[By the time I finished #1 on today’s list, there was no room for the rest, except for the shortest item. Oops. But it’s Carl Reiner’s fault: he ticked me off.]
1. Carl Reiner, comedy legend and still kicking in his 90s, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging Supreme Court Justice Kennedy not to retire, as some believe he is preparing to do. Kennedy is a relative whippersnapper at 8o. That Reiner’s argument is unethical in multiple ways should be obvious, but then expecting the editors of the New York Times to spot an ethics problem is naive.
Reiner tells Kennedy that he shouldn’t retire because ” the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.” The problem is that the decision shouldn’t be based on what Kennedy wants or will enjoy. He’s supposed to act in the best interests of the nation, not to maximize the rewards of his golden years. Reiner uses a comparison to his own career—he still acts periodically, but even Reiner can’t possible think that his last five years were objectively more productive than when he was writing and performing in “Your Show of Shows,” or playing Rob Petrie’s hilariously nasty boss on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”—which shows a narrow perspective. If Carl can’t perform the way he used to but movie-goers still like watching him, there’s no harm done. A SCOTUS justice who no longer is in top mental fettle, however, can do substantial harm.
How many screenplays has Reiner had produced since he turned 80? How many studios have hired him to direct? The last movie he wrote was in 1989, when Carl was 67. His last directing assignment was 20 years ago. So Carl has retired from those jobs that are too demanding for him, just not acting. His argument to Kennedy is disingenuous. Gee, maybe the Justice should try acting, like Carl.
Reiner’s entire piece is a sham: it isn’t about retirement, it’s about liberal politics. He writes,
“The country needs justices like you who decide each case with fairness and humanity, and whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line. You have always voted your conscience, and defended the rights and liberties of all our citizens.”
Is Reiner seriously arguing that there are no younger qualified judges “whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line” ? That’s what all SCOTUS justices are pledged to do. Does anyone think that Reiner would like Justice Ginsberg, also in her 80’s, to step down because she reliably hews to Democratic Party positions in virtual lockstep? No, of course not. What he is really saying is that when Republican-appointed justices consider cases, they violate their duty to be objective, but when Democrat-appointed justices decide in favor of progressive positions, they are just being wise and fair. This also the position of the New York Times, which is using an old man as its mouthpiece. Nice.
His op-ed is also so legally ignorant that it gives me a migraine, not that there’s any reason that a lifetime performer who dropped out of high school should be expected to understand legal reasoning and the Supreme Court. If he doesn’t understand, however, and he obviously doesn’t, why is the New York Times publishing his uninformed blather as noteworthy advice? (See above.)
“Humanity” has nothing to do with a justice’s job. He or she is there to decide what the law says and apply it. Nor is any judge’s “conscience” relevant to the Constitution. An ethical judge should be capable of rendering a decision that he personally does not like and fervently wishes could be otherwise. The place for conscience is in the legislature and with the executive who signs or vetoes a bill. A judge’s personal sentiments are often sources of bias, and can work against allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America. Reiner proves with this ignorant passage that he literally doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and has no foundation of knowledge from which to advise Justice Kennedy.
He also directly quotes a rationalization: #28, The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.” This is signature significance, the argument of someone whose ethical standards shift according to what he wants to happen, and who has insufficient integrity—ironically someone exactly unlike the kind of Supreme Court justice Reiner says the Court needs. One can argue that any period is special, as indeed they all are. The Supreme Court exists to provide consistency and reliability in the law.
I know this is outside your area of expertise. So shut up, Carl. Heard any good jokes lately?
Then we finally learn the real motive behind the op-ed:
“How would you feel, while reading your newspaper, seeing a headline that read “Roe v. Wade Overturned”? Do you see how this could ruin a good meal? A good life? A great country?”
Well, being a judge and a former SCOTUS justice, Carl, Kennedy would probably read the opinion and decide whether it was soundly decided based on law and precedent, at least if he is as fair and objective as you think he is. How does Carl Reiner know how Anthony Kennedy feels about Roe v. Wade anyway? It was decided before Kennedy joined the Court. Of course, most fair and objective legal experts believe the decision was badly reasoned and wrongly decided on the existing law, but Carl wouldn’t know any of that; he’s just a knee-jerk Hollywood liberal adopting knee-jerk positions. Do you think Reiner has read Roe v. Wade? Doubtful.How many Kennedy opinions has Reiner read all teh way through? My guess: about as many as 90% of the population. None.
It must also be pointed out that Roe v. Wade has ruined, as in ended, millions of lives since it was decided. (I think it’s fair to refer to killing human beings as ruining their lives, no? Is that unfair?) That Reiner would be so tone-deaf as to include that line suggests how much his faculties have declined, though his Times editors have no such excuse. Does Carl understand that over-turning Roe wouldn’t change anything, except give individual states the option of deciding that unborn life should have some rights of their own? Does he realize that it would not, in fact, prevent abortions? Nah.
Carl also doesn’t comprehend that scaremongering aside, the chances of Roe v.Wade being overturned after four decades is virtually nil. Ever heard of stare decisus, Carl? Did you and the 10,000 Year-Old Man ever talk about that? I didn’t think so.
To be fair, however, Carl Reiner is 95 now, and can’t be expected to think quite as clearly as he did in his prime. His pathetic op-ed is actually a good argument for why it may be time for Justice Kennedy to hang up his robe.
2. From the “The Little Ways The Media Tries to Influence Public Opinion” files: I have a Direct TV package that includes all of the premium movie channels Since January, “All the President’s Men” has been featured on one of them or another for multiple days and multiple showings every month. TCM has also played the film. Has any other 41-tear-old movie been dredged up with similar regularity? No. Not even close. The Watergate film has been featured as if it was a contemporary release. Is it the best film made in the Seventies? No; in fact it seems kind of boring now, though the acting is uniformly excellent. Several Seventies films are standards on TV, though seldom on the premium channels, notably the first two Godfather movies and “Jaws.” “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” and the John Wayne “True Grit” turns up on the Starz Westerns channel now and then.
But it is noticeable how often the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman paene to a courageous press taking down a corrupt President is suddenly regular fare in 2017, when it was all but invisible in 2016. It’s partisan propaganda. The various channels have a valid defense: it’s propaganda that a lot of Trump-hating subscribers want to see now, so they can get all giddy with the fantasy that the Trump-Russia fantasy is another Watergate just awaiting its Deep Throat. They are just “giving people what they want.”
It’s still propaganda.
Pointer: Other Bill