So long, Justice Scalia

Cara L. Gallagher, Weekend Contributor

Last week, the internet of trolls solace public opinion melted for a few days grounding every other political story to a halt. Justice Scalia suddenly died and a confluence of voices, both allies and foes, shouted loud enough to practically awake him from the dead. Once they quieted, the memorials began. Moments and stories told by those who knew him, Scalia “best-of” lists, and the resurrection of “argle-bargle” – Just when I thought we’d finally buried that phrase – dominated the news cycles, stealing the spotlight from Donald Trump. So many charming Scalia moments pointed to the complexity of a man I myself had complex feelings about.

My Scalia moment happened in July of 2012, my first year working at C-SPAN. My boss and mentor, Brian Lamb, knew my affinity for the Supreme Court and invited me to join him at the taping of a Q&A interview with the Justice, who’d just written his book Reading Law. After the interview, Justice Scalia’s handler shot me daggers as I hovered outside the green room. Had Mr. Lamb not intervened by introducing us, the picture below would never have happened. Here’s how one of my greatest celebrity moments went down:

One of us is thrilled. The other would rather be hunting. (Sigh)

Me (read with bounciest, gushiest pitch possible): Justice Scalia, my name is Cara Gallagher and I’m a huge, huge fan of your writi-…

Scalia: Ok, ok, Carrie. Let’s do this.

Correct, that’s not my name.

Brusque disposition aside, the Justice was kind enough to stick around, take the picture, and chat for a little while. I was and remain a loyal fan of Justice Scalia’s opinions and dissents. Regardless of whether the case was as high profile as same-sex marriage or lower profile like an EPA case, reading a Scalia opinion, especially a dissent, meant I was likely going to disagree with the opinion before I read it and end up virtually persuaded by it at the end.

I used to run from the Court, nearly stumbling on my walk, while thumbing past the majority opinions just to get to the Scalia dissent. In Court, I would strain my neck from the gallery to see his face as he read a dissent from the bench. His profound sense of American and European history always nearly convinced me why I should come his way. His dry wit and snarky use of “Really?” appealed to my millennial sense of humor in the same way SNL’s Amy Poehler and Seth Meyer’s Weekend Update series did. Scalia’s wordsmith-ing skills charmed me. Words like ‘perpetuity’ and ‘prudential,’ I’ve always thought of him whenever I’ve heard or read them.

His words could also feel like bullets when they were launched at colleagues he disagreed with. To offend with Scalia’s brand of intellectual supremacy not the person but their ideas would be aspirational for most. His emotions got the better of him and his barbed criticisms of other Justices, even Chief Justice Roberts, as well as his flare for hyperbole, invited the masses into a mainstream Supreme Court written for their soap opera-level of pleasure. I myself got a lot of mileage out of his opinions as well as his silly facial expressions and conductor-like hand gestures. In last year’s same-sex marriage case, he famously asked the majority to go “ask the nearest hippie” whether intimacy was a protected freedom. So, we did and wrote about what that hippie said about Constitutional law.

His inclination to answer critical legal questions with an original interpretation of the Constitution, most likely would’ve inspired another barbed conversation between him and former Justice John Paul Stevens’ regarding the latter’s book on how he would change the Constitution (Scalia: Pearl clutch!).

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 10.51.26 PM

I could forgive his brand of conservatism and originalist reading of Constitutional text, but the version of Antonin I knew was out of bounds and indefensible during the Fisher affirmative action oral arguments last year. It was there that I was reminded of the intolerant Scalia, the one whose whitewashed version of a post-racial American history I am thankful not to have to read from him when that decision comes down this summer.

The “yuck” factor on the internet passed a shamefully low level of scrutiny last week in the hours immediately after Justice Scalia’s death. I get it. His opponents have ample reasons and opinions to support such opposition. If this was a Supreme Court vote count and a simple tally had to be taken, I would be one of those opponents. But that kind of oversimplification wouldn’t explain my position or the complexity of my feelings for the Justice. It also wouldn’t reveal the humor, or the warmth, the education, or the intensified appreciation for the text of the Constitution that I got from Justice Scalia. Such an oversimplification would be genuine argle-bargle.

