Jude Law, Judge Roberts and a Fashion Statement

It’s News of the Week word association time. We say “Law” and you think first — admit it — of a certain British actor with a thing for a nanny, and then, only moments later, of a certain Supreme Court nominee. (You can always blame the media.)

Both high profile law men — Jude and Judge John Roberts — get their due in Time and Newsweek this week. Time has a brief blurb on Law the actor, headlined, “Shocking News! Good-Looking Man is a Cad!” while the movie star earns a downward arrow in Newsweek’s C.W. section because he “boink[ed] nanny then apologize[d] to hottie fiancee.” Roberts, on the other hand, gets both an upward arrow from Newsweek (“smart, experienced, short paper trail”) and the cover. And both newsweeklies, in their lengthy (and nearly interchangeable) “who is John Roberts” pieces, get the Orange Story.

George Washington had his Cherry Tree Story. Judge Roberts, apparently, has oranges. In brief: In junior high school (or in second grade, in the Time version), Roberts was called before the principal for hurling an orange against a wall. His defense? The orange was not supposed to hit the wall but rather to hit his friend Tommy (or Timmy, in Time’s account) but Tommy/Timmy ducked. So, said Roberts, the sticky wall was all Tommy’s/Timmy’s fault. This charming anecdote illustrates Roberts’ “natural gift for arguing even the weakest case,” according to Newsweek’s Evan Thomas and Stuart Taylor Jr., and represents but one of the “little flakes of destiny littered through Roberts’ storybook life,” says Time’s Nancy Gibbs, who deems it the day Roberts “won his first case.” Gibbs notes that “the New York Times profile [of Roberts] poured across the front page to two more full pages inside without uncovering one single person who knew Roberts and had a harsh word to say.” True enough — but, then, Gibbs’ own Roberts profile pours across seven online pages without uncovering one single person who knew Roberts and had a harsh word to say.

The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg finds a few harsh words for the man behind Roberts’ nomination, calling Bush’s selection of a man who Hertzberg determines “will be confirmed politely” a “confession of weakness.” Hertzberg continues: “Bush’s popularity is at a low ebb; his plan to privatize Social Security is failing; his war and his budget are in chaos. And by Friday the troubles of Karl Rove were back on the front page.”

Nothing harsh in The Weekly Standard’s assessment of Roberts, but nothing overly optimistic either. The Standard’s Terry Eastland is sure that Roberts will be “better than O’Connor” (at what, one wonders) but questions “how much better?” Also in this week’s Standard? A bit of media criticism. The target? The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan whose “specialty,” according to the Standard “is allergic reactions to the clothing of people whose politics she disapproves of” — including, most recently, Judge Roberts and his family who “in a shocking lapse of judgment, Givhan reports, failed to select its ‘attire from the commonly accepted styles of this century.’” The Standard foresees a Roberts confirmation despite Givhan’s scathing fashion review, and concludes, “We look forward to Givhan’s critique of the new justice’s robe, plainly a symbol of the dark, foreboding shadow his presence on the court casts over the new century.”

And if a D.C-based journalist critiquing another D.C.-based journalist’s critique of a D.C. newsmaker’s clothing isn’t your bag, how about a New York-based journalist reporting on a Swedish journalist critiquing the “style of American newscasters”? Sofia Hedstrom, a Swede and a television reporter, is the subject of this week’s New York magazine “Look Book” (in which attractive, stylish people are photographed and interviewed in faux “man on the street” style). Hedstrom, like millions of Americans and counting, finds news anchors stateside to be “a little boring.”

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.