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Bench Memos

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Misreading the Tea Leaves



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Yesterday’s New York Times has a characteristically insipid house editorial faulting Justice Scalia for agreeing to speak “[w]hen the Tea Party holds its first Conservative Constitutional Seminar next month.” According to the editorial (emphasis added):

The Tea Party epitomizes the kind of organization no justice should speak to—left, right or center—in the kind of seminar that has been described in the press. It has a well-known and extreme point of view about the Constitution and about cases and issues that will be decided by the Supreme Court.

There are a couple of glaring defects in the editorial.

First, the editorial doesn’t disclose that the actual “Tea Party” event at which Justice Scalia has agreed to speak is evidently the Tea Party Caucus of the House of Representatives—an informal congressional body led by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Second, the editorial doesn’t give any evidence to support its claim that the “Tea Party” (whatever the group being referred to) has an “extreme point of view about the Constitution.” It doesn’t even give any hint as to what it might mean. I suppose that the gullible reader is supposed to be so embarrassed by his ignorance of something that is purportedly so “well-known” that he will simply trust the editorialists that the “Tea Party” is somehow beyond the pale.

Insofar as the general Tea Party movement has a “well-known point of view about the Constitution,” I would glean that its point of view is that the Constitution creates a federal government of limited powers. I don’t quite see how that classic American position means that the Tea Party is akin to the KKK.



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