Yesterday on The Corner, John Podhoretz and Andy McCarthy briefly commented on a speech Linda Greenhouse, the Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, made at Harvard back in June. It was just the subject of a report yesterday on NPR, hence the discussion of something that happened three months ago. NPR talked to various journalists about whether some ethic of journalistic “neutrality” was violated by Greenhouse’s giving such a partisan speech. But to longtime readers of Greenhouse’s newspaper work, it would not surprise if she started writing blurbs for the backs of Noam Chomsky paperbacks.
To me, what was noteworthy about the speech (whose text is here) is what it tells us about how small is the world Linda Greenhouse inhabits. At one point, when recounting how she told her daughter that she was a college graduate before she ever met a female lawyer, Greenhouse records her daughter’s response: “Face it, mom, you led a sheltered life.” This is truer than either mother or daughter seems to know, for it seems she still does lead such a life. Greenhouse has spent decades reporting from the frontlines of the legal, political, and cultural battles in which the U.S. Supreme Court plays a central part, reading the briefs, hearing the arguments, and reporting on the rulings, and despite that experience, from the evidence of this speech she seems completely unable to credit the possibility that intelligent people of good faith might differ with her about abortion, the relations of church and state, the separation of powers in time of war, gay rights, and goodness knows what else. This is a failure of sympathetic imagination that makes Greenhouse quite possibly the worst journalist on the Supreme Court beat.