October 7, 2013

I was going to make a list titled 9 Things Justice Scalia said in his New York Magazine interview.

Most interviews with Supreme Court Justices are not even worth that. The Justices say such predictable things that I might pull out the most interesting thing or, not finding one, I skip blogging it altogether. But this interview by Jennifer Senior is so good (and long) that as I read it (before getting out of bed just now) I decided I'd pull out 9 items (the number 9 pops into my head when I'm thinking about Supreme Court Justices) and do something like:

1. He calls DVDs "CDs" (and the "CDs" in question are episodes of "Seinfeld").

2. He thinks "blurbing" on the internet is narcissistic and interferes with the process of becoming a good writer.

3. He's most proud of his opinion in Morrison v. Olson (where he's the lone dissenter in the decision that found the Independent Counsel law constitutional).

4. He thinks Congress is truly dangerous — if only it would actually use the powers it has.

5. He's not "a fan of different levels of scrutiny" in constitutional interpretation.

6. He believes in the Devil, because it's Catholic doctrine, but maybe because it's a helpful metaphor.

7. He plays poker, claims to be good at poker, but is unfamiliar with the term "tell."

8. He has friends that he knows or "very much suspect[s]" are homosexual, and doesn't like the interviewer's suggestion that — re homosexuality — he's "softened."

9. To imitate Rehnquist, he "turns his nose up theatrically, flutters his hand in dismissal."

There are more than 9 things worth treating that way...

10. You have to be very careful picking law clerks because "one dud will ruin your year."

11. His dissents have the tone they do — "breezy" and with "some thrust" — because they're written for law students and law students will read that sort of thing.

12. Back in the 80s, Supreme Court opinions were loaded with the "garbage" of legislative history (and they're not anymore, and he takes credit for that).

13. He wants the Catholic Church to be more evangelistic.

14. He blames "The Gipper" for turning the State of the Union Address into the "childish spectacle" it's become.

15. He likes Bill Bennett's radio show.

16. He won't read The Washington Post anymore because it became so "shrilly, shrilly liberal" that he can't "handle it."

17. The worst thing about the Constitution, he thinks, is that it's way too hard to amend it.

18. He "repudiate[s]" his old statement that his originalism is "fainthearted."

But I decided (at the point of finally getting out of bed) that I wanted to do a series of posts on a number of topics, taking them on individually and blogging — or blurbing — my way through and going somewhere with the idea. It's the Devil topic in particular that made me want to do that. I know there are people who are linking to this interview just to say Scalia believes in the Devil, but — is the Devil making me do this? — I feel there's a lot in his discussion of the Devil that needs to be taken apart and examined. The blog will blurb and burble.

ADDED: Here's the promised Devil post. And here's a post about a topic that isn't represented on that list of 18 things.

16 comments:

Oso Negro said...

The Devil serves admirably as metaphor for the impulse to evil.

virgil xenophon said...

"...The Devil came from Kansas, where he went to I can't say..."

Matthew Sablan said...

I thought the devil went down to Georgia.

EDH said...

8. He... doesn't like the interviewer's suggestion that — re homosexuality — he's "softened."

I kinda doubt he'd prefer the suggestion that he's hardened when it come to homosexuality.

virgil xenophon said...

@Matthew Sablan

Not according to Procol Harum..

Basil said...

Bill Bennett has a radio show?

Robert Cook said...

17. The worst thing about the Constitution, he thinks, is that it's way too hard to amend it."

This seems a virtue to me, in that it prevents too-frequent "fiddling" with the Constitution, altering it out of all recognition to accommodate the ephemeral panics and passions of the day.

YoungHegelian said...

@Matt,

I thought the devil went down to Georgia.

No, he's in The Details.

@RC,

This seems a virtue to me...

I agree with you on that. Or, the again, we could just do what the French do, and chuck the whole thing and start again. The French are now on their fifth constitution since the Revolution. That's worked out well for them, right? /sarc

Ambrose said...

I think 17 is the most interesting. The difficulty in amending has certainly put tremendous pressure on the Court - politicizing it to a higher degree than originally intended.

Paddy O said...

This seems a virtue to me, in that it prevents too-frequent "fiddling" with the Constitution, altering it out of all recognition to accommodate the ephemeral panics and passions of the day.

That's the initial impulse for making it more difficult. The trouble is balance. Make it too easy, ephemeral panics get enshrined in the Constitution.

Make it too hard, ephemeral panics find other ways of making substantive changes to interpretation. Which is where we are at now, with the Supreme Court basically serving as a permanent non-representative Constitutional convention.

There's really no reason at all to amend the Constitution any more. Everything amendments used to do are now done by fiat by courts or executive demand.

Simon said...

Well, of course Scalia believes in the Devil. One assumes that he believes in the golden Gate Bridge, too; as he points out, it's those who don't believe in the Devil who are the unusual ones.

Simon said...

Be careful with the Rehnquist point—he wasn't imitating Rehnquist, he was satirizing Rehnquist's attitude on a specific issue (to wit his view on how to handle dissenting opinions).

Congress, by the way, is dangerous. It's funny how people talk about the power of the purse, but as soon as the House uses that power, everyone loses their minds. EJ Dionnem, in today's Post, calls it "extraconstitutional"—thus unintentionally vindicating the observation made elsewhere in this interview by Scalia about that newspaper.

Simon said...

Robert Cook said...
"This seems a virtue to me, in that it prevents too-frequent "fiddling" with the Constitution, altering it out of all recognition to accommodate the ephemeral panics and passions of the day."

I agree—the reactions to Citizens United and Heller demonstrate the point—but his point is nevertheless well-taken.

Inga said...

Those who need the fear of the devil to be decent human beings, well that just simply bedevils me.

Unknown said...

Regarding #8, it seems to me he refused to say he had "softened" because the way the question was worded presupposed that prior to that, he was "hardened". He was trying to say that he has a well reasoned viewpoint, intellectually based but filled with an appreciation for all those created by God, not hating anybody, and he simply repudiates being characterized as a bigot.

Auntie Ann said...

As for #14: I blame Peggy Noonan.