It was appalling but not exactly surprising to see the way Republicans responded to the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The party that has increasingly defined itself solely on its opposition to President Obama once again immediately declared that they would not allow him to fulfill his constitutional obligations of appointing a new Justice.
Obama, no doubt tired of this obstructionism after seven long years of it, basically told them to shove it. He would be nominating a justice whether they liked it or not.
However, in the coverage of this potentially era-defining new appointment, CNN managed to stick its foot so far into its mouth that it’s a wonder they didn’t just cut to commercial and never come back.
Dana Bash was discussing the Republican opposition to a new nominee appointed by President Obama and in her rush to be “fair” to “both sides,” she wound up feeding right into the right-wing talking points that serious journalists might scoff at. When asked about President Obama’s decision to go ahead with a nomination, Bash remarked:
That’s right. And as we were talking about last hour, that is not surprising in the least, since he clearly feels that it is his constitutional duty to do so. That he is the President of the United States. It is his job to nominate somebody.
He “clearly feels” it’s his constitutional duty? What? It is his constitutional duty to appoint new justices. That’s put in simple terms in Constitution itself. Saying this is Obama’s opinion is disingenuous. But Bash was only just warming up:
He still will be technically the president of the United States for the next 11 months, which is a very, very long time. Yes, we are in an election year, but we are barely into this election year of 2016. So you have Republicans coming back, not just Mitch McConnell who you just mentioned, but the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee saying that he believes that it is standard practice to not deal with such issues in an election year.
“Technically” he will be president of the United States. Technically. You might want to tell that to the people who voted for him for a full four year term.
Needless to say, the internet was not pleased. CNN may have wanted to avoid offending conservatives, but they managed to offend nearly everyone else.
“He still will be technically the pres. of the US for another 11 months.” – CNN. Technically?
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) February 14, 2016
I'll accept this definition if CNN's talking heads state that they're "technically" reporters. https://t.co/piXBmK9ATS
— Ferrett Steinmetz (@ferretthimself) February 14, 2016
Did CNN actually say Technically President? Did they really? https://t.co/uEnXN74OSU
— Anthony (@ThatWeirdGuy77) February 14, 2016
Hey @CNN he's not TECHNICALLY the President, he's ACTUALLY the President. Stop parroting right wing stupidity.
— Ben Cisco (@BenCisco) February 14, 2016
The issue wasn’t just a slip of the tongue, it was that CNN was pretending that the Republican beef with Obama’s nomination had to do with anything other than political point scoring. For many years, the policy of mainstream media outlets has been to tread lightly on partisan issues to avoid alienating viewers. This might help keep ratings up, but it’s not a way to accurately report the news. There are times when things are just WRONG.
In the case of Republicans now saying Obama can’t appoint a justice because it is an election year, history and the law say otherwise. It’s time for reporters to own that.
By contrast, debate moderator John Dickerson stood up to Sen. Ted Cruz when he tried to flat-out lie about Supreme Court appointments. Asked to back up his claims with facts, Cruz was left speechless, the Republican audience booed Dickerson, but the American people were informed. It was a highlight of the election.
Feature image via YouTube