to whether they were false. But all that may change - at least if the newest member of the Supreme Court has a say in the matter, as noted by an article in the New York Times to which my attention was drawn by a perspicacious reader:

When Judge Roberts was asked about other Supreme Court cases during his confirmation hearings, he sometimes embraced them as correct. He said he had "no quarrel" with others. In his written response to Mr. Schumer's question on the Sullivan case, Judge Roberts said only that it "is a precedent of the court, and I would start with it in any case implicating this area of the law." ... ...

Judge Roberts ... briefly described his own critical views on the Sullivan case. In that memorandum, dated Aug. 28, 1985, Mr. Roberts offered what he called "my own personal view" on the proper balance between the interests of libel plaintiffs and the interests of the press. He said he would favor relaxing the standards established by the Sullivan case, which gave the press increased protection from libel suits brought by public officials, in exchange for eliminating punitive damages, which can often account for the bulk of libel awards.
Where would Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd and other such creatures of Calame's Demon be without New York Times v. Sullivan? Perhaps we'll be finding out sooner than we thought.

The money that led to the indictment this week of two Las Vegas pastors and the wife of one of them came from federal grants arranged by Sen. Harry Reid in September 2001, a Reid spokeswoman said Wednesday....
Link from InstaPundit

Byron York: Coming Soon: The Ronnie Earle Movie...The DeLay prosecutor has let a film crew follow him through the whole case
"Raymond Chandler meets Willie Nelson on the corner of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in The Big Buy, a Texas noir political detective story that chronicles what some are calling a 'bloodless coup with corporate cash,'" reads a description of the picture on Birnbaum's website,
One can well imagine the righteous uproar that would have erupted if Ken Starr had tried somethng like this. Will the mainstream media protest now as they would have then?

Will the Pope convert to Islam?

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