Stevens spent a good 20 minutes this morning reading a summary of his scathing dissent in the campaign finance case. And he showed his age.
The language in his written dissent was forceful. But it was striking to see him appear to stumble over words as he read it, to mispronounce words like “corruption” and “allegation,” to seem to lose his place in his summary, to often hit the microphone with his hand or his papers.
Maybe it was just a bad day, and Lord knows we’ve all had those. And certainly it was the longest summary from the bench in some time. But it was so different from the John Paul Stevens we’ve come to know. He’s the maverick justice who asks pointed questions from the bench and cleverly makes his points, sometimes with sly dry humor.
Today, he was different, and almost felt like relief when he finally got through his summary.
Was it, in fact, just a bad day for JPS? Did the thought of unlimited corporate spending on federal and state elections simply leave him feshemmeled? Did the thought of Sheryl Crow performing with Kid Rock on the Hope for Haiti telethon render him verklempt?