Conservatives Draw Supreme Court Battle Lines
The New York Timesleads with 10 memorandums that summarize the right's plan to obstruct President Obama's next Supreme Court nomination. Republicans know they have little chance of actually blocking the nominee but hope that a high-profile resistance will help unite their wandering party. The Washington Postalso leads with conservatives and the high court, reporting consensus among Republican senators that gay marriage has replaced abortion as the biggest "flash point" for future confirmation hearings. The Los Angeles Timesleads with California Proposition 1A, a measure on the state's Tuesday ballot that would force the government to create a large saving account only to be used in times of crisis. Both opponents and supporters of the measure question its potential effectiveness, and many voters are balking at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger using Prop 1A to keep his recent tax hikes in place.
As detailed in memoranda obtained by the NYT, conservatives have planned specific responses to each individual believed to be on President Obama's short list for nomination to the Supreme Court. The most objectionable are Diane P. Wood, Sonia Sotomayor, and Kathleen M. Sullivan, whom conservatives will attack based on their stances on abortion, gay marriage, and interpretation of the Constitution. GOP senators echo those points of contention in the WP's lead story: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., says opposition "may reflect the degree to which they think that they're not bound by the classical meaning of the Constitution." Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Republicans mostly want avoid a justice who could lead to another deeply divisive case like Roe v. Wade. The memos in the NYT story suggest that conservatives do find some of the president's potential nominees less objectionable than others.
Republicans get more front-page play courtesy of Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., whom President Obama selected as his ambassador to China yesterday. Huntsman, who was the national co-chair of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, said he never expected an offer for the post. Obama said the position is "as important as any in the world." Viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party, Huntsman learned Mandarin Chinese during his time as a Mormon missionary. He has seven children.
Prohibition of outside beverages proved to be a deal-breaker for many would-be attendees of yesterday's Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. The event, which once drew as many as 60,000 crazy fans, saw a 30 percent drop in attendance this year and a mostly-empty infield during the race. "Those who stayed home forfeited the chance to see Rachel Alexandra become the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years," the WP comments.
A front-page NYT story wonders how cap-and-trade, an emissions-regulation policy formerly dismissed as a Republican- and industry-engineered cop-out, came to win the broad political consensus it currently enjoys. For once, credit goes to the politicians, as cap-and-trade "is almost perfectly designed for the buying and selling of political support through the granting of valuable emissions permits to favor specific industries and even specific Congressional districts."
The LAT investigates a May 4 Taliban attack on the Afghan village of Garani, a bloody affair that Afghan officials say killed 140 civilians. The Taliban outnumbered local authorities by as many as three to one before U.S reinforcements were called. But only around 100 American soldiers were within range to respond, still not enough to beat back the insurgents. The Times calls the attack "a stark illustration of the enormous obstacles faced as the new American administration commits greater numbers of U.S. troops than ever before to confront an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency."
Italians are surprised and dazzled by Fiat's "almost overnight" metamorphosis from ailing company to a global auto superpower, reports a WP story. The long-suffering Italian company has effectively consumed Chrysler and is brokering a deal with GM to absorb its Latin and European divisions. Fiat is already the third largest automaker in the world after Toyota and Volkswagen, and if its GM deal goes through, it will produce 6 million cars next year—triple its number from last year. Another Post piece details Chrysler's two-plus-year search for a partner, during which it attempted deals with more than 10 companies.
Everybody's noticed the long, slow decline of NBC, and a NYT story looks into the troubles co-chairman Ben Silverman has had turning the ailing network around. Silverman was the architect of The Office and many of the first popular American reality shows, but "a combination of external factors—like a writers' strike and a battered economy—and internal factors, including some gossip-stoking incidents in his personal life" have made his task at NBC more difficult than he anticipated. His detractors complain about his "arrogance" and his self-interested partnerships with his own company, Reveille, which has profited from his position at NBC. CEO Jeff Zucker says he is still confident in Silverman: "If we weren't supportive of Ben, he wouldn't be here."
NYT theater critic Ben Brantley calls the concluding Broadway season "so fully alive and functionally adult it felt as if some brain-freezing, senses-numbing spell, cast perhaps by a singing witch from a Disney show, had at long last been lifted." When Tony award voters cast their ballots next month, they will face "the hardest choices they have had to make in decades."
David Sessions is a former Slate intern. He is currently a blogger at Politics Daily.