The Right Coast

November 06, 2005
Nina Totenberg is at it again.
By Mike Rappaport

David McGowan's post (see Tom's discussion below) shows that Nina Totenberg has deceptively portrayed a failure on the part of Judge Sam Alito to recuse himself as a serious matter, when Alito had at worst committed an unfortunate oversight. Alito decided a case involving Vanguard even though he had investments in the company's mutual funds. (Who doesn't?) In fact, Totenberg misleadingly makes it seem as if Vanguard was acting to deprive a widow of her retirement funds based on its own greed. In fact, Vanguard was acting to protect the creditors of the widow's husband, since the husband had moved the assets into Vanguard to hide them from his creditors.

McGowan ends his long, scholarly post saying:

to depict her as a widow trying to pry her husband’s retirement from the greedy clutches of Vanguard is to misrepresent the facts. I have a hard time believing Ms. Totenberg did not know the facts of the underlying case, which makes me wonder why she filed the report she filed. Perhaps it was to increase the drama of the story. Whatever the reason, I hope this is not a harbinger of the reporting to come regarding this nomination, though I fear that it is.
David may not know why Nina Totenberg filed the story, but I think I do. She wants to sink the Alito nomination. In 1987, after Robert Bork's nomination had been defeated, President Reagan nominated Douglas Ginsberg. Totenberg is reported to have said, "I am going to get him" and proceeded to uncover the story about Ginsberg's marijuana use. I believe that Totenberg is also out to get this nominee. On Meet the Press this morning, Totenberg was in high gear political mode, arguing that Democrats had no reason to support this nominee. (In fact, the entire panel was one of the most digusting partisan affairs I have seen on the Sunday shows, presided over by the supposedly impartial Tim Russert.)

This nomination is similar to Ginsberg's in various ways. Most significantly, in both cases, after a failed nomination, a real right wing person had been nominated, and the defeat of such a nominee would be likely to lead to a more moderate nominee. The ever political Totenberg understands that this is the time for her to act. It is her chance to replace Alito with another Anthony Kennedy.

Update: A reader writes "Don’t forget that Ms. Totenberg was instrumental in getting Anita Hill to go public with her claims about Clarence Thomas. That very nearly ruined Thomas’ nomination." I had forgotten that. I should also note that I have deleted one line from my original post, which might have involved some rhetorical excess.