Some of my favorite Scalia quotes below:

“Some might conclude that this load could have used a while longer in the oven. But that would be wrong; it is already overcooked. The most expert care in preparation cannot redeem a bad recipe.” (U.S. v. Windsor)

“the majority’s resolution of the merits question is so outrageously wrong, so utterly devoid of textual or historic support, so flatly in contradiction of prior Supreme Court cases, so obviously the willful product of hostility…, that I cannot avoid adding my vote to the devastating dissent of the Chief Justice.” (Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission)

“I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.” (Obergefell v. Hodges)

“The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.” (Obergefell v. Hodges)

“Welcome to Groundhog Day.”(Glossip v. Gross)

“Do not use the creative arithmetic that JUSTICE BREYER employs in counting the number of States that use the death penalty when you prepare your next tax return; outside the world of our Eighth Amendment abolitionist-inspired jurisprudence, it will be regarded as more misrepresentation than math.”
(Glossip v. Gross)

Follow Cara Gallagher on Twitter @SupremeBystandr.

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

41 thoughts on “So long, Justice Scalia”

  1. Karen S:

    “Mespo – I always did learn new vocabulary words reading Scalia. He was like a one man war against the dumbing down of modern vocabulary.”
    Cultivated mind, callous heart.

  2. But so long as women want just 1.8 babies(who)….we are no different than china….where the govt is the extended family. And cradle to grave is centrally planned. I know my anglo off spring in this country will be out numbered by immigrants. …for foolish policy. But i am in a big family. I belong to christ’s team. For every muslim canada brings to cross the us line may the catholic church bring ten. Because if america dies so does christianity…

    Just look at france where crosses are barred.

    We have transcended country. The rubicon.

  3. Karen….no doubt where have slogans and deals got us ? No where. I’d be happy in the squeezed generation with no growth if we still had an agraian society. Some how women used to be happy working their arses off having a half dozen kids. And a garden. And they damn well out lived the men….who could not find satisfaction. Maybe satisfaction, contentment if you will, is just being a mom and making a garden. For every prozac $ that is sold is $ for gardenening and parenting ideas…..not paid for by medicine i figure.

  4. L’Observer:

    “And yet….and yet….slavery WAS abolished!

    Progressives do manage to move the country forward.”

    I disagree. Republicans and conservative Christians drove the abolitionist movement, freeing the slaves, and the Civil Rights movement.

    The problem is that a movement picks a slogan that renders it almost impossible to disagree with, like “moving forward,” “helping the poor”, or “taking care of puppies and kittens.” If you ask someone, “Do you agree with ‘moving forward’?” Of course they will agree. But does the movement actually does what it says it does? Politicians keep taking advantage of the African American community, promising government can solve all their problems. But if that’s true, then why are African Americans worse off now than ever? They’ve had a two term Democratic President, who’s gotten everything he’s ever wanted through Congress. How long do those politicians think people will keep falling for empty promises or free stuff? Their policies actually hurt the job market, and African Americans were the hardest hit in unemployment. They promised home loans, demanding that banks give no money down loans to people with poor credit and low income, and are they better off now? Nope. Now they have foreclosures on their credit. How long ago did they wage “The War on Poverty”? So why is the gap widening between the rich and the poor? Why are their so many poor now? Wasn’t government supposed to fix all that if they voted for Democrats?

    Just because a party has a great slogan, like “progressive” does not actually make them so. Their changes might not render positive results some or most of the time. I could rename the Republican party “Progressives”, and you wouldn’t suddenly believe their party was actually progressing the country forward.

    Mespo – I always did learn new vocabulary words reading Scalia. He was like a one man war against the dumbing down of modern vocabulary.

  5. Bam bam….nice try on the spin of disrespect by obama. Think about it ….you get one funeral do you really want the jackass to attend? Do you want it about you and god or the president and his gaggle?…. Frankly i appreciate that obama did not attend. Instead of sticking his guarded rear everywhere he respected him enough not to attend. And if security was the issue as the WH said….both biden and obama couldn’t go. No family should have to have a funeral that secures both at the same time and place….at a church. No it could be obama didn’t go cuz they told him his speech and teleprompter weren’t allowd. Speculation. Who knows. But it would have been more disrespectful had he gone. Not just to scalia but biden. I’m not a wh troll. Cling to my bible like the most of us. And was. Relieved obama wasn’t going. For an hour and a half in america it wasn’t about him. Was it purposeful respect? No but it wasn’t purposeful disrespect either. Tho the “tie” off no doubt was….and communicated the usg under obama wins the rest of this term. That’$ the disrespect.

