November 26, 2008

Shouting "tyrant!" at Michael Muskasey, did Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders intend to cause fear of assassination?

Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders confesses that he was the one who shouted "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!" at Attorney General Michael Mukasey, during Mukasey's speech at a Federalist Society dinner:
"Frankly, everybody in the room was applauding or sometimes laughing, and I thought, 'I've got to stand up and say something.' And I did," Sanders told The Seattle Times Tuesday. "I stood up and said, 'Tyrant,' then I sat down again, then I left."

It wasn't until the next morning — when he turned on the TV in his hotel room — that Sanders learned what happened after he departed: Mukasey, later in his speech, began slurring his words, slumped at the podium and passed out.
Mukasey didn't faint immediately upon hearing those words, so maybe you think it's hard to pin the fainting on Sanders. But consider how stressful it might be to hear "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!" shouted from a crowd like that.

The words immediately call to mind "sic semper tyrannis":
The phrase is a shortened version of Sic semper evello mortem Tyrannis, which translated means "Thus always death comes to tyrants." ...

The phrase is originally attributed to Marcus Junius Brutus, the central figure in the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC.... In American history, because of the association with the assassination of Caesar, John Wilkes Booth reportedly shouted the phrase after shooting United States President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt with this phrase and a picture of Lincoln on it when he was arrested on April 19, 1995, the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
An unknown person in a large crowd shouts "tyrant" at a political leader. If he knows history, it should strike fear into his heart. It would feel like the prelude to assassination. And yet, you would keep speaking. Nothing has happened yet, so of course, you go on, terror gnawing at your consciousness...
... men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth....

80 comments:

downtownlad said...

This is one of your lamest posts ever.

Death by fainting. What next?

Ann Althouse said...

It's about the fear of death. Read it again. I'm not saying Sanders mean to kill Mukasey through fear, but that shouting "tyrant" causes and is meant to cause terrible fear.

Original George said...

It's the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

It has positive connotations for me, having grown up there. It is no more shocking than New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die."

The McVeigh reference is obscure, and just because Booth shouted it the phrase doesn't mean that everyone everywhere knows its meaning.

Ann Althouse said...

"The McVeigh reference is obscure, and just because Booth shouted it the phrase doesn't mean that everyone everywhere knows its meaning."

Mukasey isn't anyone anywhere. He's the attorney general, and presumably he knows the basics of American history, as does Sanders.

downtownlad said...

I understood your intent.

It was just a heckler. I don't think it matters what he shouts, unless its threatening. And hecklers should be asked to leave. Not sure why this got to leave on his own - couldn't have been that bad I would think. And an attorney general should be used to heckling.

I realize it's a theory you came up with - but I just think it's a bad theory, that's all.

I think he fainted because he's old.

Ann Althouse said...

"It was just a heckler. I don't think it matters what he shouts, unless its threatening."

Wrong twice. It was a state supreme court justice. And what he shouted was threatening, as explained.

"And hecklers should be asked to leave. Not sure why this got to leave on his own - couldn't have been that bad I would think."

He was running away. A sign that he knew he did something wrong.

tim maguire said...

I think you're reaching here. Now we can't shout "tyrant" in a crowded theatre?

This was a very harmless protest and if Mukasey was in fear of his life because he heard the word "tyrant" from an audience member, then that says more about Mukasey and perhaps our relentlessly hot-house flower producing society than it does Sanders or the fate of tyrants.

Original George said...

He didn't yell the Latin phrase "Sic semper tyrannis" nor did he follow it by shouting "The South is avenged" (which Booth also yelled.) He merely used the English word "tyrant."

Sounds like good old fashioned political free speech to me. In our genteel age in which strong oaths are hurled only on the internet, we're not accustomed to such antics.

I randomly searched 'Roosevelt' and 'hecklers' and got this....Teddy Roosevelt shouting to a heckler, "You fool and coward. Go home and sober up!" If Mukasey heard Sanders, he should have popped him with the same line.

