Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Man of Wit, Intellect, and Principle: Justice Scalia Dead at 79

For a man so, as President Obama termed him, larger than life, it's hard to believe that Antonin Scalia apparently went to sleep and never woke up on Saturday morning, but that's exactly what happened.

The bane of many a liberal's existence, Scalia passed away quietly at the age of 79 after a full life of being anything but quiet.

We throw those words "larger than life" around so much, but it did really describe this son of an Italian immigrant and first generation Italian-American.  Scalia's life was so American, a child of New York City who grew up to make a difference.  His persona was based upon his great intellect and legal philosophy of originalism.

I personally never understood how a judge can put himself in the mindset of the white men that wrote the Constitution as Scalia's judicial philosophy commands one to.  I also never understood how one could deduce exactly what the words of the Constitution meant to the ones that wrote it.

For example, Scalia once argued in an interview with CBS's Leslie Stahl that torturing a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay was legal because it wasn't cruel and unusual punishment.  "What are they punishing you for?" asked an incredulous Scalia.

Scalia also battled with rights that were not specifically enumerated in the Constitution that the court had ruled on over the years such as abortion and marriage.  Scalia thought those things should be left to the states to decide.

At the end of last year, Scalia made headlines by suggesting that black students would do better at colleges that were not as rigorous.  That was just one of his many controversial hits over the years.  His more famous lines are chronicled in this story.

Though controversial, and while he had so many great philosophical fights with the other Justices he served with, "Nino" as he was known to his friends was often described as one of the best friends you could have.

Unlike many in Washington today, Scalia didn't choose his friends based on their political or judicial philosophy.  I can relate to that.

In many ways, it was the controversial nature of his public persona and the remarkably non-controversial nature of this wonderful father, husband, and friend that make Antonin Scalia one of the most interesting people ever to sit on the Supreme Court bench.  He was a man of great wit, intellect, and principle.

It's also why, even though he was 79, that it's even harder to believe that he died in his sleep, peacefully.  I'm sure it was a hell of a debate though when the Grim Reaper stopped at his room.  You know Nino scored some rhetorical points.

My sincere condolences to Justice Scalia's family and friends.

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