Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alito's Judicial Temperment

Having read Garrett Epps' bleakly hilarious deconstruction of Justice Alito's dissent-from-the-bench in the juvenile justice case, I've been idly speculating on what drives a powerful and cosseted grownup to such a spasm of mean vituperation. And here's a guess: fear. Alito makes me think of nothing so much as the skinny kid (okay, might have been the fat kid) who grew up in a neighborhood full of guys with 17-inch necks. He early on learned that the only way to survive was to get close to the source of greatest firepower, and to ease his own sense of panic by hiding behind his protector while executing a program of relentless yipping. My guess is that we are dealing with an unhappy man, still having nightmares over the prospect that some untamed adolescent somewhere might still be walking free, a threat to the community, not least Justice Alito. It's also, not incidentally, a reason for suspecting that his hostility to abortion is principled, not just prudential: here is a guy who really feels for the isolated and vulnerable, kept alone in the dark with every moment a portent of disaster. Being governed by Sam Alito is not fun but I suspect that being Sam Alito is not much fun either.

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