As a sign of their judicial modesty, if reports in the aftermath of oral argument in the latest public prayer case are accurate. Chief Justice Roberts is said to be dismayed, worried sick that they will be impeached by irate Tea Partying Republicans in the House of Representatives. But Scalia let Roberts know he oughta grow a thicker skin and get over it. “You call this coercion?” yelled Scalia. “You can’t handle coercion, John. You let Obamacare survive, but no way are you gonna stand in the way of mandatory prayer for anybody who wants a zoning variance or a septic tank permit. We could care less what James Madison thought about it. And by the way, I don’t know about your friends, but my Tea Party buddies are all about Sharia law.”
Justice Scalia is also said to have persuaded two of his hitherto Roman Catholic brethren that it was high time to abandon that squishy enterprise for the true faith. Alito suggested Eastern Orthodoxy, but Scalia told him “not good enough.” So Wahhabists r Them, that is if the NYC print edition of The Onion is to be believed. Say what?–there is no print edition any more?
As the Supreme Court, shutdown or not, begins its new term today, the remaining pragmatic precedents from the O’Connor era are likely to be narrowed if not swept away. And if you thought Citizens United gave too much leeway to big money in politics, get ready for McCutcheon, which may overrule all campaign contribution limits by individuals.
As per usual, Justice Scalia sees the big picture (from an interview with New York magazine): “the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot.” Is our man Scalia being one-sidedly rude to his fellow right-wingers here? Certainly not, for he proceeds to attack godless liberals next: “what he (the Devil) is doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.”
We sort of knew we were in this prison. It was at least semi-self-imposed. But now it is harder to pretend that we did much of anything to frustrate the Obama administration’s normalization and legalization of this panopticon penitentiary (hat tip Jeremy Bentham, Michel Foucault, and just the other day Antonin Scalia). Not so comfortable for those who hoped Barack Obama would do a better job upholding the Bill of Rights. Perhaps unsettling too for those who saw Dick Cheney do no wrong but find it hard to see Barack Obama do anything right (though the WSJ editorial today is typically in-your-face: “Thank You for Data-Mining”). It has been easy to see Senators Rand Paul and Ron Wyden as marginal figures up to now. With the cover blown on the scope of the dragnet, it is much harder to dismiss them as daft curiosities. Maintaining our own self-respect as free people is going to require more than most of us have yet given. Obama’s authority may have been pure-type charisma five years ago. Now we are compelled to face the prospect that he will be remembered (as he goes to meet Xi Jinping in California) as par excellence a mandarin bureaucrat.