Justice Antonin Scalia appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan show Wednesday night for an hour-long interview where he discussed everything from health care leaks and campaign finance to abortion and torture.
The outspoken conservative appeared with his co-author Bryan Garner to promote their new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.
No falling out with John Roberts — don’t believe the leaks
Asked about reports that he has had a falling out with Chief Justice John Roberts in the wake of the health care ruling, Scalia responded: “You should not believe what you read about the court in the newspapers. Because the information has either been made up or given to the newspapers by somebody who is violating a confidence, which means that person is not reliable.”
“No, I haven’t had a falling out with Justice Roberts. … Nothing like that.”
He added, “My best buddy on the court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Has always been” — even though he said they disagree on just about everything.
‘Utterly impossible’ to separate money from speech
Asked whether the controversial Citizens United ruling, which affirmed unlimited spending to influence elections, has led to an abuse of the political process, Scalia rejected the view.
“No, I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech the better,” the justice said. “That’s what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from. … You can’t separate speech from the money that facilitates the speech. It’s utterly impossible. Could you tell newspaper publishers you could only spend so much money in the publication of the newspapers?”
“I think, as I think the framers thought, that the more speech the better. Now, you are entitled to know where the speech is coming from. You know, information as to who contributed what. That’s something else.”
Roe v. Wade ‘does not make any sense’
“The theory that was expounded to impose that decision was a theory that does not make any sense, and that is namely the theory of substantive due process,” Scalia said.
Regardless of one’s views on whether abortion should be legal, he argued, “my only point is the Constitution does not say anything about it. It leaves it up to democratic choice. Some states prohibited it. Some states didn’t. What Roe v. Wade said was that no state can prohibit it. That is simply not in the Constitution.”
On Bush v. Gore: ‘Get over it’
“I usually say, ‘get over it,” Scalia said. “No regrets at all.”
He argued that his decision was easier in hindsight because of reports that say Al Gore would have lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush either way.
Torture isn’t cruel and unusual punishment
Scalia defended on his view that torture isn’t cruel and unusual punishment when Morgan raised a hypothetical situation where an innocent person on a battlefield gets taken to Guantanamo and is tortured. Morgan asked: that becomes a punishment, right?
“No, I don’t think it becomes a punishment, it becomes torture,” Scalia said. “And we have laws against torture but I don’t think the Constitution addressed torture, it addressed punishment. Which means punishment for crimes. … I’m not for [torture]. But I don’t think the Constitution says anything about it.”
The Constitution protects the death penalty
“I don’t insist that there be a death penalty,” Scalia said. “I’m not pro-death penalty. I’m just anti-the notion that it’s not a democratic choice … by a provision of the Constitution.”
I despise flag-burning but the Constitution protects it
“If I were king I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag,” Scalia said. “However, we have a First Amendment which says the right of free speech shall not be abridged, and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government. … Burning the flag is a form of expression.”
I’m not a political actor and neither are my colleagues
“Look, I’ve ruled against the government when Republicans were in the administration, and I’ve ruled for the government when Democrats were in the administration. I couldn’t care less who the president is or what the administration is,” Scalia said, when asked about accusations that he’s largely motivated by his politics.
Asked if any justices act out of political motivation, he said, “Not a single one of them.”
“The court is not at all a political institution. Not at all.”
I’ll retire at some point
“Of course I’ll retire. Certainly I’ll retire when I think I’m not doing as good a job as I used to,” Scalia said. “That will make me feel very bad.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.