Former Obama advisor David Axelrod writes:
When the shocking news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing hit Saturday night, my mind raced back to a White House Correspondents Association dinner seven years ago, when we were seated together.
We bantered about my hometown of Chicago, where he had taught law before ascending to the bench. He opined on wine and music and generally lived up to his reputation as a man who told and enjoyed a good story.
And then our conversation took an unexpected turn.
Justice David Souter, Scalia’s longtime colleague on the court, had just announced his retirement, creating a vacancy for President Obama to fill. Scalia figured that as senior adviser to the new president, I might have some influence on the decision — or at least enough to pass along a message.
“I have no illusions that your man will nominate someone who shares my orientation,” said Scalia, then in his 23rd year as the court’s leading and most provocative conservative voice. “But I hope he sends us someone smart.”
A little taken aback that he was engaging me on the subject, I searched for the right answer, and lamely offered one that signaled my slight discomfort with the topic. “I’m sure he will, Justice Scalia.”
He wasn’t done. Leaning forward, as if to share a confidential thought, he tried again.
“Let me put a finer point on it,” the justice said, in a lower, purposeful tone of voice, his eyes fixed on mine. “I hope he sends us Elena Kagan.”
And another liberal Justice writes the best tribute to Scalia:
Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: ‘We are different, we are one,’ different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his ‘energetic fervor,’ ‘astringent intellect,’ ‘peppery prose,’ ‘acumen,’ and ‘affability,’ all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.
Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.
A nice reminder that you can have deep and respectful friendships with people you strongly disagree with.