There was a beautiful funeral Mass this morning at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C., for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia’s son, Rev. Paul Scalia, delivered a moving homily. Justice Scalia’s longtime ideological companion on the bench, Justice Clarence Thomas, read a biblical passage.
Scalia’s contributions to the development of our law have been emphasized elsewhere. Suffice it to say no jurist contributed more to promote the principles of textualism in statutory interpretation, and originalism in constitutional interpretation, than did Antonin Scalia. He was the only Supreme Court Justice involved in the founding of the highly influential Federalist Society. In the context of the broader William F. Buckley-Barry Goldwater-Ronald Reagan conservative movement for which Federalist Society-style jurisprudence has served as the legal lynchpin, moreover, Scalia was an iconic figure. He was a longtime subscriber of National Review, stood “four-square behind” the Reagan Revolution, and surely had an “impact on the law…commensurate with the impact Ronald Reagan had on our politics.”
It is thus worth noting, in this context, that on the very day of the highly important South Carolina Republican Presidential primary, only Ted Cruz made it a point to be at Justice Scalia’s funeral this morning. As was reported yesterday:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will take a break from the presidential campaign trail Saturday morning to attend the funeral of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the Republican’s campaign said late Thursday…Besides Cruz, no other presidential candidate has said they will attend Scalia’s funeral. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders I-Vt, are in Nevada for the Democratic caucuses on Saturday.
CNN reporting this morning confirms that no other Republican presidential candidate was in attendance.
This is noteworthy for numerous reasons. Firstly, it speaks very well of Cruz’s character that he would make such a sacrifice on the very day of South Carolina voting, instead of finishing last-minute events with voters. Secondly, it allows for Cruz, a former clerk to the conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and a Supreme Court litigator himself, to further elevate the issue of judicial nominations in the context of the presidential race. Cruz’s explicit pitch is that he should be viewed as uniquely qualified both to select, and to expend political capital fighting for, principled originalist judges on the bench—including Justice Scalia’s replacement, if Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell can hold the line until then. Thirdly, given Scalia’s symbolic weightiness in the broader conservative movement, it allows for Cruz to further push the case that he ought to be viewed as the conservative movement’s consensus candidate. Cruz clearly sees himself as the natural heir to the Buckley-Reagan movement of which Scalia was no doubt a core part.
While Ted Cruz was at the funeral Mass in D.C., Donald Trump was (shockingly!) busy tweeting—perhaps, hypocritically, from an iPhone, for all I know. And boy, did he have classy things to say:
So while Cruz flew to D.C. from South Carolina to pay his final respects to an iconic conservative titan for whom defenders of our constitutional order should all be immensely grateful, Trump was busy tweeting that the President is a Muslim.
Your move, South Carolina voters.