Been a year of obituaries this year, and here's another big one - Justice Antonin Scalia, dead at 79. It is a big deal - both because of the political situation, and because of who and what he was. It's harder to write about him than it might be about some others in a similar place - you have to respect the human being, with their families and friends, and we are all mortal, etc. - but he was a towering political figure, and how do you not acknowledge that? And politically, he has done as much harm to this country as any single human being in the last 30 years. And did it while being a pretty vile human being - letting his freak flag fly more than once... Yet - he was also a towering figure: the defining figure for modern conservatism, really - I can consider him a villain, and I do, but he was a remarkable villain. He was more Nixon or Andrew Jackson than Reagan or Little George Bush. Alito and Thomas are probably worse - Alito particularly might be the real heart of darkness on that court, the one whoever seems to have a flash of decency, the way Roberts and Scalia, and even Thomas, occasionally come across with. But Alito is invisible, compared to Scalia... In latter years, he seemed to start enjoying that rather much - like I say, letting his freak flag fly. Making himself the story - reveling in playing the villain (for the left), the hero for the right. He was interesting, even if he was infuriating.
All right. Supreme Court Justices serve for life - and in a tightly contested and fractious time such as ours, they are unlikely to resign - the odds are good the only ones to leave will be the ones to die. I don't want to root for people to die, or celebrate when people die - I would much prefer they find a better way of rotating through the court than waiting for old men and women to die... But the fact is, having him off the court makes the country a better place. There will be a terrible fight over his replacement - the Republican candidates are already suggesting that Obama leave the place empty - a comically absurd idea, though I suppose they have to say something like that... Still - while we are unlikely to get my first choice as a replacement, we are likely to get someone who will slide the country back to the left, some, a bit, enough. So - let's not kid ourselves: this isn't an obit I particularly mind posting. Yeah, it would be nice if he decided to retire to spend his dotage writing memoirs and making the talk show rounds - but getting him off the court is all good.
And - you know: when you die, all you have left is the legacy of what you did while you were alive. And he did evil. So - there you go.