Wouldn't it be a huge release to live in a world of such bedrock certainty as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin G. Scalia? In his world, horses provide transportation, couriers carry wax-sealed parchment letters written with quills, false teeth are wooden and guns shoot only one ball at a time.
This is because the justice, who apparently doesn't want to just emulate John Jay or John Marshall as much as be them, called Americans idiots if they seek to interpret the Constitution as a living document. In other words, what was written in 1789 should in no way be modified, interpreted or applied -- other than strictly -- to modern life. Flexibility is bad. "The Constitution is not a living organism," he offered this week in his best not-Thurgood Marshall view, "it is a legal document. It says some things and doesn't say other things."
To extrapolate, would there be no civil or gender rights? No due process or protections against double jeopardy or self-incrimination? No need, in fact, for the Constitution's 27 amendments, including the 10 in the Bill of Rights, since the original cannot be violated? No reason, actually, for Supreme Court rulings interpreting the Constitution?
To be more serious, and give Scalia his due, he believes the document means what the framers wanted and just so. He does not object to amending it, since they made provisions for that. He objects to unelected judges essentially making law. On the two big social issues likely facing the court -- abortion and homosexual rights -- that the Constitution is silent on, he would let elected state legislatures decide rather than have the high court set national policy.
Then why does Scalia, who benefits from President Bush moving the court to the right with its two most recent appointments, choose to insult a broad swath of American society? Is there anyone who follows the court who didn't know where Scalia stood before this week's speech to the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies? Maybe he just wanted to demonstrate that the First Amendment throbs as part of a living document that he can interpret and apply to modern life.