Scalia’s Advice to the Congress
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
So the big event has come and gone and the edifice of American constitutional government is still standing. On Monday, Justice Scalia, sage of the Supreme Court, met with members of the Congress for a closed door seminar hosted by the Tea Party Caucus. The New York Times Web site quoted Congresswoman Michelle Bachman as saying that between 30 and 35 congressmen, including four Democrats, were present at the closed door, seminar-type event. And it seems that at the meeting the justice even gave some advice to the members of Congress.
The prospect of such a meeting had thrown the Times into a terrible swivit. It issued an editorial back in December asserting that it was a “bad idea” for the justice to accept the invitation and that he should send his regrets. Its reasoning was that the Tea Party has a “well-known and extreme point of view about the Constitution and about cases and issues that will be decided by the Supreme Court.” It said that by “presiding over a seminar, implying give and take, the justice would give the impression that he was joining the throng.”
Somehow the Times didn’t have a problem when, last year, the members of the Supreme Court went into the well of the House to listen to the State of the Union message and, while there, got denounced to their faces by the president of the United States while the Democratic Caucus in the room started hooting and hollering and jeering the justices — over, to boot, their decision in a specific case (Citizens United v Federal Election Commission). When Chief Justice Roberts then mused on whether the judges should be attending the state of the union address in the first place, the Times ran out an editorial lamenting that, “[r]ather than opening up, the court has shown signs of turning further inward.”
But at the prospect of a sedate sitting with 30-odd members of the Tea Party and a few Democrats, suddenly the left is up in arms. By our lights it is a wonderful thing for the Supreme Court justices to get out and mix with the rest of Americans, talk with them, listen to their political debates, sit with their editorial boards, a point that was made this morning in a terrific piece, by David Rivkin and Lee Casey, former Justice Department lawyers, on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. The note that Common Cause is actually complaining to the Justice Department about Justices Scalia and Thomas daring to mix with various conservative groups in unrelated meetings.
What, in any event, did Justice Scalia say to the seminar of the Tea Party members of Congress and a few Demcorats Monday evening? The Times quoted some members who were present as describing the justice’s remarks as probing and funny and saying he told them to “pay attention to the Constitution.” That, we suspect, is what is bothering the Times. The advice to pay attention to the Constitution. It seems there is something about the Constitution that seems to be worrying the liberals and the left these days. They protested mightily when the House decided, for the first time in its history, to open the 112th congress by reading the parchment. And they are alarmed that a justice of the Supreme Court is urging members of Congress to pay attention to the Constitution. What next?