Scalia Speaks to Tea Party Caucus

January 24th, 2011 at 11:10 pm | 13 Comments |

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The AP reports:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says members of Congress need to get themselves a copy of the Federalist Papers — and make sure they read it.

According to attendees, Scalia adopted a professorial, occasionally playful tone on Monday while addressing members of Congress and staff behind closed doors at an event organized by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party Caucus.

Scalia drew criticism ahead of the event for attending what was perceived as a partisan gathering. However, members of both parties say the event had more in common with a law school seminar than a pep rally.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • politicalfan

    This is a good thing.

  • Raskolnik

    Agreed. That someone the TP clearly supports and agrees with is willing to semi-publicly take them to task over their obvious, braggadocious ignorance (especially concerning the Constitution and the actual intent of the Founding Fathers) is only a good thing.

  • busboy33

    I agree that knowledge is a good thing, and while I disagree with most of Scalia’s writings he is extremely well-versed in the law.

    The danger from this lies in giving the (wrong) impression that The Federalist Papers simply exist in a vacuum, and represent black-letter law for interpretation.

    The same logic behind this underlies the nonsensical “read to Constitution” pagent earlier this month.Everybody can (and should) read the Constitution (and the Federalist Papers, as well as the Anti-Federalist Papers . . . it was a debate, after all). But JUST reading the Constitution, without any additional understanding of case precedents, jurisprudence, or practical application theories leads to some of the TP misinterpretations we’ve all seen over the last few years. You end up with a bunch of armchair jurists, who can recite quotations but miss the impportance of what those words MEAN.

    All Americans should read The Federalist Papers (and shame on Congressmen who needed to be told that) . . . but I’m already buckling my safety belt for the coming flood of misunderstood, misapplied, misinterpreted quotes.

  • COProgressive

    What was said behind closed doors, and what was said was said behind closed doors may be very different.

    Law school seminar or strategy meeting? I guess we’ll never know.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

    If ever we should lose our American Freedoms and Liberties, it will come from the corruption of our American justice system. For it’s in the interpretation of our laws that our Freedoms and Liberties are defined.

    i.e. Citizens United v. FEC

  • midcon

    While I am supportive of the SCOTUS lecturing on the Constitution and Law, I think this should have conducted in the open (CSPAN) for the general public to watch and learn. I find it troublesome that this kind of an event took place behind closed doors considering that the SCOTUS is the last refuge for our freedom and the rule of law.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    I don’t like Scalia.

    I don’t like the “Tea Party”.

    I despise Michele Bachmann.

    And I don’t see anything particularly wrong here.

  • Cato

    I agree with busboy above, they should read The Anti-Federalist papers because most of what the anti-federalists predicted, has inded come to pass. Maybe Scalia should read the anti-federalist papers…

  • medinnus

    I wish it had been an open session simply because I would have loved to watch it myself.

    Never too old to learn!

  • Chris Balsz

    “But JUST reading the Constitution, without any additional understanding of case precedents, jurisprudence, or practical application theories leads to some of the TP misinterpretations we’ve all seen over the last few years. You end up with a bunch of armchair jurists, who can recite quotations but miss the impportance of what those words MEAN.”

    The jurisprudence and case history may tell you how the courts will interpret the Constitution; that does not mean you will know whether the Courts are right about it. 58 years separated Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education; were opponents of Jim Crow “wrong” for those 58 years?

  • Nanotek

    “Maybe Scalia should read the anti-federalist papers…”

    I’d settled on him reading the 9th Amendment and taking it as seriously as he does the 2nd.

  • lessadoabouteverything

    I am with busboy and Cato on this. The politicians then were even more partisan than they are now. Vice President Burr and Alexander Hamilton, our first Treasury Sec. had a duel. Imagine Geithner and Cheney squaring off, though to be honest I am not quite sure how you can kill a Cheney since he doesn’t have a heart.

    I think we gloss over just how big a debate there was then over our government.

  • busboy33

    @midcon:

    I agree televising it on C-SPAN would have been a great idea. My pessimism assumes they didn’t want it televised because then alot of people would have been on display asking ignorant questions, like “are earmarks constitutional?”

    (They really asked that. A member of the Appropriations branch of government. God help us.)

    @Chris Ballz:
    Respectfully, you are mixing up “legal” and “right”. Between Plessy and Brown, Plessy WAS the law. Knowing that Plessy was imoral and “wrong” didn’t change its nature as Constitutionally binding. I consider Citizens United to be staggeringly wrong . . . but it IS Constitutionally valid, precisely because the Supreme Court said so. They are the refs, not us.
    You don’t find the rationale for disagreeing with Plessy in the Constitution. You don’t find it in the Federist papers. You find it human mores, in morality, in decency. You could arguably apply bits of the Declaration to support your argument, but given that the same people that declared “All Men are created equal” also declared that “slaves are to be considered three-fifths of a person” you now butt up against Original Intent vs. Applied Intent . . . again, not something to be found in the Constitution or in the Anti/Federalist Papers.
    That’s sort of my original point. Anybody can read those documents. Anybody can decide for themselves what they think those words mean. But there is a massive difference between what you (or I) think they should mean, and what they actually do. Those documents are pieces in a massive tapestry — they don’t float in a vaccum. Just reading them gives a person a little knowledge, but as the old saying goes a little (legal) knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  • busboy33

    I know this thread is about to drop into oblivion off the front page, but let me add this . . .

    As I said before, I disagree with the Citizens United decision. Where do I go to support my beliefs? Well, I can look to the Constitution and the Federalist Papers . . . but they didn’t talk too much about Corporate donations to election campaigns. Certainly nothing directly on point.

    So now I have two choices — I can either decide that those documents are not the appropriate tool for the job, and seek out other sources of information. Or, I can take parts of those documents and apply them to the issue at hand thru creative interpretation.

    If I do the latter, I will end up with a botched job. If the only tool in my toolbox is a hammer, I can try to use it to twist a screw flush, but I’m going to get a bad result.

    My fear is that some people hear “*blank* is a source of authority” and then they shut off. They have their source, and it will solve ALL problems and questions. That was the basis of my jab at some of the Tenther ideas floating about — the Constitution was NOT designed to be the Alpha and Omega of the government. It is the foundation, not the capstone.

    Too many people in this country sadly pick up a phrase here or there and suddently think they are experts. Watched two episodes of CSI? Congrats . . . you’re a detective! Be sure to call your local police station and tell them how to do their job better. Watched an episode of Glen Beck? Then you are a historical scholar! Watched a marathon of House? Who needs a doctor — just diagnose yourself.

    A powerful voice like Scalia’s saying “go to the Federalist Papers” can (and IMO will) be mis-interpreted by too many people to read “the Federalist Papers tell you everything you need to know”. That’s not what he said . . . but that’s what many people are going to hear. They will force the words there to fit every question they want answered, and in doing so they will inherently apply their own bias and desire to get the outcome they want. Worse still, now that they have “authority” backing their opinion they will refuse to even entertain the possibility they are way, way off base.

    That is bad for our country.