Generations from now when the history of the “traditional media” is written, many examples will illustrate the death spiral well. Of all the litanies of failure, coverage of Supreme Court nominees is at the top of the heap. Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have exerted an enormous influence on the American republic. Sadly, this is far outside of Alexander Hamilton’s writing in the Federalist Papers as the judiciary being the least significant of the three branches of the Federal Government. Dozens of times since the 1930s, the Supreme Court has amended the Constitution without going through the process set forth by the Framers to make amendments. A good recent example would be the Supreme Court ruling unconstitutional many state laws calling for the death penalty with child sex offenders, including Louisiana’s.
Given the outsized role of the Supreme Court and the lifetime position a Presidential appointment confers, you would think this would be a time for serious news analysis by elite print, broadcast and web media. Naturally, this assumption would be completely wrong. I know more about Sarah Palin’s reimbursements as Mayor of Wasilla from the mainstream media than I do about Elena Kagan’s paper trail as a legal counsel for President Clinton. I know more about Rush Limbaugh’s attempts to procure certain prescription drugs than I know about Elena Kagan’s university career and legal mindset. I know more now about female softball and sexuality than I do about how rare it is that a Supreme Court nominee has never before served as a judge at any level.
It is of little interest to me about a nominee’s sexuality (we are not talking about a Boy Scout weekend here), or what a nominee’s parents did for a living or what type of household a nominee grew up in. I do not much care for where a person went to college or which law school conferred a Juris Doctorate to the nominee in question. No, I prefer to have the media discuss a candidate’s judicial philosophy, is this too much to ask? Does the nominee believe we should look to other foreign nations when rendering decisions from the bench? Does the nominee believe it acceptable to carve out separate judicial systems like Sharia, outside the framework of American jurisprudence? Does the nominee believe in judicial restraint and in traditional separation of powers? Have writings and actions by the nominee shown a tendency to support statist powers and the curbing of traditional American liberty outside of proscribed Constitutional boundaries?
Are the aforementioned questions really too much to ask from those who purport to inform the American people about vital issues confronting the republic? Are details about the late Michael Jackson’s doctor or Lindsay Lohan’s latest court case more important to report to the American people than a nominee for the US Supreme Court? The abject failure of the media here is a perfect illustration of how utterly out of touch they have been for decades. We are in the throes of a transition with how Americans receive information and it would appear to be much improved over the dinosaurs influenced by men like Edward R. Murrow. How the federal courts and the Obama Administration impede this will be another subject for future historians.