Brian Williams: Originalists Like Scalia Failed to ‘Anticipate Abortion,’ Air Travel, iPhones

Opining during MSNBC’s breaking news coverage early Saturday evening on the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Rachel Maddow took a swing at the Senate Republicans for wanting “a functionless Supreme Court for an entire year” and Brian Williams complained originalists like Scalia failed to “anticipate” things like abortion, airplanes and iPhones. 

Maddow appeared first just before the 6:00 p.m. Eastern mark and after calling out both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates for harping on “litmus tests” for future Court nominees and even naming prospective nominees, she turned her disapproval toward the U.S. Senate and the Republican caucus as it seems at this moment that they will not go along with whomever President Obama nominates. 

The weeknight MSNBC host went onto point out that much of the conversation in the 2016 election will shift to “the United States Senate and whether or not that body allows this President, with a year left in his term, to choose a nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” 

She closed this train of thought before anchor Richard Lui interjected by lamenting that if the GOP wants “to hold the Supreme Court to eight seats, so we essentially have a functionless Supreme Court for an entire year, because of a political hope that a Republican makes a nominee instead, I mean, it's — that's just going to change everything...it really is going to put a whole new focus on our politics.”

Just over 20 minutes later, disgraced former NBC Nightly News anchor and current MSNBC breaking news anchor Brian Williams called in and while he praised Scalia as a person, he took issue with the late Justice and those who believe in original intent concerning the Constitution’s interpretation: 

The problem with originalism is that it, the document, the Constitution did not anticipate abortion, it did not anticipate the arrival of the iPhone, it did not anticipate the arrival of jet travel and many, many other topics, including police rights and pulling over a motorized vehicle, that we could not have anticipated. 

Williams also opined that individuals like Scalia are “why we elect presidents and part of their job, I would say, second only to their right to conduct warfare, the chief importance of electing the president is how they remake the judiciary.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC Live on February 13 can be found below.

MSNBC Live
February 13, 2016
5:51 p.m. Eastern

RACHEL MADDOW:  Usually, it has been more typical in our politics that even in the heat of the presidential campaign, the Supreme Court is kind of held at arm's length a little bit, or at least there's some decorum, there's certain things you don't say, there's certain ways you try not to prejudice the process, even when people are very concerned about it. This year, those norms sort of haven't been hued to and kinds on all sides, for example, have been talking about what their litmus tests are, and on the Democratic side, it tends to be preserving abortion rights and wants to strike down Citizens United. On the Republican side, it seems to be willingness to overturn Roe versus Wade and some other laundry list of issues. We've had a few nominees on the Republican side talking about defying Supreme court orders, and that the Supreme Court shouldn't be the supreme law of the land, so there's just some basic stuff about how the Supreme Court is handled by candidates that doesn't, isn't holding to form this year. Again, that's another factor that makes it all the more unpredictable. Obviously, the candidates will have to start talking about this a lot. I think the real focus of energy and the real focus of attention and what is now going to become the most important political place in the country, it's not going to be Nevada, it's not going to be South Carolina, it's going to be the United States Senate and whether or not that body allows this President, with a year left in his term, to choose a nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. If they're going to hold the Supreme Court to eight seats, so we essentially have a functionless Supreme Court for an entire year, because of a political hope that a Republican makes a nominee instead, I mean, it's — that's just going to change everything, Richard. It really is going to put a whole new focus on our politics. 

(.....)

6:17 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: The problem with originalism is that it, the document, the Constitution did not anticipate abortion, it did not anticipate the arrival of the iPhone, it did not anticipate the arrival of jet travel and many, many other topics, including police rights and pulling over a motorized vehicle, that we could not have anticipated. That's why we elect presidents and part of their job, I would say, second only to their right to conduct warfare, the chief importance of electing the president is how they remake the judiciary. That's why we elect presidents. That's why they appoint judges that are in keeping with their ideology. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center