Big media dysfunction in microcosm...
Dwelling on inconsequentialities such as the little witticisms of a confirmation hearing is no accident. It's how the media avoids taxing its middle-schoolish audience with philosophical conversations about the substance of liberty under law. (Snooze!)
Once CNN is on an inconsequentiality, however, they bring to bear the serious principles of balanced journalism. Lest anyone carp from among the perennial right-wing whiners, CNN offers equal emphasis:
If confirmed, Elena Kagan may or may not turn out to be that intellectual counterweight to conservatives Justice Antonin Scalia or Chief Justice John Roberts.Except of course that the supposed intellectual depth of conservative ideologues is axiomatic!
CNN can't even omit balance on the mere possession of a sense of humor - can't leave the wingnuts thinking the reporter thinks that being funny is a liberal trait.
To be fair, the members of the court usually labeled liberal - Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, and the retired John Paul Stevens - all display great legal minds but not much sharp-edged humor or the willingness to engage in spirited debate for which Kagan is known. Justice Stephen Breyer is equally smart and he too shares a sense of humor, but that tends to fall on the quirky, self-deprecating side.If Robin Williams, referring to the Nazis, asked a German, "Did you ever think maybe you killed all the funny people?", CNN would be obliged to find, yah, haha, a stormtrooper who side-lined in stand-up. You vill laff, and you vill like it!
On the conservative side, friends of Justice Clarence Thomas - who almost never speaks at arguments - note he has a great wit and a hearty laugh. Colleagues call him the funniest justice you never hear about.
Meanwhile, they know they have to make excuses for the other empty seat on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. His tiny contributions bear out the claims of those who opposed his confirmation. He's a reliable right-wing vote, never mind how great his anonymous friends claim he might be. Is that funny-ha-ha or funny-strange? Maybe funny-uh-oh...
When finally, Bob Mears of CNN makes a brief digression into substance, it's to report about a question from Charles Grassley (R-grasping at cornstalks):
Questions about an undergraduate term paper! Can high school be far behind? How about kindergarten? "Ms. Kagan, I am reliably informed that at age five you called a prominent conservative classmate a poopy-head. When did you stop being a red-diaper baby?"
Grassley had asked the nominee about a paper she wrote as a college student that took a critical look at how judges decide cases.
"Is it appropriate for judges to mold and steer the law?" Grassley asked.
Of course, no CNN reporter will ever observe that some of Kagan's friends say that it's total bullshit to datamine 30-year-old papers written by a 20-year-old for reasons to vote against confirmation of a judge. That would be unbalanced!
Our big media, even more full of shit than the people they cover.