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The House That Scalia Built

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The House That Scalia Built

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at an event sponsored by the Federalist Society in New York

WASHINGTON — Two waves broke this week: a pair of deaths on our national shore that changed everything. They are inseparable in the annals of our time. Goodbye to all that a Supreme Court Justice wrought, and the House of Bush brought.

If only it were that simple.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79, the Dickensian, most opinionated character on the bench. Friends — many of whom knew him as an operagoer, a city denizen, and an avid socializer — called the father of nine children Nino. His burial is Saturday.

The “master of invective,” as one put it, Scalia was considered brilliant, and was often callous in withering dissents on, for example, gay marriage. Taking a dim view of President Obama’s lead in the delicate Paris Agreement on climate change, his last vote was to immobilize the emissions standards. How nice of five Republican men to disrespect the Democratic president in the world’s eyes. As it happens, the Folger Shakespeare Library is staging “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — fitting, considering Titania’s haunting lines that warn of global warming.

Nobody on the creamy marble Court was more polarizing since the Civil War. The unabashed carrier of the conservative cross, Scalia seldom let up on his pounding force and lashings, even in victory.

On “60 Minutes,” Scalia scolded half the American people, saying: “Get over it!” He referred to the infamous 2000 Supreme Court decision that swung the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush by one vote. He had a chance to be civil; he didn’t take it.

Meanwhile, the Bush dynasty hangs onto its last breath with Jeb Bush’s floundering presidential campaign. His brother, former President George W. Bush, left Texas to campaign, but the magic was missing. The 43rd president looked aged. Jeb has a penchant for saying their father, Bush senior, is the “greatest man alive,” or some such.

Here’s the double knell: The House of Bush is the House that Scalia built. At least, he was an architect. Now a tragic link ties those names together.

Their historical cadence will join other follies. “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean,” English poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach.” Now I know what Arnold meant when he saw an elegiac sadness in ages and armies.

All we need to do is go back to 2000 — when our known world ended — when five Republican Supreme Court justices gave new meaning to “one man, one vote.” The deciding votes were out of the citizens’ hands; nine officials voted 5-to-4 — freezing a close vote count in Florida to determine the true winner. They shut democracy down.

That rude decision changed the course of the 21st century. George W. Bush swerved into war in Iraq, giving rise to ISIS today. Remind me: What were we fighting for? Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were the pretext to war, when 19 men (15 Saudis) were hijackers in a clever plot. The unprepared U.S. Army and the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, destroyed civil society in Iraq. What a mess.

The Court outrage for the ages must not be forgot in Scalia’s dramatic death, political to the end. The decision is full of rich contradictions. Scalia, who often mocked “nine unelected lawyers” in democracy, sprang into action by stopping vote counting in Florida. The governor of Florida then was Jeb Bush. In unseemly partisanship, Scalia departed from his so-called “originalist doctrine” to strongly urge the Court to stop counting. He also abandoned his emphasis on states having a say in governance by shortchanging the Florida Supreme Court. Hs loyal colleague, Clarence Thomas, followed him every step — Thomas who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Justice Scalia died on a West Texas luxury ranch during a hunting trip. His death was apt, given his pugilistic style in upholding gun rights and every conservative cause in creation. Washington can’t get over that he’s gone, friends and foes alike. The senior sitting justice loomed large as the fiercest player, in every word he spoke and wrote. The vacancy gives President Obama one more try to work his will on a hostile Senate.

It will take time for the country to heal from the bitter beginning of the 21st century that Scalia and the Bush dynasty gave us. And for the record, I will never get over it.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com.

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at an event sponsored by the Federalist Society at the New York Athletic Club in New York October 13, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz 



  1. Dominick Vila February 19, 2016

    As despicable as the record of a man who made lasting decisions based on his personal opposition to issues such as gay marriage, abortion, affirmative action, and his deciding vote after the 2000 pregnant chad charade, rather than a fair interpretation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution, not to mention the need to preserve our democracy and freedoms, the worst part is the unabashed determination of so many senior Republicans to ensure Justice Scalia is replaced with a like minded Justice.
    It is obvious that for many Republicans the Constitution, our laws, our democracy, and our freedoms, are only relevant when they can be used to advance their causes, and something that can be changed or ignored when it represents an obstacle to the implementation of their ideological goals.
    SCOTUS nominees have been rejected in the past because of lack of qualifications or questionable judgment, but I don’t remember senior members of Congress and presidential candidates ever saying that they are determined to reject every person nominated by a President elected and re-elected by a comfortable majority.

