The Corner

Jeffrey Rosen’s Damage Control

Rosen’s article on Sotomayor wasn’t a particularly inspiring example of journalism as traditionally practiced. I wouldn’t have run such a story myself. It had a bunch of unnamed sources saying that she’s dumb without giving any examples of said dumbness in action, and it didn’t do much to provide context or the other side of the story. I imagine that Rosen saw it as a kind of extended blog post, with further posts elaborating on the pros and cons of Sotomayor as more people contacted him. That is, I think, the only way the piece could be defended.

Rosen has gotten a lot of grief from the Left about that article — which, as you can see, I think is partially justified. So he is now trying to get his critics to focus their attention rightward. In reaction to today’s nomination, Rosen is claiming that other people are distorting the meaning of his article:

Conservatives are already citing my initial piece on Sotomayor as a basis for opposing her. This willfully misreads both my piece and the follow-up response. My concern was that she might not make the most effective liberal voice on the Court–not that she didn’t have the potential to be a fine justice. Questions of temperament are often overlooked, but history suggests that they are the most relevant in predicting judicial success.

This is doubly mistaken. First of all, what attracted the most attention in Rosen’s article — as any competent journalist writing it could have predicted — were the attacks on Sotomayor’s intelligence, not Rosen’s musings about her “temperament.” (Is there such a thing as a dumb temperament?) Second, most conservatives who have referred to Rosen’s article have done so to note that she has Democratic colleagues who question her intelligence. That isn’t a misreading of his article. It’s what he reported. What Rosen’s “concern” was or is, for most of us, just isn’t that important.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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