This man who claims to have studied the Constitution his entire life and to have dedicated his professional career to upholding the document exactly as it was written has, through some of the clumsiest legal verbiage ever put down on paper, shown his true stripe, that of an opportunist laying in wait. In doing so, he joins the sad historical pantheon of people who, through happenstance and circumstance, wound up with too much power and not enough heart.
By providing the only written opinion for the 5-4 majority in the Washington, D.C., handgun case, he wiped away just about everything he has ever said or written about what he claimed to be his beloved Constitution. If this is the way he treats the things he loves, I feel sorry for his wife.
Scalia had always come off as the unashamed martinet, a Napoleonic little twit who was smarter than everybody else in the room. I've got no problem with people who disagree with me, as long as they walk their own talk. In his writings and speeches, Scalia always claimed only to care about the Constitution. He said that he went by what it said, not by what people thought the Framers had meant. He bristled at those who used the term "living document" to describe the Constitution. Nothing could be further from the truth, he argued; the Constitution was perfect as-is, and its meanings were clear, and its writers had written down exactly what they had meant to say.
That would have been fine with me had he been a man of his word. But his actions belied his words. This "man of integrity" went duck-hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney and then refused to recuse himself when a case came before the court with Cheney smack-dab in the middle of it. Then Scalia nibbled around the edges and cherry-picked facts to bolster his wafer-thin case for handing George W. Bush the presidency in 2000. (When questioned about that case these days, he invariably snaps, "What, that? That's old news.")
Even so, when I saw him on 60 Minutes a few months back, I listened intently as he spoke of his devotion to the Constitution and how he held it in such high regard. Now all I can think about is Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup, asking: When a man's defining moment comes along, how will he handle it? Scalia's defining moment came last week when he had the opportunity to state clearly what the Constitution says (quite clearly). Well, the moment played him. He swung and missed. He evacuated himself, then sat down to play in the dookie. He spiraled out of control like those he has been quick to heap derision upon in the past.
He made stuff up; he distorted facts; he wove new "rights" out of thin air. And that was only in the first couple of pages. Then things got seriously weird. He spent pages on British history, this after he (and his right-wing political and talk-radio buddies) went out of their way to ridicule that approach in others' written decisions. He referred to common law, which, while important, is not in the Constitution! He then deigned to tell us that not only did the writers of the Constitution get the Second Amendment wrong; he knows why they got it wrong, and he feels it's his destiny to set it right for all time.
According to Scalia, all of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights are written perfectly, but apparently the Framers were smoking some of George Washington's hemp when they got all the way down to the Second Amendment. His scattershot attack on the notion that individual gun ownership is somehow tied to membership in the militia includes:
· What really constitutes a militia?
· Times have changed. There was a real need for a militia back then as a hedge against a too-powerful central government, but not now.
· Who's to say that Bubba doesn't constitute a militia of one? And
· It's in there in the Amendment. You just have to squint to see it.
He used the approach made famous by the makers of Airplane: Throw enough stuff at them, and something is bound to stick.
(Oddly enough, I believe that gun ownership probably is part of common law, but that's not the Supreme Court's purview.)
Scalia could retire right now and rake in millions every year on the gun-nut rubber-chicken banquet circuit. He might as well; his reputation as a jurist is done for.
From time to time, I fantasize about state legislators who are in the pockets of the cell-phone lobby getting crashed into (but not hurt) by some idiot talking on a phone. Along those lines, I wouldn't mind it if Scalia got accosted (but not hurt) by some gun-toting angry citizen. But that won't happen, because that guy couldn't get into Scalia's gated community, and they don't allow guns inside the Supreme Court building. That ugliness only happens out in the real world. And thanks to Scalia's dream-weaving majority opinion, that real world just got uglier.