    1. Otto Greif February 19, 2016

      Scalia made decisions based on the Constitution, and he was a defender of democracy against encroachment by activist judges.

      1. chino49p February 19, 2016

        You are an idiot and scalia was a worst kind of activist, he was evil. By the way, this country is a much different place than it was when the constitution was written and the idea that “original intent” should be applied across the board is mostly used when it can be used to deny rights to those on the left and confer nonexisting rights to rightwing-nuts such as saying that private gun ownership is the same as “a well regulated militia”. scalia did much damage to the rule of law and fairness.

        1. Otto Greif February 19, 2016

          You want judges to ignore the Constitution when it suits you.

          1. dtgraham February 19, 2016

            No. You do.

          2. cheeriogirl February 19, 2016

            The GOP Senators have been quite vocal about their plan to refuse to hold a vote on our current ( and legally elected) President’s nominee for SCOTUS. If they “weaken” and actually hold a vote, they plan to vote this as yet unnamed nominee down, no matter his/her qualifications. Does that concern you, or do you fully support this action by the GOP as they trample on our Constitution?

          3. Otto Greif February 19, 2016

            Where does the Constitution state they must hold a vote within a certain amount of time, and must approve the President’s nominee?

          4. dtgraham February 19, 2016

            Where does the constitution state that Supreme Court nominations and appointments cannot be done during a Presidential election year?

            It says that the President must nominate someone. That’s it.

            The GOP are being stupid on this. They should have said nothing and just played the game. You know, no matter who he nominates, it’s a no go. If they get in his face and p!ss him off too much, he may make a recess appointment during the Senate break in July or next January. That justice can serve for up to two years, and there are a lot of cases coming up soon.

            I know they tried to rig the recess appointment process two years ago, but it’s not foolproof. Their break has to be more than 3 days and they have to come back continuously for minor legislative functions, or he can make an appointment.

            If they want to stop the recess process, their members who’re running for re-election can say goodbye to campaigning in their districts this summer and fall.

          5. Otto Greif February 19, 2016

            It’s unlikely the Senate would formally recess. Even if they did, and Obama appointed someone, she would only serve until the end of the following Senate session.

          6. dtgraham February 20, 2016

            They may not formally recess but that’s a big time hassle for them not to recess in the normal sense, and it could cost some of their members politically. If Obama did appoint someone in that way, they could serve for up to two years.

          7. Otto Greif February 20, 2016

            All they have to do is some minimal business to keep the session going. From what I’ve read the appointee only serves until the end of the following Senate session, if you have a source contradicting that I would be interested in reading it.

          8. dtgraham February 20, 2016

            I think you’re right. I kept seeing “up to two years”, but that is apparently maximum. If Obama did this, the recess appointee would serve for almost two years in this case. I don’t know how often the Senate has to meet for brief activity during the recess in order to close Obama’s opportunity to make a recess appointment.

            From the Washington Times:
            If a justice is installed through a recess appointment, he or she could serve only through the end of the next session of Congress — the end of 2017, at the latest.

            From the American Thinker:
            In multiple recess cases, time elapsed between the death of a justice and seating of his permanent replacement has been in excess of a year, sometimes upwards of two years.

      2. dtgraham February 19, 2016

        I guess poor blacks in the red states are going to have a much harder time participating in Scalia’s democracy now huh.

        Stop that Florida vote count! Tony will decide who’s President! Aaaah, democracy Scalia style.

        1. Otto Greif February 19, 2016

          Muh black poors.

  2. dtgraham February 19, 2016

    Not much to add after a well written piece like that. One can talk about all of the egregious things that Scalia said and did, and the way that law school students now mimic his brutally insulting style when referencing his colleagues’ contrary decisions on the bench. He was the first to bring that to the SCOTUS.

    One can talk about all of that and more, but one thing stands out to me even from a horrendous man like this. When dismantling the voting rights act, he actually referred to the right of lower socio-economic classes to vote, as a “racial entitlement.” He described this racial entitlement as being impossible for lawmakers to get rid of in the normal course of governance, so he took it upon himself to do so and, further, made it clear that this was the reason he was doing it. Poor minorities’ right to vote was just a racial entitlement to Scalia.

    Referencing Scalia, someone recently left a you tube video here from the original Batman that had Jack Nicholson, as the Joker, telling a victim that, “I’m glad you’re dead.” Many feel that way about Antonin Scalia.

  3. tdm3624 March 25, 2016

    Well, this article is just as partisan as the articles on the Daily Caller.


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