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In Conversation: Antonin Scalia

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I’m sorry to have offended you!
Have you read The Screwtape Letters?

Yes, I have.
So, there you are. That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.

Can I ask about your engagement with regular pop culture?
I’m pretty bad on regular pop culture.

I know you watched the show 24. Do you also watch Homeland?
I don’t watch Homeland. I don’t even know what Homeland is. I watched one episode of—what is it? Duck Dynasty?

What?
I don’t watch it regularly, but I’m a hunter. I use duck calls …

Did you just stumble on it by accident?
No! So many people said “Oh, it’s a great show” that I thought I’d better look at it. Have you looked at it?

No. But there are three books on the New York Times’ best-seller list about Duck Dynasty.
Is that right?

Yes. Three. Did you watch The ­Sopranos? Mad Men?
I watched The Sopranos, I saw a couple of episodes of Mad Men. I loved Seinfeld. In fact, I got some CDs of Seinfeld. ­Seinfeld was hilarious. Oh, boy. The Nazi soup kitchen? No soup for you!

Speaking of Duck Dynasty, how does a nice boy from Queens become a hunter?
You know, it may be genetic. My grandfather—my namesake, his name is Antonino—he was an avid hunter. He used to disappear for a week—his family would be very upset—because he’d be off in the hills of Sicily, hunting. My last memories of him were—we had a bungalow, which he had built out on Long Island, back in the days when Long Island was really the country. I went in the woods hunting rabbits with him—there’s a photo of me holding a rabbit and his twelve-gauge shotgun. Then he got too old to go in the woods, but my uncle Frank had a large vegetable garden, and my grandfather would sit on the back porch of this bungalow, holding his twelve-gauge shotgun, and would wait for the rabbits to come to him in the vegetable garden. Boom! He would shoot them there.

There isn’t much sport in that.
Well, they’re hard to hit.

If you’re waiting for them to come to your garden?
Listen, when you’re 85 …

Fair enough.
And I inherited his gun. It was an L.C. Smith, which was a very expensive shotgun from the time. It’s corroded about six inches down from the end of the barrel, because that’s where he held it while he was waiting for the rabbits, and the salts from your hand corrode the barrel.

My grandfather is partly the answer. But I also got into it because my eldest son married a girl from Louisiana, whose father was an avid hunter. He got me into deer hunting up in Mississippi. There, I fell in with some Cajuns—including Louis Prejean, the brother of Sister Prejean. He’s as conservative as she is liberal.

I was going to ask.
I got in with them, and I got into goose hunting, duck hunting, redfish fishing—it has been a great addition to my later years. It gets me outside the Beltway with people of the sort I had never known before. They could live in the woods. Give ’em a gun, they could survive in the woods on their own. It’s nice to get in with a different crowd. None of them are lawyers. Or very few.

Here’s another thing I find unexpected about you: that you play poker. Do not take this the wrong way, but you strike me as the kind of person who would be a horrible poker player.
Shame on you! I’m a damn good poker player.

But aren’t you the kind of guy who always puts all of his cards on the table? I feel like you would be the worst bluffer ever.
You can talk to the people in my poker set.

Do you have a tell?
What?

A tell.
What’s a tell?

What’s a tell? Are you joking?
No.

A tic or behavior that betrays you’re bluffing.
Oh! That’s called a tell? No. I never … do you play poker?

Badly. But I feel like Washington has been playing a pretty high-stakes game lately. You’ve seen more Congresses than I have, and you’ve seen this nation go through more turbulent events than I have. But now seems an especially ­acerbic moment.
It’s a nasty time. It’s a nasty time. When I was first in Washington, and even in my early years on this Court, I used to go to a lot of dinner parties at which there were people from both sides. Democrats, Republicans. Katharine Graham used to have dinner parties that really were quite representative of Washington. It doesn’t happen anymore.


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