3 February 2017
Neil Gorsuch: I just want to say, first of all, Jim — can I call you Jim? I’ll call you Jim — that it’s an honor and a privilege to be sitting here with you, strangely and inexplicably — and quite possibly immorally — to talk about something we both take very seriously: the U.S. Constitution. I think our listeners will be extremely happy to see just how similar our opinions really are, regarding this massively important document, since I’m widely, and correctly, recognized as one of the leading originalists around.
James Madison: Where — where am I? Ohhhh. I’m in so much pain.
NG: [Laughs nervously] Oh, you founding fathers have a brilliant sense of humor. I can only assume that I have the exact same sense of humor, since I’m an originalist.
JM: [Breathing heavily] None of this seems familiar. Or right.
NG: [More nervous laughing] Well now, it’s quite strange that even though I’m a highly respected originalist we’ve right off the bat discovered a strain of disagreement between us. But I think this is a strain we can eradicate by manipulating, only slightly, the premise of your arguments so that it suits my own preconceived notions of what’s good and right.
JM: I think there’s a hole in my chest. From decomposition.
NG: That’s to be expected. We only dug your remains up the other day, specifically for this conversation. I anticipate we’ll soon be reinserting your lifeless corpse back into the ground once this conversation is over.
JM: That seems highly irresponsible.
NG: Now, Jim, you’re not cooperating. None of this is irresponsible. If it weren’t responsible, I wouldn’t be doing it, since I’m an orignialist, correct? I’ll just assume that, for the sake of entertainment, you’re doing the whole devil’s-advocate thing.
JM: Let’s not bring religion into this.
JM: I’ve written down just about everything I have to say about this country and its Constitution. Why did you have to breathe new life into me?
NG: Correction: We electrified life into you. And pumped you full of highly irradiated chemicals. The combination of which will keep you in this quasi-living state for the next 20 minutes or so, enough to show the American people that my completely unbiased way of thinking is the correct one. Isn’t science wonderful? At least in this one instance? I’m sure you agree that in all other instances science is a heretical aberration of the human intellect. And a complete waste of time.
JM: Ben Franklin. My good, dear friend. He was an inventor. A genius. We couldn’t have written the Constitution without his input. People have called me the Father of the Constitution, but the beautiful thing about the Constitution is that no one single man put it together. It was a collaborative effort. By many people from many different backgrounds.
NG: Well, not too many backgrounds. Let’s remember: The Founding Fathers were all old white men. Which I’m proud to say is a tradition we’ve managed to uphold these last couple centuries.
JM: My one great regret is that we weren’t more diverse. We knew that if this system of government were to work, we’d need to cultivate a diverse society. I admit now we could have been more inclusive then. But you have to look at what we did in context. Back then, diversity was about character. It was about the different political opinions of white men. Now it’s about a whole lot more than that. It’s about race, gender, religion, etc.
NG: Of course, since there’s nothing like that in the Constitution, an orignialist like me couldn’t ever hope to come to that kind of a conclusion.
JM: This really hurts, being alive like this. It’s unnatural.
NG: Speaking of unnatural, don’t you think it’s unnatural for a man to marry a man? Or a woman a woman? What are your thoughts on gay marriage? It might be faster for me to explain my own thoughts, since they’re very likely in line with yours.
JM: You love who you love, I suppose.
NG: I completely agree, as long as it’s someone of the opposite sex, and preferably of the same religion — also of the same color and social class — if all those requirements are met, you just can’t help who you love. It really is a wonderful thing.
JM: Doesn’t “gay” just mean happy? Or jovial?
NG: It some cases, sure. But gay people are rarely ever happy. You can tell because they’re always complaining about government trying to “restrict their rights.”
JM: What does that thing you did with your fingers mean?
NG: What, this? It’s just quotation marks. It implies I’m being ironic or sarcastic or generally not serious about what I’m saying.
JM: You should always take people’s rights seriously. I know what it’s like to live with restricted freedoms.
NG: We totally do take people’s rights seriously.
JM: Doesn’t sound like it.
NG: I think you’d agree with me, since I’m an originalist, that since you all didn’t have any gays around, they by definition didn’t have any rights. And therefore you never intended for them to have rights. Meaning that today they shouldn’t have the rights they always seem to be demanding.
JM: They were around. We just never thought anything of it. It wasn’t a big deal. This guy Earl, he lived down the street from me. He was gay. Very, very nice guy. I heard he and his boyfriend adopted a little girl. It’s just wonderful, the different forms love can take.
NG: Gross. In other news, I’m happy to see you have a pretty shady history with African-American rights. That’s something that we in the Republican Party are desperately trying to uphold. For example, you had the three-fifths compromise, and we have voter suppression laws.
JM: Again, you have to understand all this stuff in context. Your society looks and acts a whole lot different than mine did. And mine looked and acted a whole lot different than, say, Queen Elizabeth’s did. Men became free thinkers. They valued freedom and liberty over power and control. The government we set up for this country was largely a response to this change in ideology. Our system wouldn’t have worked two hundred years earlier, because no one back then was thinking the way we were. And in much the same way, our system, as we devised it, couldn’t work two or three hundred years after we wrote and ratified the Constitution. Societies change. People change. If you govern people today with a system of government that can’t accommodate those changes, that in itself is a form of tyranny, which is exactly the kind of government we wanted the Constitution to protect us from.
NG: Um. OK. Well, we can come back to this later. I’ll stick a little flag here in my notes. Now, on the topic of euthanasia, what are your thoughts? Should I go first? Since I wrote a book about it? I think it’s bad. Very, very bad. It just makes no sense to me that if someone should want to die, even if it’s because they were suffering some slow, painful, undignified death, that they should be able to end their own life. The government should determine what’s dignified, and dying on your own terms is not dignified.
NG: And what about abortion? I haven’t really gone on the record, in terms of abortion, but that’s only because I refuse to hear those cases. It’s just gross and icky to think about. Don’t you think abortion should be totally illegal? I assume you do, because that’s what I think.
JM: I think there’s been a mistake.
NG: You’re damn right. Roe v. Wade was a massive mistake.
JM: No, I mean, I’m really more of a political theorist. I don’t really deal much with specific social issues. And this one. Abortion you call it? I’m not really familiar with it, so I’m uncomfortable committing one way or the other.
NG: I think we’re just arguing nuances at this point, but otherwise it looks like you mostly agree with me.
JM: That’s not how I’d interpret this conversation. It sounds like you’re purposely misrepresenting me and my colleagues so that you can defend your antiquated and largely radical ideologies.
NG: What about the death penalty? We Episcopalians just love the death penalty.
JM: So you’re Christian?
NG: Excessively so.
JM: And you want to deny people the right to an abortion, or to physician-assisted suicide?
NG: Yes, largely on religious grounds, I should add.
JM: But you support the death penalty.
NG: We also love sending young soldiers off to die in our holy wars. But we’re not calling them holy wars. The liberals don’t care much for war.
JM: This all seems counter intuitive. Killing people who don’t want to die and denying it to people who might welcome it as a kind of release from pain.
NG: Welp, speaking of pain, looks like this interview is over. Time to put you back underground!
JM: Wait! I just started to get used to this new life!
NG: Nice talking to you. I can’t say it was a very productive conversation, but at least now I know you and I won’t be doing this again.
JM: Wait! Stop! I don’t want —
NG: [Pressing buttons and pulling levers]