Conspiracy Theories Abound in Death of Scalia

Note: As fun as conspiracy theories might be, this piece is satire, except for the references to Dr. Bronner's. Justice Scalia was a friend and colleague of my father-in-law, and they worked together on the administrative law section of the ABA. He was at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Scalia, but greatly enjoyed his friendship and his humor. Nothing written here should be taken to diminish Antonin Scalia, or those who mourn his passing, in any respect.

When I was in my teens, I used to love reading the screeds of Lyndon LaRouche and various Trotskyite factions pasted on walls and the outside of mail boxes in New York. Even Dr. Bronner's Christian mystic rant about the unity of faith. There is something pure and liberating in a good rant. The more unhinged the better. It works better than waterboarding to suss out the fanatics in the world around us.

Then came the World Wide Web. Dr. Bronner's unleashed. Every person their own bottle of soap, free to inscribe what they will.

And so it was this morning, the day after Antonin Scalia was found dead at a ranch in West Texas. From natural causes.

Sure. Like that story was going to hold up.

It is now widely accepted across the web -- now, there is an oxymoron -- that Scalia was murdered. According to a recent poll of 400 Likely Conspiracy Believers published at RealClear Conspiracies, 52% of those polled reject the official accounting of Scalia's death. Of those who reject the official accounting, 67% suggest that Barack Obama was responsible, seeking to change America; 42% believe he was killed by the Clintons, because it is what they do; while 22%, mostly under the age of 29, believe it was a collaborative effort of Obama and Hillary seeking to undermine Bernie's attacks on Wall Street. (Huh?)

Of these explanations, only the second one holds any water. Obviously Obama didn't do it. Obama knows exactly what he's doing, as Marco Rubio explained over and over. If this was the path he was going to take, he would have done it last year.

As is normally the case, these accusations mask a deeper explanation, that may never be uncovered. It may sound a bit too close to Pelican Brief, or an Oliver Stone film, but there are times when reality imitates art. So here goes.

Antonin Scalia was murdered by a right-wing, evangelical Christian, Texas oilman billionaire. We will call him Sheldon, just to keep things anonymous. Any similarity to Sheldon Adelson is purely unintended. After all, Sheldon is a Jew from Boston. If he was going to do it, Scalia would have died in his sleep at a resort in Macao, or on a settler outpost on the West Bank.

The other Sheldon, the one who had Scalia put down, is a courageous Christian who has invested tens of millions of dollars in Ted Cruz's campaign. Cruz's election is critical to him for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the oldest and most compelling rationale for these things. Money. The value of Sheldon's oil holdings have been destroyed by the decline in price of oil from $100 per barrel down to $25. The driver of continued weakness in global oil markets is the looming entry of millions of barrels of new supply coming onto world markets from Iran. This was made possible by the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions.

Ted Cruz has committed to tearing up the Iran deal on his first day in office and reimposing sanctions on the mullahs.

The two largest looming impediments to the election of Ted Cruz are the U.S. Constitution and Donald Trump. The greatest irony of Scalia's death is that the passing of the titan of Constitutional originalism benefits no one more than it does Ted Cruz, a man who fashions himself as the greatest patriotic defender of the words of the Constitution.

While the kerfuffle around whether Ted Cruz is a "natural born" citizen -- a requirement under the Constitution for being President of the United States -- seems to have died down, the simple truth is that to a Constitutional originalist, Cruz is manifestly not eligible for the highest office in the land. Unless, of course, as the other Constitutionalist in the race, Rand Paul, suggested, the land is Canada.

Sheldon, like Cruz himself, understood that his eligibility to serve was likely to be tested. They both had great faith in Scalia's fealty to the words of the Constitution, and that as much as Cruz was his preferred candidate, the words were clear. Scalia stood as the greatest obstacle to a majority vote in favor of Cruz when the issue came before the Court.

Then there remained the Trump factor. Trump demolished Cruz in the New Hampshire vote across all demographic and political categories, but more devastating was that Cruz only polled 8% among non-evangelical voters. His sophisticated turnout strategy had worked brilliantly in Iowa, but if he were to drive other voter groups to his corner -- libertarians and non-evangelical conservatives most notably -- he needed to turn up the flame on the urgency of the campaign, and draw attention to his deep conservative credentials.

One might have thought that killing Justice Ginsburg would have been a more likely target -- after all, it would draw attention to the Court without costing the Court its greatest herald of conservative jurisprudence, but -- in addition to the risks that Scalia presented to Cruz's eligibility to serve -- Scalia was the titan of the right, and nothing, absolutely nothing, would drive turnout from the conservative quarters more than the prospect of Barack Hussein Obama appointing Scalia's replacement. Except, perhaps, giving that power to a New York reality show billionaire with deep liberal credentials.

For Sheldon, it was all on the line: his fortune; the oil markets; the Iran deal; Ted Cruz's eligibility to serve; The prospect of Donald Trump holding the future of the nation and the Court in his hands. Scalia's visit to the ranch in West Texas solved all his problems.

Someday, Michael Moore may make a movie about this. Until then, Scalia's death will remain fodder for conspiracy theories and outrage on the right, pushing into the background the more likely explanation that is hiding there in plain site. And that is exactly what Sheldon is counting on.