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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Scalia Reinterprets History on ‘60 Minutes’

On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sat down for an interview with Leslie Stahl of ‘60 Minutes.’ While interviewing the archetype of conservative judges – or, as CBS puts it, an “evangelist of originalism” – Ms. Stahl probed Justice Scalia’s views of the Constitution, his relationships with the other justices, and the controversial Bush v. Gore decision, which handed the presidency over to George W. Bush.

Throughout the interview, Justice Scalia made some particularly troublesome comments, leading us to question whether he can even tell the difference between historical truths and conservative myths. In an attempt to justify the Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, Justice Scalia said that “the principle issue…whether the scheme that the Florida Supreme Court had put together violated the federal Constitution, that wasn’t even close. The vote was seven to two.” In reality, the decision in this case was split 5 to 4, not 7 to 2. While two of the dissenters did acknowledge that Florida’s recount procedures violated the Constitution, they suggested sending the case back to the state court to establish new standards.

Justice Scalia also claimed that it was Al Gore who asked the courts to intervene in 2000. “We didn’t go looking for trouble. It was [Gore] who said, ‘I want this to be decided by the courts.’” But this too is false. Al Gore did bring a case in Florida state court, but it was George W. Bush who asked the federal courts to intervene and overrule the state, and it was George W. Bush who was listed as the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.

In an attempt to dismiss his critics once and for all, Justice Scalia told America to “get over it.” But as a result of the Court’s intervention, President Bush took control of the White House and was allowed to put his court-packing agenda in motion. While Justice Scalia may be thrilled to have new allies on the bench, millions of Americans have been abandoned by ideological judges more concerned with furthering a rightwing agenda than protecting civil rights.

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