Antonin Scalia was a great Supreme Court justice and I don't know why I keep smirking when I think of his empty chair draped in black

Antonin Scalia was a great Supreme Court justice and I don't know why I keep smirking when I think of his empty chair draped in black
image: washingtonpost.com

Antonin Scalia was a Supreme Court justice.  That’s more accurate than saying that he was a great justice, which he was not.  Now that we’ve laid him to rest, let’s get real.

Ted Cruz thinks Scalia should be replaced by a justice who is at least as screwed up as his predecessor.  While there’s no shortage of right wing nut jobs, Cruz’s comments sum it up in a nutshell.

They don’t want anyone listening to cases and judging them in accordance with a reasonable reading of the Constitution.  They only want justices who support the most extreme views of their whacked out base, the more extreme the better.

Scalia was instrumental in the 2008 ruling giving individual citizens unrestricted access to all manner of weaponry.  In case you haven’t read it, this is the most commonly used itereation of the 2nd Amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Obviously, Scalia’s interpretation relies heavily on the second part of that sentence, the part that says, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It should, however be clear to anyone with even a modest, American-style primary education that the “right of the people” is predicated on “A well regulated militia”  and maintaining “the security of a free state.”

Without getting into a detailed and protracted discussion of the 2nd Amendment, no reasonable person could interpret it to mean that every knuckle-dragging yahoo is entitled to buy all the fire power he can carry, with no vetting process whatsoever.

Let’s forget about the 2nd Amendment for a while, we don’t want to upset a bunch of guys with loaded sub machine guns and rocket launchers.

Let’s talk about some of Scalia’s world views, religious and otherwise.

Mr. Scalia watched the Flintstones like it was a documentary.  He believed that humans and dinosaurs shared the Earth beginning about 6,000 years ago.

To Scalia, the phrase, “The Devil made me do it” had literal meaning.

Scalia said that black people would benefit from being excluded from the best of our universities because the curriculum were too challenging.

Scalia recently told a high school audience that non-religious people were not entitled to equal treatment under the Constitution.

“To tell you the truth, there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?” he said. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”

Apparently Mr. Strict-Interpreter-of-the-Constitution had some revisions in mind for the 1st Amendment.  Which brings us to the current dilemma of finding Mr. Scalia’s replacement.

For several years we’ve been listening to the esteemed leaders of the Republican Party tell us how the President is in constant, flagrant disregard of the Constitution.

Now that it comes to the President doing exactly what the Constitution tells him to do with regard to filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, those same constitutional scholars have decided that what the Constitution says is not what the Constitution means.

Interesting, huh?

It’s also interesting that prior to 1916, there were no significant confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices.  It was a matter of simple procedure, the president’s nominations were routinely confirmed by the Senate with little fanfare.

What happened in 1916 to change that, you ask.  Good question.

In 1916 Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court.  Brandeis, one of the foremost jurist to ever inhabit that rarefied atmosphere was also the first Jewish Supreme Court justice.

There were a few scattered confirmation hearings after Brandeis, but it didn’t turn into a sideshow until the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 gave our legislators the idea that this new fangled TV thing was the perfect place to prance and preen before their constituents.

More fun facts:

President Obama is not a “lame duck” president.  He is a president in the last year of his term who will become a lame duck AFTER the November election.

Supreme Court justices have regularly been nominated by presidents in their last year.  Justice Anthony Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan during the last year of his presidency.

As was often the case, Kennedy was confirmed by a vote of 97-0.

Generally speaking, don’t listen to the Fox News/Marco Rubio/Ted Cruz version of events.  You have to do the work yourself.  Those guys are usually either wrong on the facts or just plain lying.

With all due respect, I suspect the latter.

Godspeed, Mr. Scalia.  I wish I could say you served us well.

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