In our televised age political leaders are afraid to speak strongly for fear that it won't come across right in people's living rooms. They're afraid to give as good as they get.

Freder Frederson said...

My God Ann, you are making me agree with Original George. First of all, if you know your history, Booth did not shout "Tyrant" he shout "Sic Semper Tyrannis" which is latin and means "Thus always to Tyrants". Are you contending that shouting out "Tyrant" without any further overt action is supposed to create a fear of assassination in a reasonable person.

You are a nut and completely unreasonable.

(I am of course not defending the propriety of a state supreme court judge heckling the AG, but be serious)

AJ Lynch said...

Do we need more or less of this type of outspoken behavior? I lean to more. Yesterday , the people of Iceland showed they are angry and restless.

Perhaps, Americans put up with too much incompetence by our leaders. I expect our meek acceptance will end soon.

Marcia said...

Whatever the effect on the listener, we should expect judges to behave better than this.

Freder Frederson said...

Mukasey isn't anyone anywhere. He's the attorney general, and presumably he knows the basics of American history, as does Sanders.

Which you obviously and shamefully don't.

downtownlad said...

I still don't think it's threatening. It was disrespectful.

And if he ran away (I had read that he eventually left, but who knows) - even less reason to be afraid.

If I was speaking, I would just think "good riddance".

Anyway - he just fainted, so who cares. Even if the intent was to make him think he was about to be assassinated - who cares. It's still free speech, even if its disrespectful speech. And it makes the heckler look bad.

And since when can a state Supreme Court Justice not be a heckler? They are not mutually exclusive.

Freder Frederson said...

And when I here someone accused of being a tyrant, I think of the "tyrant" George III, not the Lincoln assassination. It is a much more direct historical allusion than having to make a translation into Latin.

TosaGuy said...

Ah heckling....the original blog comment.

SteveR said...

Well I'm not going to get all hysterical one way or the other but I ageee with Marcia. He's a state sumpreme court justice at a forum where respectable behaviour should be expected.

If he can't handle the urge to act like an immature college student, or worse yet, if he actually felt like this was a meaningful form of protest, what does tell us about his temperment on the bench.

That he basically bragged about doing this to a newspaper, tells me it was the latter.

Original Mike said...

Lightbulb boy chastising others for not knowing the basics. Rich.

Whatever else you might say, one thing's for sure. Sanders is an ass.

Lem said...

Add to the mix the AG’s physical protection of federal agents standing by at public functions.

How unseemly for a federal judge to yell something like that.

That comment has the precursive tone to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

Darcy said...

I think this guy is just a loon. No self control and no respect for the dignity of his position.

Must be a blast at dinner parties.

Bissage said...

Don’t anybody worry about Justice Richard Sanders. He’ll get his comeuppance soon enough.

You see, we’ve been chatting on the internet and he thinks I’m a stacked 35 year old nymphomaniac who really goes for a passionate guy with graying temples, a black robe and a big vocabulary.

Today I’ll tell him he’s nothing a pin-dick bug fucker and I wouldn’t do him reverse-cowgirl if he were the last state Supreme Court justice on Earth.

That’ll fix his judicial wagon!

Simon said...

Either way, it's extraordinarily poor behavior coming from a state Supreme Court judge. If Sanders felt strongly about the issue - I'm sure he was just seething with righteous indignation - I'm sure that any paper in his state would happily run an op/ed piece by him. Indeed, to the extent he's criticizing the Bush administration, I'm sure that practically any newspaper in the country would happily run an op/ed piece by him. Heckling someone at a speech, however, is, almost without exception, juvenile.

Bissage said...

BTW, when I spurn him, I expect Justice Sanders will have fainting spell of his own, the old goat.

Roger J. said...

You have made your case, but I remain unconvinced.

mcg said...

Yeah, I'm joining the "reaching" crowd here. Not to mention this is another one of those posts with a totally out of place Bible quotation.

Freder Frederson said...

Lightbulb boy chastising others for not knowing the basics. Rich.

Asshole.

Freder Frederson said...

Either way, it's extraordinarily poor behavior coming from a state Supreme Court judge.

