Monday, July 11, 2016

Making the Window

This New York Times story about an interview with Justice Ginsburg offers a window into how the media sets the stage for political debates:
A second deadlock, in United States v. Texas, left in place a nationwide injunction blocking Mr. Obama’s plan to spare more than four million unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. That was unfortunate, Justice Ginsburg said, but it could have been worse.
“Think what would have happened had Justice Scalia remained with us,” she said. Instead of a single sentence announcing the tie, she suggested, a five-justice majority would have issued a precedent-setting decision dealing a lasting setback to Mr. Obama and the immigrants he had tried to protect.
Justice Ginsburg noted that the case was in an early stage and could return to the Supreme Court. “By the time it gets back here, there will be nine justices,” she said.
Rather than framing United States v. Texas as a question of executive power, the Times instead situates the case in a narrative of partisanship (how does this affect President Obama?).  Moreover, it portrays President Obama as a "protector," implicitly adopting the president's narrative of his justification for his executive action.

While viewing things in a partisan manner may come easy to many in the media, the partisan lens is often not the best one.  The debate over President Obama's executive orders touches upon key issues of executive power--a topic much bigger than the short-term political fate of the current president.

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