The Right Coast

March 20, 2004
Jets for Justices
By Tom Smith

This New York Times article shows a picture of the business jet that flew VP Cheney and Associate Justice Scalia to their duck blasting fandango in America's swampland. Much has been made of their chummy relationship. As far we know, they did not paint runes in duck blood on each others bellies (in Cheney's case that might have taken several runes, perhaps a whole epic). And the Justice noted he and the Vice President did not share the same blind or "swap spit." Oh, all right, I made that quote up.

This controversy, however, has neglected the real issue. The fact that the judicial branch, unlike the Executive, does not have its own fleet of jets that it can use when it goes on vacations. What is this all about? Is not the Supreme Court at least as wonderful, brilliant and deserving of our sycophantic up-sucking as any other branch of government? If each Justice had his, or her, own jet, then they would not have to chum around with Executive Branch officials. It is this egregious oversight in equipping some of the most powerful near-superhumans in our power stratosphere that led to this indecorous infraction in the first place.

In general, it is dangerous to let Justices wander about in the social highlands with inadequate status symbols. They must suffer from a bad case of what David Brooks called in his mean ,but funny book, Bobos in Paradise, of status-income disparity (or something like that). Supreme Court justices are supremely important. They have whole battalions of law professors trying to figure out what they meant in opinions they did not even write themselves. Justices go home at night and wonder if they are really historic or not. But unless they are married to super rich lawyers, as Justice Ginsberg is, do they wonder this in marble bathrooms? Do they have personal shoppers to spare them the time to worry? Do they get to fly about in private jets? Do they get to dump their tired spouses and hook up with young hunks or hunkettes, or at least with interns? They do not. It is shockingly unfair. No one can fairly blame Justice Nino for jumping at the chance to fly in such a cool aircraft. The answer is clear. The Justices need their own jets. At say $25 million a pop, times ten (you need an extra to send out for extra shotgun shells or whatever, and I can multiply by ten in my head) that's a mere $250 million. Chump change in our empire's capital.

Something else the Justices need is their own song. The President has "Hail to the Chief" but what do the justices have? "I'm leaving on [my own, taxpayer funded] jet plane"? No, too sappy. "Chain of Fools"? No, too sarcastic. "You're So Vain"? No, too true. I suppose each Justice could have his, or her, own song. Yippy Tie Yie Yay, Get Along Little Doggies, is one obvious choice, but what about the rest? Food for thought, you must admit. (My son suggests "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but you'd have to know the lyrics to know how appropriate that is.)

In a republic, the people are governed by laws, and the public servants affect a certain stern austerity, as the Romans knew. So what would be appropriate in our case? I suppose some sort of transparently fake austerity, with our leaders living like the super-rich every chance they get. Like Cheney, or Clinton, or Scalia. Welcome to club, Nino.
UPDATE: The other side of the story here. Doctrinally, I would be happy to see Scalia have 9 votes to everyone else's one. I just think flying around in non-commercial jets, hunting with oil industry elephants, etc. etc. is unseemly in a judge. I know it's how the world works. I don't have to like it. I agree the L.A. Times has redefined media bias.