Yeah, almost as bad as a Federal Supreme Court justice flipping off a reporter (or the Italian equivalent thereof) in front of a church. But I can't imagine who would do that.

Lem said...

It says a lot about how far the Bush derangement scourge has reached.

Richard Fagin said...

It's hard to imagine a judge wanting to cause fear of assassination in a public official. Judge Sanders of all people should know that would get him a nice stay at the Crossbar Hotel.

What continues to be galling, and I mean exasperatingly galling, is all this talk of how the Bush administration tramples on civil liberties, such that its officials could be called tyrants.

The crap Bush and his appointees have put up with from domestic critics is astonishing. Moviemakers, recording artists, newspaper columnists, now a state court judge. The list of knuckleheads saying facially ridiculous things about the administration is enormous, but not one of the miscreants has ever even been threatened with any kind of prosecution. Ever. Judge Sanders is no different. I would have expected better conduct from a judge, even if he really thinks the AG is a tyrant.

But let Joe the Plumber make even a slightly critical statement about The Annointed One and half a dozen state agencies start digging for dirt on the poor guy.

I would feel perfectly safe standing on a street corner and shouting, "Bush is an asshole!" at the top of my voice. I would not do the same to the president elect for genuine fear of who knows what government agency being instructed to go though my stuff (well I do know what agency, the IRS - you do not want to piss those people off even if you're squeaky clean).

Who's the real tyrant?

ricpic said...

If you're a noble lefty any behavior is justified. We all know that.

Darcy said...

Excellent, Richard Fagin! Indeed.

LarsPorsena said...

parturient montes nascetur ridiculus mus.

Lem said...

At the very least this guy should never be promoted to anything.

Let him quietly retire.

Pendejo!

Bissage said...

Justice Sanders skedaddled on out of there because he feared his next exclamation was likely to be "Don't tase me bro!!!"

It's true. Federal tyrants these days are tazing state Supreme Court justices left and right.

Darcy said...

LOL, Bissage.

This may be a dumb question, but why would this Justice be at a Federalist Society dinner? Is it unusual at all for lefties to attend these?

SteveR said...

Yeah, almost as bad as a Federal Supreme Court justice flipping off a reporter (or the Italian equivalent thereof) in front of a church. But I can't imagine who would do that.

Always make for a solid case when you justify bad behaviour by pointing to other bad behaviour.

Freder Frederson said...

If you're a noble lefty any behavior is justified. We all know that.

Mukasey was speaking at a Federalist Society event. I doubt Sanders, unless he stumbled in there by accident, can be classified as a "noble lefty".

PatCA said...

I think what Ann is saying is that actions have consequences. I always say, who will be the first to die for political correctness?

I would respect Sanders a little if he apologized. Fat chance, though--today, all you need is "passion" and Bush hatred, and you get a moral pass on most anything.

Freder Frederson said...

Always make for a solid case when you justify bad behaviour by pointing to other bad behaviour.

Actually, I was yanking Simon's chain. His hero is a well known asshole in public.

Of course, upsetting Simon is no fun anymore since he claims he doesn't read my posts.

Lem said...

Give'm the cases nobody wants.

Maybe he'll get the hint.

Original George said...

Lem above references shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre.

I was in a theatre a few weeks ago when a singer incited everyone to do just that. He held up a handwritten sign with the word on it and told us to shout it when he sang the word, and a thousand people roared.

It was one of those ghastly classical-symphony-plays-rock music-with-a-traveling-band shows. You can hear it at 3:58 above.

TosaGuy said...

This guy is now on the Kos crowd's short list of potential US Supreme Court nominees due to his temperment and respect for opposing points of view.

Freder Frederson said...

This guy is now on the Kos crowd's short list of potential US Supreme Court nominees due to his temperment and respect for opposing points of view.

I just love how so many people on this blog assume Sanders is a lefty when the venue indicates the exact opposite.

Roger J. said...

I may be mistaken, but I think Sanders is a libertarian.

Original Mike said...

