Paul Greenberg

How did you come to earn that distinction? Because a president of the United States lacked the vision to see that a decade of service by a Richard Sheppard Arnold on that high court, which was as long as you would live after your fatal illness was diagnosed, would have been worth infinitely more to the country than the longest tenure on the court by whichever nonentity that president chose to appoint in your stead.

You know the type he would choose: some whited sepulchre who stages a road show with an equally sonorous colleague to debate the decisions they made -- all for the entertainment and edification of us rubes out here. They succeed only in making a spectacle of themselves and the law. Judges who comment on their decisions off the bench, as if they were coaches talking about their strategy in a post-game interview, raise neither their stature nor the law's. They lower both. This is not some kind of game. It is -- or should be -- the law of the land.

You made the news just the other day, Your Honor, when your name surfaced in the late Diane Blair's notes on conversations with her long-time friend Hillary Clinton, who shrugged off your remarkable mind, character and grace with a dismissive phrase or two. Some folks wouldn't recognize greatness if they were standing in its shadow, as Ms. Clinton was at the time. It was a time when everything was going wrong at the White House, and she responded by going off like a pack of Furies in some Greek tragedy, only in her case it was all buzz and no bite.

Hillary Clinton's little hissy may have reached its profane nadir when she told her friend Diane that she'd opposed your being nominated to the highest court in the land (which is where you belonged) because she wanted to vent her spleen on the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who's named Walter Hussman, and just pressure the paper in general. Or as she unfortunately put it:

"...G------ Hussman needs to know that it's his own g------ fault; that he can't destroy everybody from Ark. and everything about the state and then not pay the price for his precious Richard. He needs to get the message big-time, that Richard might have a chance next round if Hussman and his minions will lay off all this outrageous lies and innuendo. They should have their noses rubbed into it." (Caveat Lector: I've taken the liberty of correcting some of the misspellings in this section of Mrs. Blair's memoir, but left the rest of Hillary Clinton's diatribe unchanged.) Goodness, can the First Lady really have thought that the editorial policy of the paper I work for was for sale in exchange for a political appointment? What was she going to offer us next -- a mess of pottage? Somebody should have sent the lady -- well, the woman -- a copy of the First Amendment with a few of its phrases underlined, like freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Those ideas are kind of respected around this newsroom.

But time passes, memory fades, and we forget. In this case, we forget how petty, how mean, how crass, how as self-absorbed as Tom and Daisy Buchanan in "The Great Gatsby" the Clintons could be. And then a scrap of paper like this one surfaces, and brings it all back. Like a bad hangover. But you were beyond all that, Your Honor, in life as you are now in memory. A Yiddish saying comes to mind at such times: Some of the dead still live and some of the living are already dead. Rest easy, Your Honor. That's how you were addressed, and the salutation applied. In so many ways. --Inky Wretch

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.