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Republican National Committee Splices SCOTUS Audio To Attack 'ObamaCare'

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Wednesday, March 28 2012

For years, the Supreme Court has fought calls to put cameras in its court room, one of the lines of reasoning being that television networks and others would distort the proceedings underway at the court by distributing soundbites.

"Justices use oral argument to develop their thinking in a case. Cameras will alter the dynamics of oral argument. Televising oral argument to millions, rather than presenting it just to those in the courtroom, will make lawyers and justices guarded in their exchanges. It will also lead them to think about their images as well as their arguments," wrote Nancy S. Marder, a New York Times reader to the editor last December in response to an article by the paper's legal reporter Adam Liptak "Supreme Court TV? Nice Idea, but Still Not Likely."

Liptak's article itself, about the likelihood of the Supreme Court allowing cameras in to open up the oral arguments over the constitutionality of the Obama administration's healthcare law, is a fascinating read.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg pointed out in a July 2011 speech, like law professors in class, the Justices often use absurd hypotheticals to probe an issue before them. Liptak speculated that the Justices' fear of the soundbite is rooted in the fear of these kinds of questions being taken out of context.

On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee confirmed the Justices' suspicions in part -- not by excerpting their remarks, but by excerpting the audio of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, whose performance at the court on Tuesday was widely panned on CNN, online and on Twitter.

The committee released a YouTube video with the audio of Verrilli nervously making his argument and repeatedly taking sips of water as he proceeded. They titled the video: "Obamacare: It's a tough sell."

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