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What I Learned from Justice Scalia

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: So it was Saturday afternoon, and I was immersed in a project.  I did not have the television on.  I was not connected online to anything that was providing me a news feed, and I do not have news alerts that bop into me.  I've not set those up 'cause I have weeded out all this harassment from notifications. 

So I get a text from a friend says, "Our country is cursed."  I said, okay.  Wrote back.  "Why?" 

"It's just unbelievable.  It just seems like the decks are so stacked against us." 

"What's going on?" was my next text. 

Then the next, "Scalia!" with an exclamation.

I said, "What?  What, what, what?"  So I went to the Drudge Report and I found out what had happened.  And my heart sank, like everybody else's did.  I mean, just total unprepared-for shock.  And sadness and panic.  And you probably can fill in all the remaining emotional blanks I flashed through immediately.  And I must admit that it didn't take very long before I began to ponder exactly how this was gonna play out politically. 

And then I got scared.  And so that began the entire thought process, the remembrances, the times that I had met Justice Scalia.  The first time I ever talked to Justice Scalia was on the phone at the office of my television program.  It had to be 1992 or 1993.  And at the time I had been noted for saying that if I had not been born with my own brain, that I would have liked to have had Justice Scalia's brain.  And I had said it enough times that I guess he heard about it, because he was on the other end of the phone call that came in.  And he was calling to say hi and actually was requesting an autographed photo for somebody at his church.  I forget who it was. 

And we had a laughter-filled conversation about my request, my wish that if I didn't have my own brain, I would get his.  And it didn't last more than five minutes but it was in the first four years of this program, and this was really heady stuff.  I mean, here I'm talking to a justice of the United States Supreme Court who is near the top in everybody's assessment, reputation, and so forth.  And I'm pinching myself like I've done so often and so many times during the course of my career. 

It was some years later that I actually had the chance to meet Justice Scalia.  He was in Missouri. He was on one of his recess speaking tours, and he happened to be scheduled to make an address, I think he was in St. Louis, and I think he did something at the university in Cape Girardeau, my hometown, or something brought him to Cape Girardeau.  It might have been a speaking address or something to do after he'd left St. Louis, go to Cape Girardeau.  My cousin, Steve, told me that they were hosting a little dinner party for Scalia and the people traveling with him.  It was the middle of the week and he asked me if I'd like to come in, so I said sure. 

So Kathryn and I drove to the plane and we flew in.  And we ended up giving Justice Scalia -- and Leonard Leo was with him -- a ride back to Washington at the end of the evening on our way home.  And I think over the course of the program here I've shared with you some details of that conversation, but I've never identified who it was.  For example, one of the things that came up in that conversation -- I'm sorry, it was selfish.  I took the opportunity of this occasion to just tried to learn as much as I could about the court from Justice Scalia.  And of course I had peppered Justice Thomas with similar questions as I got to know him. 

And the one thing that I recall -- and I've mentioned this to you and I've never forgotten it, and I never will -- I was under, I guess, some misunderstandings, misconceptions about how the court works.  I was under the belief that the justices debated cases as they came in.  I knew the procedure they agreed to take a case, to hear a case, and at some point they'd go into chambers and they vote. And for some reason I assumed there was debating, horse trading, maybe not horse trading, but debating.  I always had the understanding that there was persuasion that went on in there, case after case after case, maybe not every case, but that justices feel passionately about cases, many of them that come before them.

And I thought maybe if the passion was such that they would actually try to persuade other justices to agree, in verbal debate.  And Justice Scalia looked at me with a sort of a mild incredulity on his face, "I'm not gonna change their mind.  They're not gonna change their mind."  And he meant the liberal justices.  They're not gonna change their mind.  He's acting like it was not a silly question, but something he hadn't even considered.  "We're not going to change their mind.  We don't do that.  That doesn't happen.  We go and vote.  We write our opinions.  There may be some changing of minds along the way but, no, no, no, no, are you kidding?  Change their minds?"

He made it abundantly clear to me that we were dealing with hard-core ideologues.  There was no changing anybody's mind on anything.  Now, he wasn't referring to all justices.  Some of you, "What about Justice Kennedy?"  Look, I don't know any more than what I'm telling you.  He didn't mention any names, and even if he had I wouldn't repeat those here, but it was a lesson in how the court operates. 

I also was able to detect and learn what Justice Scalia read to stay informed.  And put it this way.  He was exactly what you would expect or hope him to be.  If you didn't know him, if you only knew him by reputation and you had questions about him, questions for him, if you had a chance to have those questions answered, he would be exactly what you would hope he would be.  Rock solid, committed, devout, confident, humorous. 

You've all heard the stories about how he got along with all the justices on the court socially.  New Year's Eve with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her late husband. They shared a common love and appreciation for opera.  I was aware of the conviviality that went on.  So I was shocked that there was no attempt at persuasion that went on.  And I don't know how many people, to this day, still think that there is. 

But I can only tell you what he told me, that there are many of you out there who are court watchers who think that what I'm telling you is not correct, that of course there's debate that goes on. I can only tell you what he told me.  But the thing that stuck with me, is, "I'm not gonna change their mind.  They're not gonna. They're not gonna change their mind."  He made it clear that it was pointless to try.  And I interpreted that as a correct and proper understanding of just who those people are.  They had not arrived at where they are as the result of debate. 

They are committed ideologues, which takes me to this whole subject of Scalia's replacement.  I think this is being way, way, way overanalyzed.  I think it's way, way, way over commentated about.  Let me just tell you what's gonna be happening here, what the left is going to try to do.  And it's not... This is not even arguable.  This is not up for debate.  Barack Obama is going to try by whatever means necessary to get the most committed leftist on this court as soon as he can, and all of this talk about the ways of maybe coming up with a compromise candidate; that Obama doesn't want to go the whole year without a justice on the court...

You know, if you go by case by case there are many instances where it's actually okay and helpful in certain cases for the conservatives, for there to be only eight justices. Because when there's no court decision on a case before them, the lower court's latest ruling holds, which could be very helpful to us.  For example, a couple cases in Texas.  And it could be beneficial to the left as well for lower court rulings to survive, which would be the case if there isn't a ninth justice and the vote remains deadlocked at 4-4 on any particular case. 

The real test here, the real test is going to be a test that we have witnessed for six years, and that test is going to be: Will the Republicans say "no" to Obama?  This is all it's gonna come down to:  Will the Republicans stop Obama?  Will they try to stop Obama?  All this talk about Obama trying to find somebody who may be a little bit more moderate, may be acceptable to the Republicans? All that means is... That doesn't mean that Obama's gonna water down his choice.  This is it, as far as Obama's concerned. This is ballgame.  This is legacy. 

This is a generation or two, maybe, for Obama to shift the balance of the court to his way long after he has vacated the presidency.  And they don't know.  It's like Justice Scalia said to me, "There's no changing their mind.  There's no such thing as a moderate in advancing their cause."  Maybe they'll label somebody a moderate just to camouflage who they really are, but they're not... Obama and the people plotting -- and I guarantee you that plotting was going on within minutes of them hearing that Justice Scalia had passed away.  Don't doubt that, either. 

I saw a piece today in the... I forget where it is.  It's a column by somebody. It's a woman, actually, in PJ Media. I don't have her name in front of me right now, but she's just really ripping Obama for not even showing enough respect for Scalia to wear a tie when he made the comments about the passing of Justice Scalia. They grab him off the golf course out there in Rancho Mirage, California, and he had plenty of time to get a tie. He purposely chose not to wear one, I guess, and this column sort of excoriates him for going the casual look which was symbolic of a lack of respect. 

But that's old school kind of thinking.  

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