It was only two weeks ago that conservatives were being subjected to another lecture from self-satisfied Democrats over their dangerous and divisive rhetoric. It seems as though outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid might need to be reminded of the topic of our last “national conversation.” The U.S. senator who famously called two private citizens “un-American” from the floor of the Senate merely for exercising their constitutional rights in a manner of which he disapproved has outdone himself. From that same lofty perch, the Democratic leader in the Senate today called a sitting justice on the Supreme Court a “racist.”

Reid could not resist the opportunity to attack the left’s favorite boogieman on the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia. Only this time, it seems from the media coverage that the conservative Court justice truly did exceed the bounds of decency. “These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application, if not intent,” Reid said of Scalia. “His endorsement of racist theories has frightening implications, not the least of which is undermining the academic achievement of Americans, African-Americans especially.”

“The idea that African-American students are somehow inherently intellectually inferior to other students – despicable,” Reid concluded.

“Racist theories?” That does sound rather irresponsible for a Supreme Court justice to legitimize at all, much less during oral arguments. And it might be if it had happened as reported. Justice Scalia is not guilty in any way of the charge leveled against him by the serially irresponsible Democratic Senate leader, among many others.

At the core of the Democratic indictment against Scalia for the deadly serious charge of racism from the bench is this passage from arguments regarding a case involving the legality of racial preferences informing college admissions guidelines. We’ll take this passage from The Huffington Post published at 10:15 a.m. Eastern on the 10th to illustrate the left’s righteous rage:

In oral arguments over the case Fisher v. the University of Texas Wednesday, Scalia suggested African-American students would do better at “slower-track schools” than UT. He added that black students come from “lesser schools, where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

That does sound bad. Its no wonder even the White House got in on the act. “I think the comments articulated by Justice Scalia represent quite a different view than the priorities and values that President Obama has spent his career talking about,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

All this condemnation would be quite damning for Justice Scalia if the whole episode weren’t entirely fabricated. Taken in full context, Scalia was not articulating a belief but challenging the claim made by counsel for the University of Texas who said that the elimination of racial quotas in college admittances would lead to fewer African-Americans attending four-year institutions. What’s more, he wasn’t even discussing his own thoughts but quoting a brief submitted to the Court.

The full quote in context reads:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer.

As Mediaite’s Alex Griswold observed, more than a handful of news outlets rushed to confirm the narrative that Scalia was advancing a racially insensitive line of thinking even before they had access to the transcripts disconfirming that impression. Liberal outlets like Mother Jones magazine and ostensibly straight-shooting venues like The Hill all raced to capture a moment’s outrage and the associated web traffic, regardless of the misinformation they were spreading. “Supreme Dope,” read the front page of the increasingly unhinged New York Daily News. To his credit, The New Republic’s Brian Beutler noted that left-leaning media outlets were intentionally misquoting the conservative justice, but only so that he could assert that, “This isn’t close to the best example of Antonin Scalia’s bigotry.”

If this is the best defense of affirmative action that the left can muster, this should be an easy ruling for the Supreme Court. To attack the process of deliberation in a matter as important as this is reflective of ignorance, frivolity, or, most distressingly, an effort to impress upon the justices that there will be consequences if they don’t rule in the manner American liberals would prefer.

“Put simply, Justice Scalia is being crucified for having fulfilled the dispassionate public role for which he is paid,” wrote National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke. “If, as Reid hopes, the justices of the Supreme Court come to fear the honest and unruffled inquiry that is the hallmark of their office, there can be no objective law or rational discernment.”

The effort to bully the bench from one of the co-equal branches of government is certainly nothing new, and the Founders’ far-sighted instinct to provide Court appointees with lifetime tenure insulates them from petty politics. Besides, Scalia is no stranger to having his character assassinated by desperate Democrats. In 2012, Cooke observed that liberals were virtually accusing Scalia of murder for refusing to issue a stay in the execution of a mentally handicapped Texas man. In fact, the four liberals on the bench could have intervened on behalf of the condemned, but the Court declined to issue a stay in this case as is its prerogative. The blame for this event fell on Scalia’s shoulders merely because, as Reuters reported, he is the justice who refers emergency petitions to the Court for review.

The year prior, the New York Times published an editorial accusing Scalia, as well as Justice Clarence Thomas, of the appearance of an ethics violation when they held a closed-door meeting with tea party-aligned lawmakers that might have included issues related to an upcoming challenge to ObamaCare. The following day, the paper published a letter to the editor strongly implying that Scalia should resign over the appearance of malfeasance. “But it is false,” wrote Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto. “[A]mong the attendees were two left-wing Democrats, Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Jerrold Nadler of New York; and that Schakowsky and Nadler both ‘vouched for Scalia and the event, and dispelled the notion that anything untoward happened.’”

The preponderance of evidence would suggest that Scalia presents a convenient foil for Democrats when they’re unsure of their footing on contentious legal or political issues. On the matter of affirmative action in college admissions, the willingness of the nation’s most powerful elected Democrats to impugn the character of a Supreme Court justice in the full knowledge that their charge is a willful mischaracterization of his comments is a disgrace. It can only be a ploy to energize a dispirited liberal base and to direct their outrage toward conservatives if and when the verdict in this case does not go their way. When the marches, the protests, and the demonstrations do materialize, at least we won’t have to endure any more dishonest Democratic lectures on civility.

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