[Justice Anthony] Kennedy's vanity was generally harmless, almost charming -- sort of like the carpet in his office.When I read the book, I wrote:
Understatement was the rule for the decor in most justices' chambers. Everyone had a few personal touches -- O'Connor employed a southwestern motif, with Native American blankets and curios; Ginsburg had opera mementos; Stevens had the box score from the World Series game in 1932 when Babe Ruth hit is "called shot" home run against the Chicago Cubs. (Stevens had attended the game as a twelve-year-old boy.) Kennedy, in contrast, installed a plush red carpet, more suited to a theater set than a judge's chambers. Worse (or better, depending on one's perspective), the carpet was festooned with gold stars -- garish touches that made the office a sort of tourist attraction for law clerks and other insiders.
What the hell? So what if Kennedy has proletarian taste in carpet? Does that mean anything about him? And, supposing it does, why would a man who likes thick carpet and bright colors be less suited to make decisions for us than someone with high-class, refined tastes? Who are these asinine clerks who are trying to take the justice down a peg because of his carpet?...I'm thinking about that now, as I eat breakfast in the elegant restaurant in a beautiful, historic hotel in Austin, Texas and stare at the floor:
[Toobin is] promoting the theory that Kennedy -- as the next sentence reads -- "tried hard, maybe too hard, to impress"... Kennedy is a ridiculous man, don't you know...
Maybe it's not so much about high and low class taste as it is a matter of Eastern and Western taste. Yes, I know Sacramento (Kennedy's home town) and Austin are far from each other. This hotel reflects the styles of 1886 and the tastes of a cattle baron. Sacramento was a gold-rush town in the 1800s. But some rough, adventurous people got rich in the 19th century. Shouldn't east-coasters like Jeffrey Toobin — he was a New York City preppie — and — I'm thinking — those law clerks — show a little respect for the sweep of American culture?