KRISTOL: And I read somewhere that [your father] sort of personally had to do the redistricting of the legislative district after the Supreme Court insisted on one man, one vote.
ALITO: I remember lying in bed listening to this clanking of a mechanical – it’s hard to believe – a mechanical adding machine. He was downstairs, and he was drawing maps to try to produce districts for the Senate and for the Assembly that were as close as possible to equal in population just using a mechanical adding machine….
ALITO: It was happening a lot. People were making up, you know, claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor, that’s what this Mr. Alvarez did, said, “Well, I won the Congressional Medal of Honor.” Well, he had done no such thing.
And the Court struck down that statue six to three. But I think what – those cases involve a diversion, I think, of attention from the core, from what is most important about the guarantee of freedom of speech.
I think freedom of speech protects and serves many purposes, but I believe and I think the Court has said that at the core, whatever other purposes it may serve, it is vitally important for democratic self-government. If people cannot debate public issues, if they cannot debate the relative merits of political candidates, then democracy is basically impossible. So I think that is the core of the protection. These cases involving depictions of animal videos, depictions of animal cruelty, the protest at military funerals, flashy claiming to have won the Congressional Medal of Honor don’t involve anything like that.
And if we lose focus on what is at the core of the free-speech protection by concentrating on these peripheral issues, I think, there’s a real danger that our free-speech cases will go off in a bad direction. In the cases that we’ve had that I think involve core free speech, the example, the chief example that I would give from my time on the court is the Citizens United case. The Court has – now that came out five to four, protecting the right to freedom of speech, but it was five to four. And it remains very controversial.
My former colleague John Paul Stevens has written a book recommending a number of constitutional amendments to correct the decisions he really disagreed with during his time on the Court and that’s one of them. He wants an amendment to the First Amendment, which is pretty remarkable, to overrule the decision in Citizens United. Citizens United, I think, is core political speech. It is a video about a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. If that’s not protected by First Amendment free speech, by the First Amendment free speech guarantee, I don’t know what is.
So on things that are at the core, the Court has been shakier than it has been on these things that are at the periphery.