Asshole.

He shoots! He scores!

Freder Frederson said...

This guy is now on the Kos crowd's short list of potential US Supreme Court nominees due to his temperment and respect for opposing points of view.

I just love how so many people on this blog assume Sanders is a lefty when the venue indicates the exact opposite.

Crimso said...

"Sounds like good old fashioned political free speech to me."

And that makes it automatically okay. Try exercising good old fashioned political free speech in Sanders' courtroom and see where that gets you.

John K. said...

Good for Sanders. Some commenters on here have assumed that he must be a lefty because he is passionately critical of the Bush administration's counterterrorism measures, and wonder how such a person could have found his way into a Federalist Society event. But in fact, not all conservatives are gungho partisans for the executive branch and for heavy-handed interventionism by the military and the police. That's why they had to invent the label "neoconservative" to describe those who have defected from the best and most cogent conservative principles.

Darcy said...

Yeah, I did assume he was a lefty. I'm not sure what he is now. Still a loon, IMO.

the wolf said...

I don't know anything about Sanders, but this article describes him as a "combative, libertarian lightning rod."

It goes on to say, "The justice has been a controversial figure for his entire time on the bench, revered by Republicans and political conservatives for his anti-abortion, pro-property rights views and revered by civil libertarians and criminal defense lawyers for backing defendants' rights."

Lem said...

That's why they had to invent the label "neoconservative" to describe those who have defected from the best and most cogent conservative principles.

To fight a little known rag tag band of neo-islamists called Al Quaeda.

If they exist at all ;)

SteveR said...

Freder: OK I can let you by on that comment based on your explanation.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yeah, almost as bad as a Federal Supreme Court justice flipping off a reporter (or the Italian equivalent thereof) in front of a church. But I can't imagine who would do that."

It was a different Italian gesture. Shame on you for repeating a myth.

Simon said...

John K. said...
"Some commenters on here have assumed that he must be a lefty because he is passionately critical of the Bush administration's counterterrorism measures...."

I don't assume he's a lefty. I infer from his conduct that he's childish and lacks self-control. I can't think of many situations where heckling might be appropriate, and this certainly wasn't one of them.

Original George said...

Crimso--

I did not mean that Sanders' speech was "good" in a moral sense of social niceties, but that it was the sort of very rough language that we tolerate, if dimly, because in other countries we all know he'd get a bullet in the back of the head for his foolishness. So we roll our eyes and go on.

Simon said...

John K. said...
"That's why they had to invent the label 'neoconservative' to describe those who have defected from the best and most cogent conservative principles."

John, the label "neoconservative" was invented in the late 60s to describe liberals who had moved right but who still believed in the use of state power to achieve policy aims. The term has been coopted by critics of the Bush administration to describe anything they disagree with, regardless of whether it fits remotely with the actual meaning of the term.

It's interesting to consider that "liberalism" became a dirty word because of the policy views it actually stood for, while "neoconservative" became a dirty word because of policy views with a tangential connection to it at best.

Hoosier Daddy said...

It's a shame that people who yell 'TYRANT!' haven't had the misfortune to actually live under one as opposed to a safe and sheltered life.

Perspective does wonders for one's outlook.

Pogo said...

Well, as long as the justice did not violate his MySpace TOS, he's in the clear.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Some commenters on here have assumed that he must be a lefty because he is passionately critical of the Bush administration's counterterrorism measures,

Well considering those measures have resulted in bushels of dead Islamofascists and no attacks in the Motherland since 2001 I would refer to those critics as morons.

garage mahal said...

This cat must have been lost and thought he was at a Palin rally.

Meade said...

"It's interesting to consider that "liberalism" became a dirty word because of the policy views it actually stood for, while "neoconservative" became a dirty word because of policy views with a tangential connection to it at best."

Well observed, Simon.

Freder Frederson said...

It was a different Italian gesture. Shame on you for repeating a myth.

It was an Italian gesture that basically means "Fuck you"--in the non-literal sense. He tried to claim it was not an obscene gesture, but ask any Italian, and they will tell you it is.

