"How exactly does it work? How does legitimate self-confidence become wildly inflated self-regard? How does self respect become unblinking conceit? How exactly does one's character become destabilized in Washington?
The Supreme Court this week and last issued many rulings, and though they were on different issues the decisions themselves had at least one thing in common: They seemed to reflect a lack of basic human modesty on the part of many of the justices. Many are famously very old, and they have been together as a court for a very long time. One wonders if they have lost all understanding of how privileged they are to have lifetime sinecures of power and authority. Do they have any sense anymore of common human wisdom, of the normal human arrangements by which Americans live?
Maybe a lot of them aren't bothering to think. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no longer in the habit of listening to arguments but only of watching William Rehnquist, and if he nods up and down she knows to vote "no," and if he shakes his head she knows to vote "yes." That might explain some of the lack of seriousness in the decisions. Local government can bulldoze Grandma's house because it's in the way of a future strip mall that will add more to the tax base? The Ten Commandments can appear on public land but not in a courthouse, but Moses, who received the Ten Commandments can appear in the frieze of the House but he'll be sandblasted off the Supreme Court? Or do I have that the other way around?
What are they doing? All this hair splitting, this dithering, this cutting and pasting--all this lack of serious and defining principle. All this vanity.
Perhaps Justice Ginsburg or Justice Stevens will retire soon and write a memoir: Like Jefferson I held to principle, and like Lincoln I often lacked air conditioning. But in my intellectual gifts I've always found myself to be more like Oliver Wendell Holmes . . .
What is in the air there in Washington, what is in the water?
What is wrong with them? This is not a rhetorical question. I think it is unspoken question No. 1 as Americans look at so many of the individuals in our government. What is wrong with them?"