Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Supreme Court's Breyer impresses in Nixonville


✵ IT WAS A FUNNY place to be on the tenth anniversary of Congress’s odious vote to fund the military invasion and occupation of Iraq. Heartening only for Red Emma is the chance to recall and remind Dissenters of the brave and principled Ms. Barbara Lee, reviled by most and of course redeemed by history, if not, unfortunately, celebrated. I here propose September 14 as Barbara Lee was Right Day. You could fly your flag, or drop her a note. Dear Barbara: You were right. I think she’ll know.

Pics by Rebel Girl
Funny indeed. I glanced down at the screen of the laptop balancing on the lap of ace OC Register reporter Mike Mello, who seemed to have already written most of his article on the talk by Associate Justice (and ice cream scion) Stephen Breyer seconds after the judge stepped from the podium, situated next to six US flags and two either competing, or complimentary signs (you choose), one bearing the traditional over-the-top Nixon Foundation logo, fully embossed and the other, the weirdly snazzy “Mod Squad” style Nixon Presidential Library and Museum design.

Red greets the doorman
It’s actually fun to visit the library now, which some years ago morphed from a Disney ride to an actual federally-funded (“Follow the money!”) National Archives and Records Administration research facility. The foundation folks wanted legitimacy and, yes, taxpayer money, so, faster than you can say Jerry Voorhis, it went from hagiographical to historical. That’s perfect, cuz you still get the little old Republican ladies of eastern OC greeting you in their stunning bunting-wear – red-white-and-blue blazers, scarves, blouses – but then there’s the director, an esteemed scholar named Dr. Timothy Naftali who dresses, it seems, in the flag of a land called Business Attire and Scholarship, if nattily. And in the bookstore you can buy Andrew Breitbart’s new book (he visits the Foundation next week) and a t-shirt, I shit you not, declaring your original charter membership in the Silent Majority.

Oddly unpleasant ad
for next week's event
Red flashed reporter Mello a winning Dissent smile and showed off my official Dissent press pass. It identifies me as your favorite blog’s humble Nixon Library Museum and Birthplace correspondent. Humble and Nixon are two words you seldom see together, but then most people get Dryers and Breyers mixed up too, and of course Associate Justice Steve is neither a scion or an heir to anybody’s frozen dessert fortune. It’s just fun to mess with people. Wow. The power of the press! And all the better, it turns out, for you and me and America and the Constitution that the guy became a judge. Re the Constitution, like so many of us, this Supreme carries a copy of it in his breast pocket and, yes, pulls it out (a lot) as his reliably winning and singular and satisfying prop. Pulling out an ice cream cone probably wouldn’t help much, rhetorically I mean.

"Ooh, ooh!"
As a Dissent field reporter, I work a very limited beat, for which most reasonable and polite readers of this blog must certainly be grateful. Still, I like seeing other professionals at work, and think of myself as the Sylvia Pogiolli of Eastern Orange County underground journalism, a dark-haired beauty of imagination with a husky, authoritative voice. And have you ever seen a photograph of Syl? Unlike most radio types, she looks exactly like she sounds. Lovely. I understand she fancies herself the Red Emma of public radio reporting, but that is neither here nor heir.

Mike and Red and Rebel Girl and the Littlest Anarchist, age 9 (listening in between rereading The Spiderwick Chronicles through the justice’s speech) sat with our pal Big Dave the Sommalier Surfer in the crowded and charmingly fake reproduction of the White House East Room, the westernmost East Room you’ll find. Teddy Roosevelt hung there, on the wall near us, seeming sternly disapproving. He is reliable that way, gazing out at the room like it is a hill he means to take.

First, the jolly representative of the Nixon Foundation, Richard “Sandy” Quinn, read the winning raffle number. Alas, none of us scored a free, signed copy of the latest book by tonight’s special guest, titled, à la Tim Gunn of Project Runway, Making Democracy Work. I never win anything. No, not true. Age six or so, sitting on my father’s shoulders, I called out the right answer to a riddle (Dad had cheated, whispering it to me) and won a plastic whistle from Little Oscar of wiener fame, this in the parking lot of Beach’s Market, a crowd gathered around the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. That would have been about 1965, important re tonight’s dispatch as Justice Breyer, there to talk about the importance and value of the Supremes (no surprise there) seemed also to talk an awful lot about Civil Rights, including Korematsu v. U.S. and Dred Scott v. Sanford and, of course, Red’s own favorite, Brown v. Board of Ed. Red was raised in Downey, California, mysteriously free of Black people, and a place where the city mothers and fathers, as if anticipating Breyer’s book, dropped the “Earl” from Warren High School because they did not so much like, as completely hate, the Supreme Court Justice’s positions on desegregation.

