What a way for the Kalb Report to end its 20th season. Having not one but two justices from the Supreme Court. Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not going to do a whole narrative on the night but just list some of the points made by the two justices.
Scalia said lots of constitutions have a bill of rights and say they have freedom of the press. But it’s all lip service. What makes the Bill of Rights work in America is the overall structure surrounding it. The Constitution itself.
Here's a little more of what he said:
Scalia: [The Bill of Rights] should not be painted as the foundation of the American democracy… Don’t forget the Bill of Rights was an afterthought. It was not what they debated about in Philadelphia in 1787… What they thought would preserve a free society was the structure of government — that’s what they debated about in 1787. And if you think that’s false, just look around the world. Every tin-horn dictator in the world today has a bill of rights. It isn’t a bill of rights that produces freedom. It is the structure of government that prevents anybody from seizing all the power.
The link above gives you some more direct quotes from the discussion.
Funny banter back and forth between the two about their different views on the constitution. Ginsburg talked about getting a sneak peak at an opinion from Scalia and after reading it how it ruined her whole weekend.
Kalb asked if they ever felt like picking up the phone and calling the White House to get information on something. They both vehmently said no they could not do that. They could not go out and get opinions about a case they had to judge it on the information that’s given to them.
Both talked about how they have to wait for cases to come to them. They can’t go out and get cases or start an investigation. Scalia talked about the Indian Supreme Court. He said if one of their members read something in the Bombay Times (Ginsburg corrected him saying it was Mumbai. Scalia shot back that he was going to call it Bombay that was perfectly good English word to call the city) about the way a police chief treated people the court could go and start an investigation. The Supreme Court in this country cannot do that.
Interesting exchange on the NSA. Here’s some of it from the associated press story:
“I don’t think we have a choice” about dealing with the surveillance issue, Ginsburg said. “We can’t run away” from grappling with whether the government has overstepped its constitutional bounds.
The Supreme Court is the institution that is going to decide these “highly significant questions,” Scalia said. “We know nothing about the degree of risk. The executive knows, Congress knows.”
They hedge a little on the NSA not wanting to give away too much. So Kalb tried to ask the question another way. Scalia said you're going to get the same answer.
Scalia is a very charming, very smart, very funny guy. Some self deprecating humor. But boy oh boy are his decisions wrong.
But what is clear is the respect that Scalia and Ginsburg have for each other. Ginsburg even calling Scalia by his nick name Nino. And in this time of hyper partisanship, it was nice to see two people with such divergent views on the law get along. As Scalia put it: If you cannot disagree with your colleagues on the law without taking it personally, you ought to get another day job.