The Souter Puzzle

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Maddow’s report on Justice David Souter’s retirement reflected a bunch of deliciously enigmatic points: among them his (surprisingly to many) mostly liberal record as a Bush 41 nominee, his Hamphirean reclusiveness, his lack of real health reason for retiring at such an early age, etc.

Overall, Souter’s appeared to have helped out, keeping Roe v. Wade largely intact and voting on the correct side of Bush v. Gore. Charmingly, according to Jeff Toobin’s book The Nine, the fountain-pen using eternal bachelor’s a serious recluse: no email, mobile phone, TV or answering machine.

MSNBC somehow amplifies the moment’s mystery with the 4-vid/7-photo footage-loop that they assembled for Maddow’s report, making for a portrait that’s as non-descript as this guy’s personality. In contrast to Scalia’s chest-out impertinence or Thomas’s steely grace, Souter’s shown as comprising a cordial nod, a charming grin, a murmur, a focused glance, a short reply, a slight smirk…and that’s it. Seemingly a bit more to figure out in both his legacy and retirement than in what overall impact it’ll all have in the Obama era.

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