Freedom of speech, expression, and the press ultimately find their protections from two different sources. Of course, the first and foremost is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, there is the Court system and especially the Supreme Court of the United States that give meaning to the words in the First Amendment and without whose protections the First Amendment would be merely just words.
With this in mind, what transpired last month involving Justice Antonin Scalia should send chills down the spine of those of you who believe in freedom of the press. Reports have it, that Justice Scalia was an invited guest speaker at a university. During the course of his speech, Federal Marshals noticed that two reporters were tape recording Justice Scalia’s speech. No warning had been given to any of those in attendance that recording was not allowed or was not proper. Yet, the Federal Marshals approached the two reporters, stated that Justice Scalia does not allow anyone to tape his speeches, and on behalf of Justice Scalia demanded the recording to be erased.
Apparently, at least one of the reporters refused , only to have his or her recorder physically taken. After it was taken, the reporter acquiesced to the authority of the Federal Marshals and showed them how to use the recorder to erase the speech, as the reporter did not want damage to be done to the recorder.
On a few different levels, what transpired is very disturbing. First of all, the fact that Justice Scalia does not want his words to be recorded is quite troublesome. If anyone’s speeches should not be secret, it should be those of the Justices of the Supreme Court. They are not subject to citizen approval. They are not subject to citizen’s disapproval by being voted out of office. They are not subjected to oversight by other Justices. In actuality, they are there for life as long as they stop short of being a felon. With their awesome power which ultimately is beyond review, citizens of the United States should at least have the benefit of knowing where they stand on issues based upon the voluntary words that they choose to speak.
On another note, using Federal Marshals as private security guards and thugs to implement a personal policy which was non Court related certainly appears to be an abuse of discretion if not an abuse of power. Many of us would like to take back words that we have said but apparently only Justice Scalia has Federal Marshals to do so for him. Isn’t Justice Scalia when he is speaking at a gathering while off the Bench, acting as a private citizen? Why should Justice Scalia have more power to protect from dissemination his mistakes or transgressions in speech than you or I? The answer is that he should not, and these actions smack of fascism and McCarthism. Based upon Justice Scalia’s actions and court opinions apparently two philosophies that he might not find too offensive.
Thirdly, how can or how could a Justice of the Supreme Court infringe on a reporter’s right to gather information and report that information let alone being the instigator of that infringement? As a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who has sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, his actions are more than reprehensible. What message does this send to those of us who expect justice in front of him? How can the citizens of the United States expect that he will protect and cherish freedom of speech, expression and the press when his actions have shown contempt for the same? The simple answer is that we cannot.
In the last couple of months Justice Scalia has shown by his actions that he is above the law or at least believes that he is when it comes to his speech and the reporting of the same. He has shown contempt for the system, fairness and due process by going duck hunting with Vice President Cheney, knowing that shortly after he will be ruling on a matter that although does not name Vice President Cheney as a defendant, involve Vice President Cheney’s actions. For many years, those of us who watched the Court and followed its decisions, have known quite clearly that Justice Scalia is a conservative ideologue and downright bully. Apparently, as all good totalitarians, they forget that their abuses of discretion are supposed to be discrete, get carried away with their power and authority, and eventually show their true colors for all to see.
It is time that Justice Scalia finally did the right thing. It is time for him to realize that he has lost sense of purpose and sense of what a Supreme Court Justice is supposed to be. It is time that Justice Scalia steps down and retires. Unfortunately, should George W. Bush get reelected we might just find Justice Scalia being appointed Chief Justice. So, Justice Scalia would not look at it as an appointment, but rather as an anointment of king of the Court.
On a purely political note, we found it humorous last month when George W. Bush tried to explain his inaction after reading the August 6, 2001 memo which stated that Osama bin Laden had all intentions of committing a terrorist act here in the United States. Doing his normal fumbling, your President explained that it was just information, that it didn’t call upon him to do action, and that there was nothing for him to do. This would be humorous if it wasn’t so sad. This was the same President who attacked Iraq based upon flimsier evidence then the August 6, 2001 memo dealing with Osama bin Laden and certainly received no memo telling him that he must act against Iraq now.
Even more humorous, was George W. Bush’s February indignation. At that time, Senator Kerry made a comment that a number of world leaders preferred him to be President than George W. Bush. George W. Bush responded with that if you are going to make accusations you need to have proof, where’s the proof. First of all, saying that somebody would rather have you as President then someone else is not an accusation. No one accused George Bush of anything. Secondly, George W. Bush’s assertion that one should not accuse someone of something without proof, flies in the face of his accusations that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that he had been attempting to buy yellow cake uranium from Nigeria, and that he had bought metal tubes for centerfuge in order to purify plutonium. Our misguided foray into Iraq has proven that George W. Bush’s accusations were false.
Apparently, according to our President, it is OK to kill thousands of innocent civilians, thousands more soldiers who are just fighting for their country and hundreds of our own troops without proof of the accusations that you make. Yet, according to our President, no one should have the right to say that somebody is liked better than him without proof. Obviously it is a distorted sense of the world that George W. has while being surrounded by all of his yes men and his puppeteers, that the killing of human beings does not need proof, but bad mouthing him does