If you flip someone off in traffic, it doesn't mean you want to have sex with them. The gesture he used conveyed the same meaning.

Your defense of Scalia, like this post, is weak.

AlphaLiberal said...

Nothing has happened yet, so of course, you go on, terror gnawing at your consciousness...

More like "guilt tearing at your conscience." And tearing at you, physically, perhaps.

dualdiagnosis said...

Initially I dismissed your theory out of hand, mostly because that's not what I think of when I hear "tyrant!" shouted.

Thinking it over, it makes sense that this could cause Mukasey great distress, especially seeing Sanders skedaddle out of there right after.

Speculation from a law professor, not just any law professor mind you, about the state of mind of these two, one a state supreme court justice and the other the AG, is interesting because it is informed and insightful.

paul a'barge said...

An unknown person in a large crowd shouts "tyrant" at a political leader. If he knows history, it should strike fear into his heart. It would feel like the prelude to assassination.

Or, it would strike disgust into his heart that some rimrod nutjob had been allowed to be a member of the American judiciary and was allowed entry into the Federalist Society.

What are we now allowing judges to act like Daily Kos readers?

Simon said...

paul a'barge said...
"What are we now allowing judges to act like Daily Kos readers?"

Judges - at least some of them - read blogs. I doubt they confine their reading purely to Howard Bashman, Ann Althouse, Larry Solum, and the Volokh Conspiracy. Moreover, some judges are liberals. It doesn't seem much of a jump to conclude that some of the judges who read blogs are liberals, that they probably prefer liberal blogs to conservative blogs, and since daily kos is one of the most popular liberal blogs, some judges are Daily Kos readers.

Cedarford said...

I question the propriety of a State Supreme Court Justice who also functions as a libertarian political activist. Outside the guy acting out and screaming "Tyrant!" at a speech by a high Federal official.

Sanders loves enemy rights:

http://www.justicesanders.com/2007April4WarOnLiberty[1].htm

In this speech he denounces FDR for not presuming the Nazi saboteurs were innocent and entitled to a civilian trial. And gave a story about how Ashcroft had a 3rd grade boy "disappeared". In his story the boy questioned why Gore was not the legitimate President of the USA and why Bush was trying to take away our liberties with the Patriot Act.

LoafingOaf said...

He isn't a "lefty" judge. In fact, before this incident he was one of Michelle Malkin's favorite judges (see her blog).

Part of his explanation:

...Attorney General Mukasey justified the Bush administration’s policies in the War on Terror, which included denying meaningful hearings for prisoners in Guantanamo, and other questionable tactics, all in the name of national security. Mr. Mukasey said those who criticize the Administration for abandoning provisions of the Geneva Conventions fail to recognize that “… Al Qaeda [is] an international terrorist group, and not, the last time I checked, a signatory to the Conventions.” Although the United States is a signatory, and these Conventions prohibit torture, the audience laughed. Attorney General Mukasey received a standing ovation. I passionately disagree with these views: the government must never set aside the Constitution; domestic and international law forbids torture; and access to the writ of habeas corpus should not be denied.

The program provided no opportunity for questions or response, and I felt compelled to speak out. I stood up, and said, “tyrant,” and then left the meeting.

I don't see what the big deal is. It doesn't sound like he was disrupting anything. Some people ere cheering and he chose to boo him by saying "tyrant" and leaving. If it's okay to loudly voice your approval for a controversial speaker's very cntroversial statements, why isn't it also okay to boo him at the same time as some are cheering?

And if saying "tyrant" had any connection to the man fainting, the likeliest reason why would be that Mukasey felt guilty for knowing he'll go down in history for violating Constitution. If he's getting called a tyrant even by conservative judges at conservative events, he's gotta wonder how he'll go down in history.

LoafingOaf said...

If it's okay to give the audience no opportunity to ask questions , and if it's okay for the audience to loudly voice their approval with cheers, enthusiastic applause, and standing ovations (as opposed to just polite but neutral clapping), then it must be okay to also voice disapproval as well, by booing or saying a word that expresse disapproval.