Cropping by RG
Re making it work, democracy-wise, Justice B. suggested he’d like nothing better than to meet an average American woman in a supermarket, take out that copy of the Constitution he keeps on him, and spiel to her for an hour about his favorite topic. Which he did, as it happens, right there with Teddy on the wall and Nixon in his nearby grave, rolling over and over. He is an enthusiastic judge. As I observed to Rebel and Little in the car, driving home on the Richard Nixon Freeway, “That Justice Breyer sure likes his job!”

The crowd seemed full of liberals: liberal citizens, liberal law students, liberal lawyers. Three law school deans were there, and a judge, who knows about them? Former Congressman Tom Campbell. (Not a liberal, no.) Everybody seemed quite nice, and the questions later were good, except for the two confused ladies who tried to get Justice B. to tell them, right there, last night, in Yorba Linda of all places, how he was going to vote on the constitutionality of so-called health care reform.

You’ll want to read the new book, signed or not, to get the whole story but the fun part about hearing and watching the justice was his call for more civics and history classes taught in high school and in supermarkets, even as he gave what amounted to a very good high school history and civics lecture…if, that is, you went to Harvard High School or Stanford High School or Yale High School and your teacher was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton and voted in the majority and, as he reminded us, dissented on Bush v. Gore and, yes, the horrible Citizens United v. FEC, which I like to call “Have A Koch and a Smile.” (And, who was it in the crowd, I wonder, who started the vigorous applause for S.B. on that one? Just little ole Red, of course.)

4 Sale
In conclusion, as my students too often end their reports, America is a great country and it could be a lot worse as well. Or even better. Who knows? This seemed to be Judge Steve’s big point, arguing that it was all of those things more or less because of the important and balancing role of the nine smarty-farties in their black robes. Only, he insisted, the historians would know and in the meantime we didn’t have riots, murder and mayhem in the streets every time the Court ruled. One of the last questions from the crowd was a very thoughtful, specific one about rulings in the late 1950s, from an older woman in the back. Breyer thanked her and suggested that her question sounded like one from a historian. “That’s because I am a historian,” she said. My kind of crowd.

Barbara Lee
All the talk about justice and precedent and “right vs. right” and ice cream (okay, mostly by me) caused the Little Anarchist to ask for some on the way home. He got quizzed by his Constitution-loving folks about how to share with others in Fourth Grade the experience of seeing a talk by a Supreme. He’s a little weak on Reconstruction, sure, but solid on Cooper v. Aaron and the Little Rock Nine. The kid shows signs of becoming a Constitutional scholar. His first ruling, later that evening, on Vanilla v. Chocolate, showed both integrity and a real acknowledgement of precedent. —RE


Anonymous said...

Excellent report.

Dissentophile said...

I'm impressed that Red was pleased!

Anonymous said...

Is Justice Breyer the one snapping her fingers?

B. von Traven said...

No, Breyer does the sax solo

Anonymous said...

Good to see Red back.

Anonymous said...

Red, a journalist? Really? I see the guy can write though.

Anonymous said...

Red! Write more often!

Anonymous said...

No worry, ya ain't gonna get no gig off-a Breitbart.

Red's expose is a total joke. Notice all the opposing comments have been deleted? It's all one-sided here.

B. von Traven said...

Red did not write an exposé. Neither is Red looking for a "gig." Buy a dictionary.
Comments are not deleted from DtB merely because they take a view that opposes our own. We welcome such comments. Some comments, however, are offensive or make unsupported claims or are simply idiotic.

Anonymous said...

ah, everything MUST be an expose to them, don't you see? It's how they see the world.

I say, turn off the comments for a weekend and let everyone take a break.

Red Emma reminds me of Ira Glass and David Sedaris.

Watch: Republican leadership will now sink to a new and almost unimaginable low, defending a manifestly treasonous President

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