The question I would ask is why it's so fashionable for nominees to suggest that the hard work of judging is simple; that the Constitution is no more complicated than the instructions for assembling an Ikea end table; and that the reason they are perfectly qualified for the job is that, well, they can read.
-- Dahlia Lithwick (above right), in a Slate commentary anticipating the hearings, set to begin next Monday, on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan (left) to the U.S. Supreme Court. (In addition to the post above, which mentions Kagan, check out SCOTUSblog's views on Kagan-as-likely-4th-ever-woman-Justice here.)
Lithwick's question was part of her analysis of a recent speech by ex-Justice David Souter (below right). With statements like that quoted below, Souter, who retired last Term (prior posts), challenged those who claim that all constitutional questions are susceptible to a "fair reading" -- his phrase for viewpoints that others might characterize as the originalist or the umpire mode of judging:
A choice may have to be made, not because language is vague but because the Constitution embodies the desire of the American people, like most people, to have things both ways. We want order and security, and we want liberty. And we want not only liberty but equality as well. These paired desires of ours clash, and when they do a court is forced to choose betwen them, between one constitutional good and another one. The court has to decide which of our approved desires has the better claim, right here, right now, and a court has to do more than read fairly when it makes this kind of choice.