The other day Eugene Volokh posted a short note referencing a reminiscence about then-Associate Justice Rehnquist:
An Arizona Lawyer’s Reminiscence About Chief Justice Rehnquist: I left the justice at the hotel about 8 that night and picked him up the next morning. He told me how much he enjoyed his walk and that he had three or four beers at one of the “joints.” He said he sat at the bar, talked and told jokes late into the night with a number of the bar’s regulars. Just before he left to return to the hotel, he asked one of his bar mates, Pete, what he did for a living.
Pete told him that he drove a big-rig truck for Pacific International Express. In turn, Pete asked his new buddy “Bill” what he did for a living. Bill said to Pete and his bar gang, “Well, I work in Washington, D.C. I am a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Pete and the gang laughed heartily at Bill’s joke or apparent fantasy, slapped him on the back and offered to buy him one more beer “for the road back to Washington and the Supreme Court.”
There is something cute about this annecdote (and in fact the entire article from which it is from paints an attractive portrait of an unpretentious Associate Justice, one well at odds with the image of the Chief who put those golden Gilbert and Sullivan stripes on his robe).
But there’s also something sad about that story. To me it shows how stratified the US has become or, if you prefer, remains: regular folks just ‘know’ that elites will never mix with them, so they don’t believe it when it happens. And the fact that it happens is so worthy of commentary that it is mentioned in the elite’s obituaries.
There’s more than one bubble in Washington.