  6. Opinion
    Obama’s rudeness hits new heights with Scalia, Schumer

    By Kyle Smith

    February 20, 2016 | 3:00pm

    Gratuitous. Nasty. Petty. Spiteful. Insulting. Just plain rude. When the rhetoric of a major party’s leading presidential candidate falls to this level, we should be scornful.

    So, how is it OK when it isn’t just a presidential candidate but a president who does it?

    Donald Trump’s policy of demeaning and snarking his political opponents has been a favorite habit of President Obama for the last eight years. Obama is perhaps the first president who believes that leading the country and playing to the beliefs of the extremists in his own party amount to the same thing, and like Trump fans, Obama fans are motivated in large degree by sheer hatred.

    They love to hear their idol channel their rage by bashing people they don’t like.

    Obama’s latest, silent insult — leaving a spokesman to explain he had better things to do on a Saturday than attend the funeral of a 30-year justice of the Supreme Court — isn’t surprising when you consider the mean-spirited things he says virtually every time he steps in front of a microphone.

    This week, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest bashed Sen. Chuck Schumer, who objected to cuts in counterterrorism funding for New York. Earnest said, in essence, why listen to this fool on anything if he opposed the Iran deal, especially since “most Democrats” were in favor?

    Police Commissioner Bill Bratton noted, accurately, that this was pure politics — the president was punishing New York to get back at Schumer.

    Obama was doing exactly what he accuses Republican members of Congress of doing, calling them “hostage takers . . . [of] the American people.” Except that his rhetoric was about a debate over tax cuts, not Obama’s actual cutting of money needed to keep the nation’s largest city safe.

    Meanwhile, when it comes to actual hostage takers, Obama can’t muster much outrage. At last year’s national prayer breakfast, he barely paused to obliquely refer to the Islamists who had just burned alive a Jordanian pilot so he could single out Christianity for bashing: “Lest we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

    If you recall Christian principles, as embodied by a minister named Martin Luther King Jr., being a crucial component of civil rights victories, Obama thinks you’re a dope. If you can’t see how 11th-century atrocities more or less cancel out the ones committed the day before yesterday, you’re not the broad historical thinker Obama thinks he is.

    Comparing Islamist fanatics to conservative Americans, and implying that he is more comfortable with the former, is a favorite Obama tactic. Dismissing extremists in Iran, Obama said last August, “In fact, it’s those hard-liners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hard-liners chanting ‘death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.”

    Just two days after promising to scale back his attacks on Republicans at the 2013 Jefferson Dinner, Obama told George Stephanopoulos his opponents wanted to “gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid.” At the end of 2012, at a moment when Republicans thought they were on the verge of closing a budget deal with Obama, he instead staged a press conference and said the Republican policy was “we’re just going to try to . . . shove spending cuts at us, that will hurt seniors, or hurt students, or hurt middle-class families.” In 2012, he advised Latino voters to think, “We’re gonna punish our enemies.” In a 2012 chat with Douglas Brinkley for Rolling Stone, he called Mitt Romney a “bulls—-er.”

    All of this has come from a president who is forever bewailing the partisan rancor of a country that, he keeps sadly informing us, has let him down by proving unable to discuss its differences in a civil way.

    Obama fanboys often claim that their superhero has been subjected to an unprecedented level of attack and can only take so much. Couldn’t Trump justify his insult-based campaign on that basis? George W. Bush certainly took more than his share of abuse, but to fire back would have struck him as ungentlemanly. He ducked the insults as blithely as he ducked that flying shoe in Iraq.

    Besides, usually Obama fans are so desperate to come up with an example of “vitriol” directed against their superhero that they wind up quoting the last four words of a 2009 remark by Rush Limbaugh: “Look, what [Obama] is talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work . . . I hope he fails.”

    Limbaugh and Obama have more in common than either would like to admit. Except one of them is supposed to represent the entire country. One of them isn’t supposed to sound like talk radio.

