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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

MSMer Most Out of Touch on Capitol Hill?

Dave McConnell has covered Congress for WTOP, the all-news radio station in Washington, D.C., for more than two decades and is a fixture in the local news ranks. When it comes to framing a news story, he often seems to be a reliable megaphone for whatever the Democrats' line happens to be on any major issue. He thus stands out as an exception to the generally solid news operation that is WTOP.

His comments this morning on President Bush's nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court are the latest illustration of McConnell's predictable news perspective. What is Roberts' top priority the morning after his nomination before a national television audience last night? According to McConnell, it's to "separate himself from the endorsements of prominent conservatives."

What McConnell didn't say is that Roberts was almost unanimously confirmed by the Senate for his present seat on the federal appeals bench, is universally respected and liked among his peers in the legal profession for his intelligence and personal warmth, has argued nearly three dozen cases before the nation's highest court and has vast legal experience in government and private practice.

In other words, McConnell's buddies on the Hill face a nominee who can't be accused of lacking judicial temprament, experience or prudence. He appears vulnerable on ideological grounds on few points, none of which look remotely like show-stoppers and there appears to be strong public support for a dignified and appropriately paced confirmation process that puts Roberts on the Court in time for it's October opening.

So what else can the Democrats say but encourage him to separate himself from conservatives who Democrats routinely describe as being "out of the mainstream" - i.e. not liberal? There are few straws here but I expect McConnell to grasp them all as he reports on the confirmation process in coming weeks.

To be sure, this morning's McConnellism came during an interview which presumably represents something of a news analysis rather than a news report. Even so, the comment affords an insight into his fundamental perspective on the issue.