I just don't get why it's okay to give an enthusiastic standing ovtion for controversial remarks while those who disagree must sit there and be quiet. Sounds like some people wanted it to be like a rally for Mukasey. IMO: If cheers are allowed, boos must be too.

LoafingOaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LoafingOaf said...

Let's be real here. WE've got commenters with Scalia's face as avatars telling us how judges must always act respectfully. That's funny - Scalia rolled into my law school one day 5 years ago and was screaming and shouting at all the professors who asked him questions.

Which I had no problem with, btw. It was great to see such a smart Supreme Court justice ripping some of those big-headed professors new a-holes in front of their students. I actually loved how he couldn't have cared less about the usual way a judge conducts him or herself. But yeah, he yelled at them in mocking and humiliating fashion.

But he did take questions. Apparently at Mukasey's speech, no questions were going to be taken. And the audience was not sitting thre in quiet respect, giving a nuetral reception to his speech. They were cheering and giving standing ovations. A dissenter should be allowed to similarly express his reaction to what he was hearing. But people want everything to be such a controlled environment now. Like when a politician comes to speak somewhere and the audience is 100% stacked with rally supporters.

If you go speak somewhere and say extremely controversial things that are highly offensive to some people, don't be surprised if you get booed by someone, or called a name. Especially when you aren't willing to field questions.

SteveR said...

LO: you're going to a lot of work to explain why this was acceptable. It wasn't a damn press conference, it was a speech at a dinner. Somewhere between your consitutional rights and being held in a gulag, is mature, decent behaviour. Hell, just pick one or the other, never mind that your a state supreme court justice.

Better yet, stay home.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Your defense of Scalia, like this post, is weak.

Actually Freder, telling some Eurotrash to fuck off is a badge of honor. Telling some Eurotrash reporter to fuck off is a bonus.

Hoosier Daddy said...

A dissenter should be allowed to similarly express his reaction to what he was hearing.

You know, that's all well and good but the problem is that a lot of folk's expressions are simply stupid. Muskasey isn't a tyrant because he doesn't have that kind of power, at best he's one of the lessor evil minions and maybe the cry of SPAWN OF SATAN! would have been more appropriate.

Like I said earlier, it would be nice if someone who referred to the current adminstration as fascist, totalitarian, nazi etc would have at least had the experience of living under one before laying the accuations. Otherwise it insults those poor bastards who are actually suffering under it.

Otherwise you just look like a total asshole.

theMickey's said...

Interesting, I have nothing to gain.

Andrew said...

I recently moved from Seattle to Madison and was the chapter president for the Puget Sound (Seattle) Federalist Society, of which Justice Sanders was a member. I know him fairly well -- he swore me into the Washington bar. This is not totally out of character for him. He's a pretty good jurist, but takes his libertarianism a little too far at times -- in this case, way too far.

Simon said...

LoafingOaf said...
"Let's be real here. WE've got commenters with Scalia's face as avatars telling us how judges must always act respectfully."

The only commenter who meets that description is me, and I've said no such thing, here or elsewhere.

Palladian said...

"Moreover, some judges are liberals. It doesn't seem much of a jump to conclude that some of the judges who read blogs are liberals, that they probably prefer liberal blogs to conservative blogs, and since daily kos is one of the most popular liberal blogs, some judges are Daily Kos readers."

And some judges have posters of murderous Communist thugs hanging next to posters of Barack Obama in their offices.

Palladian said...

"LoafingOaf said...

Let's be real here. WE've got commenters with Scalia's face as avatars telling us how judges must always act respectfully."

We've also got commenters here who are deathly afraid of Sarah Palin's pussy. Takes all kinds to make a blog...

Fatmouse said...

As a rule, lefties, people don't shout "tyrant" at actual tyrants.

Or at least, they never do it twice.

Chris said...

Sic Semper Tyrannis is one of my favorite lines and I don't think JWB yelling it while killing Lincoln changes that fact. That said, I'm probably on some FBI list now.