Not even Christmas Day provided respite from New York Times bias: The Sunday Review was devoted to the Year in Pictures, and cast the just-concluded election as a clash of light vs. darkness. The front-page was wholly covered by a full-length photo of Donald Trump -- more accurately, Trump’s shadow -- in stark, Stygian darkness (an uncropped, wider version is featured on the website, 10th picture down, dated January 30) while the back page featured a hopeful member of the Hillary faithful, clutching an American flag while watching the election results with fellow acolytes in Manhattan.
The Sunday magazine was devoted to remembrance of famous or significant personalities who passed in 2016. A loving remembrance of Bill Clinton’s liberal Attorney General Janet Reno stood in blunt contrast to a cynical one probing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for intellectual blind spots.
Janet Reno’s tribute came with this subhead-- “What you learn when you ride shotgun with the former attorney general.”
Reno was running for governor of Florida in 2002. Writer Michael Paterniti, who went along for the ride, surveyed Reno’s record in Washington under Clinton, which included the mass carnage at Waco, without criticism, and found in Florida only fawning fans.
During her tumultuous tenure as attorney general, the decisions came in a furious rush: Reno oversaw a 51-day standoff with Branch Davidians in Waco, Tex., and authorized the F.B.I. to storm the compound, resulting in the deaths of more than 70 people. She ordered the forced seizure of Elián González, which led to the famous image of a federal agent pointing his automatic weapon at the screaming 6-year-old Cuban boy. She assigned a special prosecutor to lead an investigation of Whitewater -- a criminal inquiry eventually overtaken by Kenneth Starr, whose expanded powers resulted in the revelation of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. And she successfully prosecuted the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, as well as the Oklahoma bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. As Reno became the face of each new upheaval, The Washington Post called her “arguably the most powerful appointed woman in American politics,” adding, “She is doubtless the best-known attorney general since Robert F. Kennedy.”
Back in Washington, many people disputed and opined about who she appeared to be. She was attacked as both a Clinton lackey and a Clinton enemy, when in fact her only allegiance was to the law. She was desexualized and then re-sexualized as a man in drag, a lesbian, a freak -- or as her sister, Maggy, once put it, into “a large person with boots on.”
For all her years of tough talk at Justice, you can’t help being struck most by a certain strain of gentleness in her, how she talks lovingly about her deceased mother, about the wonderful old pinto pony named Tony she had when she was a kid growing up in the cypress bungalow, under the gumbo limbo trees, of what was then rural Miami...
After she narrowly loses the primary, Paterniti got even more poignant:
....Over the next 14 years of being a Floridian, she will ultimately be relegated to a wheelchair and succumb to [Parkinson’s] disease, surrounded by loved ones at the end. But on this bright day, we boat the St. Lucie inlet, to snorkel. She applies sunscreen to her fair skin. In her bathing suit, she smiles unabashedly and dives in, leaving a tiny splash. Among the coral and teeming aquatic life, she flutters her large feet and floats in unseen currents, borne forward, almost without trying. Her power, I realize, is this easy oneness with a higher law. And that’s how I’ll choose to imagine her at the end, unspeaking but wholly aware, gracefully slipping through.
But the paper’s “tribute” to a conservative and constitutional originalist, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wasn’t nearly so mawkish. Here’s the unsentimental subhead: “He claimed objectivity when it came to originalism, but he was a skeptic about science.”
Liberal law writer Emily Bazelon bashed Scalia as anti-science for sticking up for “creation science” against evolution.
Scalia’s dissent, written in his first term, became part of a pattern over his 30 years on the court. He relished argument and debate, but when he had to grapple with scientific evidence, he was often wary. “In all my conversations and observations of him, I don’t remember him talking about science,” says Steven Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern University who clerked for Scalia and considers him a second father. Scalia was the court’s indefatigable and irrepressible originalist, promising to interpret the Constitution based on its meaning when it was written...
And so it’s striking, observes Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Chicago, “that the justice who more conspicuously than any other was invested in trying to make legal interpretation objective sometimes seemed to be skeptical of science itself, the best means we have of pursuing objectivity.” At an argument before the Supreme Court in 2006, in a case about climate change, a lawyer for Massachusetts gently corrected Scalia for referring to the stratosphere instead of the troposphere. “Whatever,” Scalia responded. “I told you before I’m not a scientist. That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.”
Besides evolution, Bazelon declared more controversial topics already conveniently settled by “science” and thus no longer worthy of debate.
He also refused to treat social-science research as settled. In 2013, the lawyer defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage gave no examples of how allowing gay couples to marry could be harmful. “I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things,” Scalia prodded him. “There’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.” In fact, at that point there was a strong body of evidence showing that children fare as well with gay parents as they do with straight ones.
Scalia, whom Donald Trump has called his model for selecting future justices, also contradicted scientific consensus when he declared it “very likely” last year that the death penalty deters murder....