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Justice Scalia, At His Best In a Crowd

By Richard Leiby
Tuesday, November 16, 2004; Page C03

Lawyers in love: Addressing the annual convention of the Federalist Society here last week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delighted the crowd of distinguished legal eagles -- the audience of 1,000 included several judges -- by again talking about orgies as a way to "eliminate social tensions." To much laughter, we're told, he described his talk as an encore of a notorious speech he gave at Harvard in September, when the press mistakenly reported that he had endorsed orgies.

"My wife hasn't heard this talk," he noted Friday evening at the Mayflower Hotel, our sources tell us. ( Maureen Scalia was among those listening.) He used the famous line "I accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies, homosexual or not, eliminate social tensions, and ought to be encouraged," according to one note-taker. Responding to hearty laughter, he ad-libbed: "Ah, the libertarian half of the Federalist Society."

At the Federalist Society convention, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia held up an anti-conservative ad that read: "Would you take any of these guys home tonight?" Pictured in the ad are Jerry Falwell, left, Scalia and John Ashcroft. (Stephen J. Boitano - AP)

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The context for all this was a decision by a European court that struck down a ban on group gay sex as an intrusion into private life. Attendees stressed that Scalia's construction was, of course, hypothetical. He frequently has said that judges have no expertise in matters of morality. The justice's central point, one attendee told us, was: "Judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to decide what is moral."

(A Supreme Court spokeswoman did not return our call yesterday, and Scalia's secretary told us he was traveling.)

A Reagan appointee, Scalia is considered the godfather of the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers and intellectuals. He received a standing ovation when he entered the packed ballroom to deliver the annual Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture. Attendees included her widower, Ted Olson, the former solicitor general; past and present Republican administration officials; U.S. appeals court Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who's often mentioned on the shortlist for a Supreme Court nomination; and federal appeals judges Frank Easterbrook, William Pryor and Michael McConnell.

Scalia also reportedly touched upon the possibility of a vacancy on the high court, saying: "Each year the conflict over judicial nominations has grown more intense. One shudders to think what sort of political turmoil will greet the next nomination to the Supreme Court."

But that's a hypothetical shudder, of course.

In Little Rock, a Party That's True Blue

Bill Clinton's presidential center opens Thursday in Little Rock, so you know that every person who has ever glanced in Bubba's direction will be showing up. But what to do on Wednesday night before the big ribbon-cutting? That was a quandary until Washington lobbyists Craig Smith and Matt Gorman drummed up their "Late Night in Little Rock -- A Clinton-Gore Celebration," to be held at the Little Rock restaurant Sticky Fingerz.

There's room for 900 of the estimated 3,000 out-of-town Friends of Bill who are congregating this week. Food and booze are free, so you can imagine the demand.

"This has become the event," Gorman brags good-naturedly. He and Smith pride themselves on being two of the first three people to jump onto Clinton's campaign bandwagon back in 1991.

The confirmed guest list includes Madeleine Albright, John Podesta, Joe Lockhart, Lanny Davis, Dan Glickman, Ann Richards, Gene Sperling, Togo West, Alexis Herman and Mickey Kantor. There's unconfirmed talk about Bono, John Cusack and Robin Williams showing up. But what about the headliners?

Al Gore is not scheduled to arrive until Thursday, and Clinton, well, "with his health, we don't know," Gorman told us yesterday. "We don't want to overpromise, but he loves his staff and he loves a good party so we hope he comes by."

Either way, "There's going to be a lot of pent-up partying in Little Rock that we weren't able to have two weeks ago."

To the Victor Goes the Spoils

• Mad money: Everyone's favorite president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, opened his mail last week to find a $25 check made out to his conservative advocacy group.

The names of the donors weren't familiar and their address read Harvard University. Fortunately there was a note: "Dear Grover -- A contribution from a Kerry voter who lost a bet. The most despicable group I could think of." The memo line of the check also included: "You will burn, Grover!"

An unruffled Norquist told us: "It was a high honor and I'll work very hard over the next four years to earn it again." What about being despicable? "I just want the world to bask in envy."

The Daily Blowhard

• "We've got the hatemongers who literally hate this president, and that is so wrong. . . . The people who hate George Bush hate him because he's a follower of Jesus Christ, unashamedly says so and applies his faith in his day-to-day operations."

-- the Rev. Jerry Falwell,

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