Scalia’s verbal stiletto

Jeremy at Parableman watched a debate on C-SPAN yesterday, where Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer discussed the proper weight to assign to foreign law when deciding controversies in U.S. constitutional law. Jeremy spotted a wonderful example of Scalia’s rhetorical skill:

One thing really struck me in his explanation of one small point related to his view, and it displayed his keen rhetorical skill (in the good sense of the term ‘rhetoric’ and not the sense in which something might be mere rhetoric). It’s the sort of thing I would hold up as a model for speaking with those who might disagree. He was explaining why people who disagree with him on this should hesitate to see other countries’ moral views as a guide to our own. If you want to avoid being arbitrary and circular, you can’t pick and choose which countries to guide you to find ones that agree with you. Then he gives an example. Since very few countries allow abortion-on-demand in the first trimester, the American allowance of exactly that is a minority position. If we were going to allow world opinion to shape our interpretations of rights and laws, we’d have to restrict abortion far more than we do. Most left-thinking types don’t want that.

What a great technique for adding extra oomph to an argument. I’ll file that one away for future reference. Thanks for catching it, Jeremy.

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