Analyze This, Scalia! Live at Supreme Court, Dreams of Bush and Gore

I got to the Supreme Court line at 8 a.m. and was told to

talk to a guy in a yellow Nautica jacket about getting in. He handed me a legal

pad and I wrote my name at 196. The order was self-enforcing, he said, and I

was on the cusp; I might get in.

Right after me, three women arrived, and we formed a loose

little group. The conversation was very careful, because you didn’t know where

anyone was coming from, except the curly-haired woman wearing a Gore button,

and unlike the raucous demonstration in front of the building, you couldn’t

yell at someone else and walk away-you had to live with these people for

several hours.

We’d been there only five minutes or so when the youngest of

us, a chic woman about 30 with a long pretty face, a white A-line skirt and

white fake fur boots, told us about her dream of Al Gore.

“I was in a hall in a state fair. There were all sorts of

booths and pie-eating contests and rope courses, and off at one side Al was

sitting on a folding metal chair at one of those pressed-board tables like in

high school. There was a feeling of peanuts and sawdust, after the party. I got

in the little line to talk to him, then I told him I just wanted him to know my

family was praying for him. I said he hadn’t gotten a fair shake.

“He thanked me, then he said, ‘Jen, the people must not

realize how ignorant George W. is, they must not understand.’

“I felt so-like I was breaking bad news to a little kid. I

said I think they did know, and they didn’t care. His eyes were full of hurt

and disbelieving. ‘That can’t be true,’ he said, ‘it can’t be right.’”

It was exciting and embarrassing to hear the dream. It was

brave of Jen to tell us, but the two other women were older and one of them was

a little tough, the one with the Gore button. The dream seemed to anger her a

little, suggesting that Al Gore was going to lose.

Then Jen said, “There was another part to the dream. I went

on to a booth where you test your skill. There was a box of tools and a wall of

like plumbing, or electric, to fix a technical problem. I had no idea how to do

it, and then Al came over. He said, ‘I think you want to use this tool.’ He

showed me exactly how to do it, and he was really comfortable-”

Jen said she likes that dream because that’s what she wants

of Al Gore if he loses-not to be crushed by it, but to play a role in public

life, fixing something, to set up a foundation and be like Jimmy Carter.

I said, “But couldn’t Al Gore run in 2004 if he lost?” The

women laughed at me. And the curly-haired woman with the Gore button said that

when people said that if Vice President Gore just exited gracefully he could

walk in in 2004, that was a trap. He’d be branded a loser. So the women

respected him for pushing his rights as far as he could. This was his last shot

at the country fair.

After that I went over to the demonstration for a while,

still in the intimate mood of the women and the dream (it turns out the dreamer

is a Boston artist, Jennie Packard). The sudden grave concern about the

legitimacy of institutions that has been animating the pundits for the last few

days is very patriarchal. It’s about fatherly institutions maintaining a stern

face of authority so that order is maintained. I think of Cokie Roberts

freaking out on TV months ago when someone questioned the legitimacy of the

Electoral College. She surely wants a 9-0 decision from the Court.

But the Court’s 5-4 split has been thrilling, because it

feels intimate. It’s made clear that these are people, too, with passions. Bob

Dylan said, “Even the President has to stand naked,” and that goes for the

Court, too. Soon they’ll be on television.

Out in front of the Court, the Bush demonstration was small

and had lost its edge since I’d last been in Washington two weeks before, while

the Gore demonstration had gotten huge and was wickedly funny. There was a guy

wearing a T-shirt that said “Rednecks Fer Bush.” He had some of his teeth

blacked out. People were shouting about Clarence Thomas’ Coke can, while the

more sober demonstrators wore orange AIDS-style lapel ribbons that signify

Count Every Vote, and some people were holding up a green plastic fence with

hundreds of ribbons woven through it of lost votes, with real names, like an

AIDS quilt.

(Later, when Montana Governor Marc Racicot gave an interview

on the steps over them, the Gore crowd chanted, “Racicot lies,” and when David

Boies came down the steps, looking a little like a Budget rental car run off

the road by Scalia’s semi, the crowd roared with approval.)

Outsiders always have better demonstrations than insiders,

and just in the last two weeks, the liberals have become the righteous

outsiders again, as in old times. They have a good civil rights issue-count

every vote-and they are questioning authority. For weeks after George Bush is

inaugurated, the liberal media will be going to Florida to investigate dimpled

ballots, and stirring up the anger more.

They are exactly where the conservatives were a few years

ago. They also had clear issues involving civil rights and arrogant

authority-from the Travel Office to Waco to the intimidation of Clinton

women-that were brushed aside and stonewalled by the ins. Investigation after

investigation coming up with nothing on Bill Clinton, and the corporate press

dismissing the claims as conspiracy theory, and the same rot about We need to keep legitimacy, so shut up .

Someday when all this factionalizing is over, after some

crisis that reunifies the country along consensual lines, maybe even the libs

screaming outside the Supreme Court will look back on the Court’s 9-0 Paula

Jones decision as a noble one. It was about the right of a citizen to seek

redress from a great man. The Court said that the case shouldn’t distract the

President from his duties, and they were right, it shouldn’t have. Bill Clinton

could have won the case on the merits-and did. As it was, he failed the Supreme

Court’s distraction test, and put his energy into trying to control the

witnesses, and the Court boycotted his State of the Union speech. The Court may

still be reeling from that now. The President gave up his legitimacy in the

name of self-interest, so they’re giving up theirs, too.

I got back in line with the women. One guy walked by with a

poster that said, “Don’t Cry, Little W, The Circus Is In Town.” With daddy

George burping little George over his shoulder and the five conservative judges

portrayed as clowns. Jen talked about her sympathy for George Bush. He seems so

scared and overwhelmed, she said, it reminds her of the times she’s bitten off

more than she could chew.

“Did you have a dream about him?” I asked.

The other two women

laughed nervously.

“No,” Jen said, but then we talked about our anxiety dreams.

Jen and the curly-haired woman said in their naked dreams they’re wearing bra

and underwear. But the fourth woman, who had black hair, and I said that ours

are stark naked. Not a stitch of clothing. Maybe a book to hold over myself.

A man came out of the Court talking excitedly about what

he’d seen during his five minutes inside. He said he was never going to forget

one moment that seemed real, when the Bush lawyer (actually Joseph Klock) had

kept getting the justices’ names wrong and Justice Scalia had said, “I’m

Scalia.” The place had broken up. That was the history the man was going to

hang on to, a piece he belonged to.

The man went off and we waited. The minutes ticked away, and

it didn’t look good for us. The fourth, dark-haired woman said she’d once been

at an airport with delayed connections, along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They

were out west coming east, and she knew she wasn’t going to miss her connection

if she just stuck to Justice Ginsburg. But Justice Ginsburg had marshals with

her, so you could only get so close.