December 12, 2004

Dean on Scalia.

Howard Dean was on "Meet the Press" today, and Tim Russert brought up the statements Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid made last week about Justice Scalia. (Unfortunately, Russert did not question Dean about Reid's much-criticized statements about Justice Thomas.)
MR. RUSSERT: Harry Reid, the new leader of the Democrats, was on the MEET THE PRESS last week, and he said he would be open to Antonin Scalia being appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. There may be some ethical problems, he said. If he could get by those, he was very much impressed by the brilliance of his mind.

DR. DEAN: Well, first of all, I like Harry Reid a lot. He's a straight shooter, and I think he's going to be a good leader. I disagree with him on this one. I think Antonin Scalia ought not to be on the Supreme Court let alone chief justice because I think he lacks judicial temperament.


DR. DEAN: Because when you--and I have appointed a great many judges as my career as governor--the second thing after a work ethic that you look for when you're appointing a judge or a justice is judicial temperament. That means--in our judicial system, it's very important for the loser and/or the winner in any case to be--to feel like they've been treated fairly and respectfully by the court system. That's what is the glue that binds us together as a society. When you are sarcastic and mean-spirited, as the justice often is from the bench, it leaves the losing--the loser in that case feeling as if they were not respected by the judicial system, and that's why you don't put people with bad temperament on the--on any court, and I certainly don't think they should be on the Supreme Court of the United States.

MR. RUSSERT: When specifically was he mean-spirited or sarcastic?

DR. DEAN: You've seen many, many times. I don't have a specific time, but you could go read almost any oral argument in the last year and find sarcastic, mean-spirited remarks from the justice in those arguments.
I'm glad Russert asked a follow-up question this time. Last week, Russert had no follow-up when Reid said "I think that [Justice Thomas] has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don't--I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice." It would have been so easy to stump him by asking for some examples of poorly written Thomas opinions.

But I guess Reid could have said "There are many, many poorly written opinions. I don't have a specific case name, but you could go read almost any of his opinions in the last year and find poorly written sentences in any of those opinions."

Am I criticizing Russert for not asking yet another "be specific" question to Dean? Not really. I think it's apparent to most thoughtful persons that Dean had no specific examples.

It appears that the Democrats are developing their message about Scalia. Last week, with Reid, it was the "ethical problem," and now the subject of character has been widened into the "lack of judicial temperament" issue: he's a mean man.

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