Thursday, May 30, 2024


I'm back. Thank you again, Yas and Tom, for great posts while I was away.

While I was traveling, I read a New York Times Magazine story that's being promoted in an odd way, or at least it seems odd to me:

The story's authors, Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer, write:
The story of how an elite strike force of Christian lawyers, activists and politicians methodically and secretly led the country down a path that defied the will of a majority of Americans, who wanted abortion to remain legal, has been hidden until now.
But why has this story been "hidden until now"? Why is it "untold"? The Times Magazine presents this as a scoop, but shouldn't the Times be embarrassed that the story wasn't being reported in real time? Isn't that what readers expect from the Times -- that it will keep tabs on powerful organizations with big plans to change the way we live? Isn't the job of reporters to ensure that sneaky groups like this one can't operate in absolute secrecy?

One reason this happened, of course, is that Dias and Lerer were saving what they knew for a book:

But it also appears that the Times hasn't been particularly interested in pursuing the work of "Christian lawyers, activists and politicians" operating "methodically and secretly" to overturn Roe. In the current story, we're told about the importance of Leonard Leo:
It happened almost by accident, over cocktails. Exactly the kind of accident that Leonard Leo intended to happen at his Federalist Society’s annual conference — a three-day gathering of the conservative tribe and a strategy session for right-wing lawyers, officials and judges....

For more than 40 years, a passionate band of conservative and mostly Christian activists tried to find ways to undermine the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion and revolutionized America. But they had been losing.... The anti-abortion movement lacked the critical mass needed in Washington and the control of courts to end federal abortion rights. But now, with Trump, who promised to name “pro-life judges,” in the White House, there was a new vista before them.

Leo, the force behind this network, arrived at the Mayflower after spending the day at Trump Tower in New York. He met with the president-elect and his top aides about turning the list of Supreme Court justice candidates that Leo curated into legal reality. Republicans in the Senate had taken a risk by refusing to hold hearings to fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia toward the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. Now, with Trump positioned to nominate one of its own, Leo’s movement stood on the verge of an enormous triumph, with a court that would once again be dominated by Republican-appointed justices — and those who were firmly on the side of restricting abortion.
Everyone knew that Trump had one vacancy to fill, that he would likely have another because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an octogenarian cancer survivor who'd chosen not to retire during President Obama's term, and that he might have a third if Anthony Kennedy could be persuaded to leave the Court. They knew what Leo and the rest of the anti-abortion movement wanted. Why weren't they watching and reporting on this network's every move?

Tom Carter, a retired Washington Times reporter who's become obsessed with Leo's outsize power, has written about his unsuccessful efforts to persuade journalists at the Times to write about Leo:
Starting in 2010, I pitched more than 40 prominent, award-winning mainstream journalists, including seven from the New York Times....

[Robert] Draper was perfectly placed at the NYT magazine, an elegant writer who had the best contacts in DC. In 2014, I sent Draper a long email detailing why an important, big shot NYT reporter needed to look at Leo.

He responded.

“RE: Leo et al., Kirsten [Powers, Draper’s fiancée] knows him personally, and we’re close to a certain GOP donor who is very tied into the reshaping of the courts. It’s a very good story, but this is one of the small handful of very good stories out there that’s a little too close to home for me to feel comfortable doing.”

In other words. “Leo et al” are friends and while this was a “very good story,” I can’t out my friends.

... Kirsten Powers, Draper’s fiancée, now wife, is another high profile DC reporter (CNN, Fox, USA Today). She went through a highly publicized conversion to Catholicism in 2015, with help from extreme right spiritual guides Eric Metaxas and Ann Corkery — Leonard Leo’s dark money handler....

Corkery, like Leo, is an extreme far right Catholic, and once on the board of the Becket Fund, where Leo is a board member. Open members of Opus Dei, Corkery and husband Neil ran Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network dark-money laundering operation, first opposing Obama court nominees and then supporting, with millions, Leo nominees — first Roberts and Alito, then Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — during the Trump years....

“Ann Corkery is my fiancee’s godmother,” Draper said in an email dated 3/22/2017....
And on it goes.

I've done a search at the Times site and it appears that even though Leo might now be the most powerful political figure in America, his name did not appear in the Times from November 2008 until November 2016. After Trump's election, his name appeared in stories about judicial appointments, but nobody seemed to notice any of the work being done to get Roe overturned.

And yet we knew the right's legal M.O. at the time. We knew that (as Dias and Lerer's article makes clear) right-wing groups linked to Leo regularly craft laws that are passed in right-wing states in the hope that they'll trigger legal challenges. Lawyers connected to the Federalist Society write the laws, FedSoc-connected legal officials in red states defend the laws, and FedSoc lawyers argue cases based on the laws before FedSoc federal judges and Supreme Court justices.

We knew all that at the time of Trump's election. We knew these folks were gunning for Roe. Why were they able to hide the nature of their final assault on Roe from top reporters until they'd accomplished what they set out to do?

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