Monday, March 27, 2006

The Scalia Chin Shuffle

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has been a major topic of discussion across the country today for reportedly flipping the bird at the media as he was leaving Sunday mass in Boston. Thoughts on this from bloggers and the MSM have been varied, ranging from amusement to admonishment. Some people don't even seem to think he should be a Supreme Court justice if he can't act in a more dignified manner. (Most of those people were also probably right behind Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, but that's to be expected.)

What you're not hearing very much about is the question that provoked Scalia's response, which the AP now reports was actually a dismissive Italian hand gesture. You've probably seen it before; the post title is a fairly accurate description of what it looks like. I have yet to find an exact quote of the question. However, according to the article above, a reporter from the Boston Herald asked Scalia, as he was leaving Catholic mass, if he "faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state." Scalia's response makes sense in that context:
You know what I say to those people? *makes hand gesture* That's Sicilian.

The implication here is subtle, but it reeks of anti-Catholicism. If you honestly believe that Catholics cannot think independently of the Pope (as people used to back when JFK ran for President, which is why it was such a huge deal that he won), then you might come up with a question like that. You would also have a response similar to Scalia's if you were used to hearing this kind of stuff all the time. It's also disturbing because a line of questions not far from this one was levied at Chief Justice John Roberts during his confirmation hearings. Roberts is also Catholic. Honestly, who has the nerve to ask him a question like that? It appears to have a logical basis at first, but ultimately it becomes a thinly-veiled attack on what someone stands for and assumes that their judgment would be somehow impaired.

The other point of contention for me is that the original Boston Herald report is not exactly impartial. An excerpt:
Although one of his sworn duties is to uphold the freedom of the press, a jocular Scalia told the shutterbug, “Don’t publish that.”

This may be one of the most loaded sentences that I have ever seen in a mainstream newspaper article. Though he really can't stop the photo from being printed [prior restraint - Ed.], attaching the qualifier "jocular" would imply that Scalia was joking anyway. So why come out and state the obvious...unless you're editorializing?


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