Remember Carl Reiner? No… not “Meathead” from the Archie Bunker universe. The other one. His father. Rather than sticking to comedy and hanging around with his Friar’s Club buddies, Carl has taken his writing skills to the pages of the New York Times this week, penning an open letter to one very special member of the Supreme Court. Reiner would like to encourage Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to stop being such a slacker with all the possible retirement talk and keep his nose to the grindstone. After all, Reiner is 95 years old and he’s still working, right? Kennedy is just a spring chicken who will only be turning 81 in a couple of weeks.
To his credit, Reiner doesn’t come off as too much of a scold (in the beginning at least) and sings of the virtues of richly fulfilling golden years.
As someone who has almost a decade and a half on you, I can tell you this: It may well be that the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.
When I turned 81, I had finished “Oceans Eleven” and was gearing up for “Oceans Twelve” while also writing another book, which led me to a cross-country book tour.
I know what it means to be your age. I know the problems that come with the journey. But these are not ordinary times, and you, sir, are anything but an ordinary man.
Lovely sentiments, but you don’t always have to grease the mark quite that hard before you put the bite on them. In short order, however, Reiner reveals that he’s far more worried about his own interests than how fulfilling Kennedy’s remaining years may be.
The country needs justices like you who decide each case with fairness and humanity, and whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line. You have always voted your conscience, and defended the rights and liberties of all our citizens…
How would you feel, while reading your newspaper, seeing a headline that read “Roe v. Wade Overturned”? Do you see how this could ruin a good meal? A good life? A great country?
This is one of the fascinating aspects of being a Supreme Court Justice. Everyone has an opinion about your career and how you manage your retirement plans. But when you look at the timing of these sage bits of advice it quickly becomes obvious that the best interest of the judge is rarely the motivation for such career counseling. You may recall back in the summer of 2013 when various Democrats were pushing the Notorious RBG to get out of town while the getting was good, particularly after she fell in the bathroom and broke her ribs for the second time. And that came on top of having fought (and beat) cancer not once, but twice. They were just worried about her health, you understand. She declined, telling them all not to worry because there would be another Democrat in the Oval Office after Obama departed anyway.
One has to wonder where all of those well meaning friends who were so desperately concerned for the frail state of Ginsburg are now. After all, it’s four years later and it’s not as if her health and future retirement prospects are improving with age. Shouldn’t they be even more concerned today? Apparently not, since that particular segment of the peanut gallery is absolutely silent now.
Another curious aspect of the current conversation is how complimentary Reiner is being toward Kennedy. You could understand if he was heaping such praise on Ginsburg because she’s been a reliable liberal vote from day one. But Kennedy? Sure, he gained some favor with liberals when the court was deciding issues on abortion and gay marriage. But let’s remember that he was also the deciding vote in the 5-4 split in Heller, declaring the Second Amendment to be an individual right. He was similarly critical in Citizens United and several key death penalty cases. Something tells me that if Hillary Clinton were in office right now and Reiner had bothered to write a letter at all it would have included all sorts of complaints about the various aches and pains the two men share at this point in their lives, what a pain in the butt it is to have to get out of bed every morning and wouldn’t it be lovely to spend more time with the grandchildren?
I’m pretty sure that Kennedy has been to this rodeo enough times now that he’ll see through this letter. If he’s ready to go, his bags are probably already packed. And if he’s not, then no letter from Hollywood or Heritage is going to affect his decision one way or the other.