The following is a transcription of the January 7, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch", that has been edited for clarity:
ERIC BURNS, FOX NEWS HOST: Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings for a seat on the Supreme Court will begin on Monday. In the past few weeks, he's been rehearsing for them. Said someone who watched the rehearsals — and this is according to The New York Times — "He will have a couple of hairs out of place. I am not sure his glasses fit his facial features. He might not wear the right color tie. He won't be tanned. He will look like he is from New Jersey because he is."
Well, then we should confirm him.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Homely.
BURNS: Isn't that the point of this?
GABLER: I'm convinced.
JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: I thought that was a fascinating bit of expectations-game management. Because it's one thing to say that Alito might stutter. — I've been known to do that. Or mumble. I've been known to do that, too!
BURNS: And use your hands a lot.
PINKERTON: And use my hands too much in obscurative New Jersey. But to say...
RICH LOWRY, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: ...but your glasses always fit your face. They always do.
PINKERTON: But to say that glasses or ties — those — can be fixed. If they choose not to fix those as a way of making him look like Woody Allen when the left is trying to portray him as a Taliban, then that's a deliberate choice. And they're kind of - shouldn't probably have telegraphed it to The New York Times.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think that the story was probably very likely almost a GOP plant.
HALL: .to lower expectations, and also to sort of cast him as Jimmy Stewart. I, having just watched "It's a Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth time over the holidays — you know, I was thinking of a Frank Capra movie. He'll be — he'll be a — hair is out of place, that sort of thing. The guy has -- the man has a record. And that's what the media should be looking at. The whole thing is being turned into performance art. And the fact that there are counter- and pro-ads against him — Dana Milbank in The Washington Post said there was an effort to prejudge the judge. I - I think we should let the hearings begin.
BURNS: Let's talk briefly or give examples briefly of those ads Jane mentioned. These are television. But here's the copy from an anti-Alito ad:
"Yes, you wrote on a job application that a woman has no constitution right to an abortion. But your excuse is brilliant, You only did it to get the job."
A pro-Alito ad says, "Every day, desperate liberals make up a steady drip of attacks against Judge Samuel Alito."
This is what happens, Neal, isn't it, in a lot of big stories? That before the media have at it, ad campaigns have at it.
GABLER: If the media have at it. I mean, I'm going to pick up what Jane said.
I mean, look it, the media always now take the path of least resistance. If they really wanted to do the job — this is a very, very, very appointment. We ought to be knowing why he didn't honor his — his promise to recuse himself from cases that involved a company in which he had investments. Why he used the word "retarded" to a mentally disabled individual. Why he believes in unlimited power for the presidency.
This man's record ought to be scrutinized point by point. What do we get instead? An idiotic piece like David Kirkpatrick's piece in The New York Times — we're talking about whether his hair is going to be in place. But that's exactly how the Republican Party wants this to be spun. They don't want his record to be looked at.
BURNS: But, Rich, it's also — isn't the reason that he received this kind of training, this media-presentation training, and that these comments were made — because, in fact, there's a lot of superficiality involved in the judgments.
LOWRY: Of course.
BURNS: ...and it does matter, sadly, Neal, how you look, as opposed to — not as opposed to your record.
GABLER: In the media. In the media.
LOWRY: If there's - if there's any doubt about that, look at the coverage of Jack Abramoff's plea this week, where there's almost as much commentary about the kind of hat he wore as there was about the crime she was pleading guilty to.
LOWRY: It's just.
PINKERTON: Because it's a visual medium, Eric, with this thing called television. It's been a big part of our lives.
BURNS: And that's all it's supposed to do, Jim?
GABLER: Because it's easy. Because it's easy to do that. It's hard to scrutinize a record.
LOWRY: Now hold on.
GABLER: But it's easy to talk about how it looks.
LOWRY: We're not being entirely fair to the.
LOWRY: There's been a lot of coverage about these documents that have been released. It's not as though that stuff has been ignored. It's been out there; it's been covered.
BURNS: And don't we -- don't you think that next week, when, in fact, he does testify, no matter how he looks, no matter how many hairs out of place, there will be more substantive coverage because the story itself will be more substantive. He'll be testifying.
HALL: Well, you know, and I also think we need to say, part of the performance aspect comes from, I think, media cynicism. You know, I think people should be rotated in and out of this stuff sometimes as reporters. Because the ads make you cynical, and then they write cynical stuff about the performance.
It is fair -- that 1985 memo about views that he had as a Reagan — seeking a job. The media are the people who have uncovered that, Neal. So we do need to give them credit.
PINKERTON: There's been lots of coverage of Alito's record and so. But it — but it — Look, obviously, the John Roberts hearings stand as the gold standard of successful testimony for that. And so it's natural people are curious how Alito will do in comparison.
GABLER: I mean, that coverage is secondary to the primary coverage. And the primary coverage is, How does he look?
LOWRY: That's not true. That was one story in The New York Times. These documents have been covered — they've even been covered twice. You've had the same memos covered and made to be a scandal after they've been already covered once before.
BURNS: Next week...
GABLER: We'll see who gets most of the coverage next week.
BURNS: Next week we'll see if things get more substantive.
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