We learned Saturday that Antonin Scalia had died in his sleep after 30 years on the Supreme Court.
Within hours, Donald Trump put his foot down and insisted that Scalia should not be replaced until after a new president takes office in 2017.
Shortly afterward, the president -- who as a senator voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nomination in 2007 -- said he absolutely planned to replace Scalia with his own nominee before the end of the year.
Yesterday on our cultural despoiler, Facebook, one of my "friends" posted this: "Thankfully, Scalia's life has ended."
All weekend long, the political discussion was which party would select the next Supreme Court justice. It made me think of two teams of hyenas fighting over the carcass of a dead gazelle.
The gazelle was this -- will the new justice be a right-wing hack or a left-wing hack?
Both Democrat candidates have said that, if elected, they will nominate only court candidates who satisfy one or more "litmus tests." For all I know, the Republicans have done the same.
Political battles used to be framed as competitions of ideas, as efforts to reach compromises that satisfied the majority. Now it's just flat-out warfare.
I find this wearying.
All Politics, All the Time
Still, even I know that he was an honorable man and an estimable legal scholar.
Scalia did not choose friends based on politics. He and his wife were close to liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her late husband; he welcomed Elena Kagan, an Obama-nominated justice, to the court because of his respect for her legal intellect.
|Ginsburg, left, and Scalia, in cravat, as extras in "Ariadne auf Naxos"|
He took his work seriously. He typically included a liberal scholar among his clerks -- one said recently that Scalia did so because he wanted to understand arguments against his point of view.
Many who argued against his Supreme Court opinions acknowledged that his rigor exposed the shortcomings of their own arguments.
And we have learned that at least a few leftist journalists were surprised that Scalia did not treat them with disdain. He was genuinely interested in them and their points of view. (My guess is that Ginsburg is not so different.)
Oddly, members of the press commented, Scalia did not support a Texas law to ban flag burning. Scalia supported the 7-3 decision without comment. No comment was needed. The matter was as easy a First Amendment issue as could be imagined.
My hope is that the Supreme Court justice who replaces Scalia will be someone of similar intellect, curiosity and generosity.
Decorum and Etiquette
What bugged me most about this weekend's discussions is the failure of our politicians simply to recognize Scalia for his many years of serious and honest service to his country.
His death was announced on the Saturday of a three-day weekend. There was no chance a new name would be brought forward before the opening of business Tuesday.
This offered a moment to recognize the man respectfully.
But no. The vultures were circulating within hours.
It was all "who is the next Scalia" all the damned time.
I wish we were better people.