Saturday, 8 October 2011


There was a fatuous piece on Slate (you can find it here) which I just happened to spot while reading Ron Rosenbaum on Long Island serial killers (don't ask) by one Dahlia Lithwick, which said that Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia ought to take their double-act on 'Living Constitutionalism' (something of an oxymoron itself) on the road, and put TV cameras into the Court, after their boffo show before the US Congress. According to our solons, and Lithwick, the guys are funny! Here's how she explained it:

The bear joke is a Scalia classic. (Patrick Leahy, chairman of the committee, confirms that he’s been telling it for years.) “The story is about the two hunters who are out in the woods in their tent and there's growling in the brush near them,” Scalia told the committee. “And they open the tent flap and there is a huge grizzly bear and they start running. … And—and the guy who's a little heavier and he's running behind, he says, ‘It's no use. We're never going to outrun that bear.’ And the guy who's running in front says, ‘I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!’ ”

As the Senate chamber dissolved in laughter, Scalia sharpened his point, just in case no one got it. “It’s the same with originalism,” he said, referring to his preferred theory of constitutional interpretation. He doesn’t have to prove that it’s the best theory. Gesturing toward Breyer, Scalia said, “I just have to show it’s better than his.”

Nobody expected any less. But the two justices killed before the Judiciary Committee, raising the question anew: Why don’t they do this every week? Why are they hiding this great light under a marble bushel?

Great light? Lithwick wrote Scalia 'sharpened his point in case no one got it', but never realised he'd ALREADY done just that. The punchline of the joke is 'I don't have to outrun the bear!'. Period, full stop, end of joke. 'I just to have to outrun you' is EXPLAINING the joke, and this also explains in a nutshell what is wrong with Washington--that someone who twists the consitution into tantric pretzels for his own ideological gain can tell an old joke, so old it's been used in television commercials, and tell it badly, and thus can be presented by the chatterati within the Beltway as the 'great light' who will get people to 'believe' in the Supreme Court again! Like cameras would reveal some hidden sympathy in the judges, or indeed, reveal Clarence Thomas actually saying anything during the Mudville Nine's deliberations.

Maybe if the Roberts/Scalia Supreme Court occasionally ruled in favour of 'the people' then those people might start to believe in it? And they could leave the jokes to Henny Youngman.

No comments :