  7. Obama Hates People Politicizing His Skipping Scalia’s Funeral
    February 21, 2016
    Daniel Greenfield

    So Obama spent 2 minutes at Justice Scalia’s memorial service.

    The Obamas spent approximately 35 seconds in front of the casket and then approximately 67 seconds in front of the portrait of Scalia


    According to White House Spokestroll Josh Earnest, Biden was a better choice to go to the funeral because he had a “personal relationship” with Scalia and also a lighter “security footprint”.

    Obama seems to manage to go to a whole lot of places with his security footprint and the funeral had Joe Biden, Senator Ted Cruz and numerous important political figures there. So it’s a safe bet that it was secure.

    Earnest spewed a baffling word salad in which he claimed that, “given the President’s desire to find a respectful way to pay tribute to Justice Scalia’s service to the country, we believe we have settled on an appropriate and respectful arrangement.”

    That’s the definition of circular nonsense. Obama chose to skip the funeral. He popped in and out of the memorial service spending as little time there as he could. But then Earnest got on his hilarious high horse about people politicizing the funeral.

    “There’s so much rancor and politics and partisanship that we allow ourselves to get drawn into different corners to the extent that some people actually want to use the funeral of a Supreme Court justice as some sort of political cudgel. The President doesn’t think that that’s appropriate. And in fact, what the President thinks is appropriate is respectfully paying tribute to high-profile, patriotic American citizens even when you don’t agree on all the issues. And that’s what he’s going to do.”

    For 2 minutes. While skipping their funeral.

    But Obama thinks you’re all behaving badly by pointing out that he isn’t even bothering to pay basic respects to the man whose body was still warm when he began fighting to replace him.

  8. “Progressives do manage to move the country forward.”

    Until they run head on into the past. That’s not progress, that’s demolition derby.

  9. Olly,

    And yet….and yet….slavery WAS abolished!

    Progressives do manage to move the country forward.

  10. I am a Progressive. Sander’s numbers are hogwash. As is any economic policy proposed by all the Republican candidates.

    Interesting take on high speed rail and renewal energy: “choo-choo trains and windmills”. Just about the analysis I would expect from a three year old.

  11. Speaking of Progressives, it appears that according to the NYT, Liberal Economists agree that Bernie Sander’s economic ideas are hogwash.

    So, apparently, “wanting to look forward” is not , actually, all that is required to improve things:

    “Perhaps most telling, former Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee, famous for his progressivism, colorfully dismissed Sanders’ agenda as “magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.””

  12. Nick – do they look forward to a time of massive unemployment, no prospects for advancement, underfunded benefits, a dependent populace, and bloated and inefficient and unaccountable government bureaucracy?

  13. Hopefully I got the right video, but here’s a tribute to The Dissenting Opinions of Scalia:

  14. “Progressives look forward.” Then explain their love of choo choo trains and windmills.

  15. L’Observer

    Your failure to appreciate this inappropriate act of contempt and disrespect is only outdone by your blind fascination and admiration for the greatest disaster to ever sit in the White House. It’s interesting how cretins doesn’t hesitate to applaud the death of a great man, like Scalia, on this blog, which goes unnoticed by you, yet it is my observation, denouncing the calculated absence by this couple, from a funeral service that should’ve attended out of common decency, that serves to disgust you. Debasement, my @$$. Lol! Thanks for the chuckle. As your name suggests, you obviously fancy yourself the great observer of all, yet, as your bizarre comments reveal, you see nothing with any clarity, whatsoever. Given your warped viewpoint, I shall endeavor to continue in disgusting you. That way I know that I am on the correct track.

  16. L’Observer,
    History has an uncanny way of repeating itself. I seriously doubt there is one rational person that would argue against creating a better future. Progressives tend to ignore the one constant that makes a review of history necessary…..human nature. The reason the preamble doesn’t call for “perfect” is because our nature can’t get there. The reason the constitution is a limiting document is because of human nature. The reason slavery wasn’t abolished at our founding is because of human nature. I don’t begrudge progressives for having a vision to create a better future, those ends may be worthy but our nature necessitates we limit the means to get there.

    Hindsight may be 20/20 but you have to take a look.

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