Justice Antonin Scalia sat for a revealing interview with New York Magazine that is being variously described as “weird,” “bizarro” and proof that Scalia is a terrible man.
A lot of what Scalia has to say won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career or read his opinions. He thinks that not every stupid law is unconstitutional. He believes the Constitution should be interpreted according to its original meaning. He’s adamant that he was right not to sit out a case involving his duck-hunting buddy Dick Cheney.
The surprises come when he veers off jurisprudence. He’s a fan of “Seinfeld” (especially the “Soup Nazi” episode). He is repelled by gratuitous nudity and F-bombs in popular culture. He’s bemused by social media -- “What kind of a narcissistic society is it that people want to put out there, ‘This is my life, and this is what I did yesterday’ ”? Oh, and he likes the new pope: “He’s the Vicar of Christ. He’s the chief. I don’t run down the pope.”
Nothing weird or bizarro about any of that. Nor is it odd that a devout Roman Catholic would believe in the existence of the devil. As Scalia puts it to his incredulous interviewer: “Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.” (Maybe not every Catholic, but certainly Pope Francis, who wrote: “I believe that the devil exists” and “his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe he doesn’t exist.”)
So was there anything weird in Scalia’s comments?
Two things. One wasn’t a surprise: Scalia is almost willfully clueless about gays. Asked about the sea change in public attitudes about homosexuality, Scalia volunteers that “I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.” That wouldn’t be an unusual response in, say, 1960 or even 1980. But in 2013? Not surprisingly, when asked if any of his gay friends had come out to him, Scalia says: “No. No. Not that I know of.”
Then there’s Scalia’s disclosure about his tastes in news media: “We just get the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. We used to get the Washington Post, but it just ... went too far for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore.... It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning?” Scalia also said he didn’t read the New York Times.
This truly surprised me. Elsewhere in the interview, Scalia explains how stimulated he was by dissenting opinions from his liberal former colleague John Paul Stevens. He also confesses to hiring some law clerks “whose predispositions are quite the opposite of mine — who are social liberals rather than social conservatives. That kind of clerk will always be looking for the chinks in my armor, for the mistakes I’ve made in my opinion.”
So why refuse to lay eyes on the Washington Post?
Maybe his liberal clerk should buy him a subscription.
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